“I’ve prayed my way through college,” said Alayna Masker, a senior at Champlain College in Burlington. “Going to Adoration [of the Blessed Sacrament] is one of the best stress relievers. It’s nice to know that I can just sit in the presence of Jesus and receive an abundance of love from Him.”

The active member of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont — which also serves Champlain College — said it could be difficult being a Catholic on campus where not everyone is receptive to expressions of faith. “Being Catholic is counter-cultural, and oftentimes you don’t fit in with everyone else. This also makes it harder to speak up since no one wants to be seen as different,” she said.

But the difficulties don’t keep Masker from living out her discipleship on campus. “I go out into the world and share the Good News,” said the president and founder of the Champlain Catholic Society on the Champlain campus.

That, she said, is one of one of the most difficult things she has done: “I’m constantly tabling [setting up informational tables], hosting meetings and trying to start conversations about religion on campus.”

When she was making her college selection, a Catholic church nearby was an essential. “When I was looking at nearby churches around Champlain, the Catholic Center popped up. I had always been a member of my youth group back home and wanted to continue being a part of a group that actively lived out their faith,” she said. “After attending Mass there for the first time, I felt a sense of peace and instantly knew it would become like a second home to me. There is something special about the Catholic Center. Everyone who is there wants to be there, and they are all so joyful.”

Masker has met some of her best friends at the Catholic Center who, she said, “every day encourage me to be holy.”

Father Dwight Baker, executive director of the center, said she lives her faith boldly: “She is gifted in being secure in who she is and in her faith. She openly shares her beliefs with her teachers and classmates on a very secular campus.”

Currently an intern at the Catholic Center running its social media accounts, Masker is a member of its hospitality and development committees. She has participated in the Diocese of Burlington’s Totus Tuus summer program and in respect-life activities.

“My faith influences most things that I do. I’ve tried hard to live out my faith on campus even if it’s something as simple as smiling at someone,” she said.

Masker, who is from Milford, Pennsylvania, is majoring in public relations and hopes to work for a Catholic organization when she graduates in May. “It is so rewarding for me to mix public relations with my faith,” she said, adding that she is also considering getting an advanced degree in theology.

—Originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.