UP students share their faith experiences

By Kaitlin Yap | May 3, 2017 7:51pm

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Laura Pickering

by Meah Ortiz / The Beacon

Although the University of Portland is a Holy Cross Catholic institution, Catholic students make up only about half of the whole student body. Students of all different religious backgrounds call The Bluff home.

Institutional research done in the fall of 2015 indicates that there are over 25 religious communities being represented by Pilots on The Bluff, including categories entitled “none” and “unknown.”

Following the Catholic Easter celebrations this spring, The Beacon invited students of all faith traditions to reflect on they way they experience their faith at UP.

Matthew Nelson

by Jeffrey Braccia / The Beacon

Matthew Nelson ‘17 - Roman Catholic

Do you feel comfortable expressing your faith on campus?

“Most of the time I am comfortable (expressing my faith on campus), especially because there are a lot more opportunities for me to express my faith, but (the university) should be more open to other faiths. We do have the Muslim praying center in the International Student Center, and they trying to make retreats more spiritual, but there’s still not many opportunities (to express my faith), and I would like to see more. I don’t know how or in what ways, but more.”

Ezedin Jabr

by Julia Cramer / The Beacon

Ezedin Jabr ‘19 - Muslim

What is it like being Muslim on campus?

“I’m a minority in every sense: I am a proud first generation Eritrean Muslim student. I’m from a refugee family. In every situation, I’m going to feel a little less, but I think on this campus there’s enough Muslims so that I don’t feel too shy, but it would probably make me more comfortable if I saw others. Comparing UP to PSU, which I know isn’t fair because they are way bigger, but seeing their Muslim center to pray and seeing how many people they have to bring people aware to Muslims, I think is really awesome. But at UP overall, I wouldn’t say there has been anything hateful come to me on campus.

I do find it ironic that in every dorm, there is a chapel, but for the International Center, for the Muslim prayer center, we have it in the basement under the chapel, almost hidden. I don’t know if the school is proud of having it, but something you’re proud of you wouldn’t hide underneath the building with no sign. I just don’t think this is the best way to promote inclusion, so I just think that could have been better handled. But I don’t know the school budget, so I can’t say much or put it somewhere else. Hopefully what they’re building over Howard they can put a diversity office, something that isn’t hiding. Things that surround diversity are hiding. The Moreau Center, Bethany’s office? They’re hiding. That’s sort of my biggest concern with the school.

I think that the school is proud to talk about diversity, but not proud enough to show it on campus, which is a little disheartening. Hopefully in the next four years, something changes.”

Alyx Cardenas

by Olivia Sanchez / The Beacon


Alyx Cardenas ‘18 - Roman Catholic

How did you develop your faith?

“During my first semester at UP, I put Jesus on the back burner to focus on me. And it wasn’t until the last month that my friend invited me to mass and I said ‘Why not?’ And it escalated quickly after that.

After being an altar server for five years at my church at home, I stopped because they were strict. I felt I should be able to express myself the way I want to. I thought this was how it would be here, since religion can be so conservative. At the mass I went to, they actually made an announcement needing liturgical ministers...so I signed up.

What I noticed is that no one was saying ‘Ah look red hair’ like at home, I felt more comfortable. And slowly but surely, I’ve been doing a lot more campus ministry work, like retreats.”

What is it like expressing your Catholic faith on campus?

“I have no problem walking around expressing my faith. Most people don’t assume that I’m Catholic from the way that I dress. I seem to wear stuff that people deviate from thinking I’d be a Catholic, except for when I wear a cross necklace. It doesn’t matter how I express myself on the outside, Jesus is going to love me.”


Kiana Hiranaga

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon


Kiana Hiranaga ‘19 - Buddhist

How do you practice Buddhism when you’re away from home?

“In the back of your head are the things they believe in, like the afterlife. It’s not something you apply to your daily life, but it’s in the back of your head. Buddhism has this huge thing with appreciating nature and every living thing, like we say that moths are our deceased ones coming back to visit. Over winter break, my sister was freaking out because there was a moth in her room and I just said, ‘It’s grandma visiting us. It’s not doing anything! It’s grandma, she wants to see us.’ It’s something that my family believes.”

Do you feel comfortable expressing your faith here?

“Oh yeah, especially in my theology classes. I crack the occasional joke, like a few days ago, they were talking about psalms and religious songs and I was like ‘Don’t ask me, I’m Buddhist.’ And everybody cracked up. I for sure feel comfortable to pray on campus.”

Laura Pickering

by Meah Ortiz / The Beacon

Laura Pickering ‘19 - Christian

How did you develop your faith?

“Catholic mass is very traditional, organs and hymnals and straightforward. Christian church is very fun and upbeat and personable. Now that I’m older, I think that Catholic mass can be personable, but it is also very boring.

I could just sit and listen to a pastor talk and relate my whole life to that, whereas in Catholic [mass], it’s sit, stand, do this, do that, just going through the motions.

I grew my faith more with Young Life. That’s where I grew my faith more in high school. I stopped going to Catholic mass and started hanging out with more Christians, understanding my relationship with God better through that than through Catholicism.

“My first year (at UP) was really hard because I didn’t know where I fit in in the faith realm. This year we started Delight, which is a Christian ministry for college girls. Just getting a group of girls who have faith, not just Christianity, helped bring my faith back in my college. We meet on Sunday nights. We read from a devotional book and we read stories, answer questions, and really just talk.


“(My faith has) changed my life. I’ve met so many amazing people through my faith and it has made me stronger as a person. I can find my identity through God now and it’s really saved my life.”

Contact reporter Kaitlin Yap at yap19@up.edu.
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