I have been attending Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Waterford for nine years, and it has been a wonderful and surprising ride. One of the most wonderful things about it was that I was taught from a young age about what it means to be Catholic; and it wasn’t just by sitting in a classroom but by making friends and having amazing teachers.

Being a Catholic is more of a gift than just a title or a name. It has given me opportunities I will never forget. I have made wonderful friends, even if they aren’t of the same faith, learned about what it means to be kind and generous, and helped others in the simplest ways. It has given me comfort that God is always watching and protecting us. Praying to Him has helped me through countless situations, no matter how big or small. 

Being a Catholic has taught me about what I can do for others through my home and school faith life. For example, at school we have wonderful programs that help people in our community. One of these programs that I am in is called “Art with Heart,” and this is an elective where middle-schoolers create art to share with their school and community. We recently made 60 cards for the elderly this Christmas. These cards lift their spirits and let them know that they are loved, even if they will be alone on Christmas. It’s important to learn, that as young Catholics, we need to take these opportunities to help people less fortunate than us; whether they are poor, lonely or are struggling emotionally. 

I have also learned that we need to support our friends. We won’t always be the brightest star shining, but that’s okay. If one person was always in the spotlight, then life would be pretty boring and lonely; one person would always be in front, only receiving support and never giving it. We need to support our friends and family when they want to try something new, and give them room to shine in their own beautiful way. 

I also have learned not only to respect others, but to respect myself as well. Many kids, teens and young adults today may not respect themselves because they feel as though they may not be good enough. But with my Catholic community, I am reminded over and over of how my body and unique characteristics are a gift from God, and I need to treat them with respect just like I would anyone else. As I like to say, “the dove does not judge the crow.” Every person is beautiful, everything is beautiful and the earth is beautiful. We all deserve respect. 

Lastly, being a young Catholic has given me wonderful values. I treasure family, going to Mass, having a wonderful home and getting a great education. If I hadn’t learned about how amazing these things are, then I wouldn’t be as grateful for the simpler things in life. I have always been taught that we don’t have all the time in the world, so we have to live in the moment and appreciate all of our blessings. 

I feel so honored to have been able to share the amazing parts of being a young Catholic with so many people. Just as all the Catholics before me, I want to help teach younger kids what it really means to be part of God’s Kingdom. All Catholics are one big family, and we need to work together to shape the world into a wonderful place that is safe for all kinds of people, Catholic or not.

Annabelle Goyette, 12, is a seventh-grader at St. Mary’s School in Waterford.