Editor’s note: In honor of the Year of Consecrated Life, we are featuring a story from one Brescia University alumna, Heather Eichholz, who shares how the Ursuline Sisters have so positively influenced her life, as they have also done for so many others.
Society says that everyone has a moment when their life will never be the same. Well for me that moment was a small Catholic liberal arts university in Owensboro, Ky. Brescia University didn’t just provide me with an education but changed me in a profound fashion.
When I decided to attend Brescia University, I was a middle-aged mom who had been driving a school bus for the last decade. I had an associate of science degree but didn’t believe I possessed the type of intelligence needed to attend a university and succeed. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits! I was scared of what all the “normal” student body was going to think of an older woman sitting in classes with them. I was scared of how the professors and other staff would accept me. I was worried I would not be able to plan my schedule around my daughter’s school schedule.
I could not have ever been more wrong! I found a student body that was a mix of traditional and nontraditional students as well as a university of staff and faculty that has been designed to thrive on the diversity of the student body. The Ursuline Sisters as well as the staff and faculty embraced the individual that I was and fostered growth in the person I was on the path to becoming. My ideas, thoughts and opinions were being asked and actually mattered.
The elation I felt each time I turned a corner on campus and found one of the sisters or a professor encouraging and supporting me had my confidence growing in leaps and bounds, culminating in me writing a weekly article for the university paper. For the first time in my life I was sharing my thoughts publicly and did not worry about reprisals. I found myself becoming more and more involved around campus, in organizations and in campus ministry. My fear was not completely gone, but as with all newfound confidence, some of my choices were not logical or prudent. Yet the support and encouragement continued to find me, along with gently placed advice through an adult conversation on mending the consequence of a poor choice. Never once did I feel judged for any of my actions or words, only ever accepted for the person I was.
With my self-esteem growing from all the support and encouragement, I found myself mailing an application to St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, to attend graduate studies for canon law. I was so terrified I would be rejected that the only people who knew I applied were my adviser for work-study and adviser for the theology program; both were very large positive influences for me. Even after I received an acceptance letter from St. Paul University, I was afraid for a long time to tell anyone. Yet, when the sisters and greater university community found out, I had more support and encouragement than I could have prayed for. For the first time, outside my family, I understood and experienced the unconditional acceptance and love that God gives us through the university and the sisters who have devoted their lives to it.
I am a better person, spouse, mother, Catholic and canon lawyer today due to everyone I came in contact with at Brescia University and the continuing encouragement and support I still receive from the sisters who so tirelessly work at Brescia. Had the Ursuline Sisters not founded Brescia University, I don’t know who I would be today!