Dowling Hall sixth floor north residents do things any other freshman or sophomore women do; they attend classes, eat meals together and watch new episodes of “Pretty Little Liars” in their rooms. But the women of the Catholic women’s floor share something that sets them apart: their faith.
“We’re all normal people, and I think people don’t realize that,” Kelly Donovan, a freshman resident of the floor, said. “Just because we’re Catholic doesn’t mean that we don’t watch funny movies …we just choose to have fun in different ways most of the time than other people.”
Many of the floor’s residents enjoy the built-in community and moral support it provides.
“(It’s) purely the fact that you’re living in community with people with similar values,” Leah Miller, sophomore resident floor adviser, said. “Living with Catholic women on campus helps you become a better Catholic woman on campus.”
Miller chose to live on the floor as a freshman after an overnight visit.
“Seeing that it wasn’t a whole bunch of people who just prayed on their knees all the time when they were doing homework, seeing it as an accessible community full of joy… that’s what made me want to be a part of it,” Miller said.
Freshman Colleen Vaughn is thankful for the community as well.
“It’s reinforced just my continual growth in growing closer to God through other people and that I need community and that I need good people (and) good friends in my life,” Vaughn said. “It’s helped to enforce prayer and just other faith-filled discussions or things I need to talk about.”
Living on the floor has helped Donovan make friendships.
“I came here and instantly, there was just this strong group where I had friends right away,” Donovan said. “It’s really encouraging and really inspiring to watch the other girls around me grow in their faith, and then they help me grow too. Also, we try not to gossip, which is really helpful.”
Unlike many other residence hall floors, the open community results in frequent activities together, ranging from dinner to night prayer.
“A lot of people that I’ve talked to said … they never talk to anyone on their floor, it’s really just kind of you’re in your own room and that’s it, and you have to find community elsewhere, whereas on this floor, everyone just goes between everyone’s room,” Donovan said.
Although the women have a close-knit community, they are accepting of those that want to join in.
“It’s not like we live up here in this Catholic bubble … anyone is invited to come up and join,” Miller said.
Freshman Morgan Halwas, a resident of Dowling sixth floor south, said the residents of the Catholic women’s floor are very friendly.
“(They’re) always smiling. It puts me in a good mood,” Halwas said. “Out of every floor I’ve seen, I feel like they’re the most close-knit.”
Freshman resident Jessie Cink said the floor’s community helps her live out her faith on campus.
“To be a Catholic woman at St. Thomas means that you’re willing to live your faith on campus at a very secular campus,” Cink said.
For Miller, defining herself as a Catholic woman is an important part of her identity.
“I suppose the question kind of comes down to is: is it Catholic as in fill-in-the-bubble Catholic, or Catholic as in I go to mass every Sunday, or is it more of every day you walk with Christ?” Miller said. “How you identify is so important to how you interact with the world.”
Although most of the women will live elsewhere next year, they plan to keep close contact.
“We’ve been talking about having at least once a week where we get together and go have dinner and play a game or something silly like that,” Donovan said. “(But) I’m going to miss them a lot.”
Rita Kovtun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.