Throughout his life, Justin Hollingshead had momentary encounters with Catholicism that led him to where he is today. Currently a senior at Champlain College in Burlington studying filmmaking, Hollingshead cherishes his newfound Catholic faith and is sharing it with others.

Originally from Albany, New York, Hollingshead grew up around his grandparents who were raised Catholic but not fully practicing their faith. At one point during his childhood, he attended a local Catholic school. “It was awesome. Everyone was super nice to me. I was like the popular kid for the first time, and I got to learn about the Catholic faith and get an understanding about it,” he said.

An avid gamer, he decided to attend Champlain because of its Game Programming major. However, he switched to filmmaking second semester sophomore year after he fell in love with performing standup comedy. “I like making people laugh, I like creating stories. I want to pursue this and thought filmmaking was a way to do it,” he said.

Switching to a different major led him to a chance encounter with Jesus. For one of his classes, he was tasked with creating a movie. Hollingshead called churches in the area to ask permission to film there and all of them refused except for The Catholic Center at the University of Vermont.

“I went up to the Catholic Center and filmed and I walked into the doors, and everybody was super nice to me. Everybody was super caring. They all came up to me and asked where I was from and what I was doing,” he said.

Their friendliness was something he hadn’t experienced on his own college campus.

“They invited me back, and it was the first time that somebody had said ‘come back’ to me and just the fact that people were asking me how I was doing, nobody asked how I was doing down at Champlain,” he added.

That one interaction encouraged him to begin spending time at the Catholic Center and eventually participate in its Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program and receive his sacraments last Easter.

“It’s the only decision I’ve ever made where I’ve never looked twice,” he said.

Hollingshead frequently attends daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. He is also the president of the Champlain Catholic Club. “I love going to the UVM Catholic Center and talking to people. Even aside from the Catholic Club at Champlain I just love talking about the faith to people, and I love getting people to come to Mass,” he said.

He is also using his talents as the media intern for the Diocese of Burlington; he creates short videos for social media campaigns and films “Coffee with Bishop Coyne.”

“I like to do everything in the film making process from editing, cinematography to directing,” he said.

As for the future, he plans to leave that up to God: “Truly it’s whatever God wants.”

—Originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.