Student Profiles

Mikaela Hertel

She attended Catholic school through the 8th grade, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is often pulled off the bookshelf to settle yet another theological debate during dinner, and her family does not have only one, but two statues of St. Francis of Assisi in their front yard. Needless to say, Mikaela Hertel’s family raised her in a very Catholic household.

However, one of the few things they couldn’t provide Mikaela was a faith community of people her own age. Mikaela almost went to Gonzaga University in search of this community but thankfully for us, she chose the University of Washington! After contacting a good friend from high school, Mikaela found the Newman Center along with our pasta dinners and Freshmen Group. Within Freshmen Group, she quickly made friends with some girls who eventually became her roommates in the future.

But of all the people she met and the friends she made that year at Newman, the one friend who stood out to Mikaela was Alyssa Kubinski, a Peer Minister during her freshman year. Alyssa really made an effort to get to know Mikaela – checked in with her often to see how she was doing and even sent text messages when she didn’t see Mikaela for Wednesday night Mass. This really touched Mikaela and she was amazed to see the difference these simple gestures made in her life.

Mikaela soon became deeply involved in the faith community she received. As she came to the point where she was ready to give back to Newman, she thought it was only appropriate to give to the community the way she had received it: touching her peers’ lives through thoughtful gestures. The fact she got to do that through Peer Ministry was just an added bonus! Reflecting back on it, Mikaela described the experience as funny, since “Peer Ministry calls us to be role models even though we’re not perfect.” In the context of a campus ministry to college students however, that imperfection is perfect because it makes people (especially our student leaders) approachable and easy to relate to.

That imperfection also gives this special Newman community its higher calling to minister to students. Within her own Peer Minister community of five, Mikaela said they constantly reminded each other to focus on their personal relationships with God. When they weren’t pushing each other to become what God wanted them to be, they prayed together, as they still do to this day.

The biggest blessing she actually received from her year of service was not her four best friends, but launching the Veritas Small Groups program. Commenting on how 80 students immediately signed up, Mikaela said, “There was a clear need. We do a good job with getting upperclassmen to lead within Newman, but not so much with ministering back to them.” Mikaela is grateful she had the opportunity to build a program from scratch and got to watch it become wildly successful. But the best part of Mikaela’s biggest blessing? “I learned more from the small group that I led than they learned from me.”

Even with an action packed year of Peer Ministry under her belt, Mikaela is even more excited about her bright future. She said that with “the new skills I have gained and enriched faith I’ve found, I am excited to share it with other communities. After all, what use would all this experience be if I only kept it at the Newman Center?”

Mikaela is applying for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Masters program at the University of Notre Dame this year. She describes the program as “like two years of Peer Ministry, except it’s for teachers.” We can naturally expect Mikaela will achieve her dream of being a math teacher very soon.

As she moves on to the next exciting chapter of her life, Mikaela hopes that all students make community a priority because they will be there for you for the worst and the best. And to the future Peer Ministers, she advises, “Keep God at the center of your ministry because miracles really do happen.”

(Article from the Fall 2013 Newsletter.)

Paige Castro

"Typical" is not the way to describe Paige Castro. Paige has not had a typical life and she does not do things in a typical manner. How many people do you know who enjoy eating popcorn and chocolate—while watching surgeries being performed online?

When Paige was a baby, her parents fell away from the Church and eventually divorced when she was two years old. Because of this situation, Paige was never baptized. She grew up not going to church until a few years ago, when she started to go with her mom and stepfather in Hawaii. It was at this time that Paige felt as though she had a conversion of heart. "In high school, I had always been searching for balance, and at Mass is where I felt whole," said Paige. Paige's growing appreciation for Mass fostered a desire to "go all the way" and be baptized and become a part of the Church.

Unlike many students who stumble across the famous "Hey, Catholics!" banner Newman displays on campus during Welcome Week, Paige searched Newman out online before starting at the University of Washington last fall.

Paige's first order of business was seeking out the RCIA program. Paige loved the whole RCIA process and was excited to come each week and learn more and more about the Catholic faith. "I have a very logical mind, and it was very nice to have Fr. Raphael Mary there explaining everything to us," she said. Paige also feels blessed to have had former Peer Minister Michele Johnson as her sponsor. "We were a perfect match, and I couldn't have asked for a better sponsor," said Paige. The beauty is that they were paired together at random.

The culmination of Paige's journey into the Catholic faith came this past April at Easter Vigil. Since being baptized, Paige says that she has become more self-aware. In addition, she points to the Eucharist as her favorite part about being Catholic. "I think it is so awesome that we can receive Him; it is truly one of the greatest gifts ever given to us."

Now blossoming in her faith, the future looks bright for Paige. Academically, Paige is a Comparative Religion major and is a premed student, hoping to eventually become a heart surgeon, and she is willing to put in all the hard work and do whatever it takes to reach her goal. When people question her choice of major, she replies, "Sure, I could major in biology or chemistry, but I'm not a typical person. I didn't grow up in a typical home—I'm doing it my own way." Paige knows how important her religion is to her. She sees it as the core of one's life and knows that her major will actually benefit her in the future.

As for her future at Newman, Paige will be using the gifts given to her by God in serving on the Faith Formation committee and on the RCIA team, helping those going through the sacraments this coming school year. "I would love to have the opportunity to be a sponsor and be able to give back the gift that God has given to me."

(Article from the Summer 2010 Newsletter.)

Shannon Murphy

As happens with many young Catholics, Shannon fell away from the Church in her high school years. After confirmation, she said she felt there was nothing left to do and began to neglect her faith. Shannon seemed headed to UCLA until she made a visit to UW—and her path back to God was begun.

Shannon is a self-proclaimed cradle Catholic from Davis, California. Soccer, as well as school, choir, and a social life were the activities that began to take precedence over church for her once high school started.

During her first year at UW, Shannon saw the now-famous "Hey, Catholics! We're Over Here!" sign, used during tabling the first week of classes to bring people to the Newman Center. However, she did not think much of it and felt as though since she was now on her own, she did not have to go to church anymore.

Shannon has always had a love for singing, and that is what got her foot in the door at Newman this past year. In the fall, she became a part of the 7 p.m. choir, but at that time she still felt she was not ready to come back to the Church.

When she went home for winter break, Shannon attended a family friend's wedding. During a toast, she heard one person say, Be the perfect person and everything else will find you," which she now describes as a turning point in her faith journey. She realized that she had been looking for the perfect person, but she was not striving to be the same way inside herself.

Upon returning to UW, Shannon began to attend Mass regularly and decided to go on the annual Search retreat, which turned out to be one of the greatest decisions she ever made. "Winter quarter was an amazing time for me: my parents and I got a lot closer, I got in better shape, and I did better in my classes," she explains. But she feels one of the best results was that she was becoming a good example for her younger sister.

Whether singing in the choir or being involved at a fellowship event, nowadays one can find Shannon at Newman nearly five days a week. In the fall, Shannon will start working as part of the Faith Formation committee of Newman's student ministry team.

Looking to the future, Shannon hopes to stay heavily involved at Newman and continue to grow in her relationships with both God and others.

(Article from the Summer 2010 Newsletter.)

Jeff D'Angelo

With his love of writing and a special interest in journalism, Jeff spent most of his years at Kentridge High School preparing to attend Washington State University for a degree in journalism. However, a simple twist of fate—or maybe divine intervention—in the form of a senior-year psychology class prompted a rethink of where his life was going. 

In the end, he was lead to the University of Washington with hopes of a double major in Psychology and Communications. Jeff is the only boy and oldest of four children. He has a love for sports and spent several years competing in track and field. After a knee injury left him unable to compete, Jeff turned to coaching. During his junior and senior years in high school, Jeff served as a coach for various soccer, softball, basketball, and track teams that his sister, Mary, competed on. He really loves coaching and the opportunity to mentor young athletes. One of his proudest moments was when the elementary track team he was coaching took second place in their league.

During his first year at UW, Jeff became involved in Critical Mass, the freshman fellowship group at Newman, and attended their annual SEARCH retreat. Jeff, like so many before him, saw his experience on SEARCH as a turning point in his faith journey. The sense of community and the great faith of the people he was surrounded by inspired him. He left the retreat with an intense thirst to know more about the faith he had practiced his whole life, and he is grateful that the Newman community serves as a useful resource in finding that knowledge.

His time at Newman has also given Jeff a renewed love of the Sacraments, particularly of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. A selfidentified perfectionist, Jeff sees the Sacrament of Reconciliation as an opportunity not only to seek forgiveness from God, but to work on forgiving himself for the mistakes he's made. The idea of starting with a "clean slate" after receiving absolution is both a comfort and a constant reminder that he is completely and unconditionally loved.

Currently, Jeff serves as Co-Chair for the Community Fellowship Committee on the Newman Student Council and is a regular fixture at most Newman events. As he looks toward the end of his sophomore year and the rest of the time he'll spend at UW, Jeff is excited about completing prerequisites and spending more time in class devoted to his majors. Of course, he's also looking forward to all the great times still to be had at Newman—and to the many opportunities for him to serve this community that has given him so much.

(Article from the Winter 2010 Newsletter.)

Kaitlin Ehlers

Kaitlin Ehlers just graduated from the University of Washington this year as a Vocal Performance major. When I asked her if she was now looking for work in the area of her major, she said no, and explained that although she made the right choice, vocal performance is too focused and solitary for her. "I like working with people too much!" Instead, she is looking toward student services in an advising or student admissions capacity. She said her life is wide open and full of possibility. So what is her next step? "I'm not going to rush it," she said with a smile. 

As a freshman, Kaitlin was a member of Critical Mass, Newman's social and faith-study group specifically for freshmen. As a junior she was the team leader of Critical Mass, and as a senior she phased herself out, giving younger students the opportunity to lead. Throughout the interview, her dedication to the Critical Mass program, her care for Newman, and her love for our community were constantly evident.

I asked Kaitlin if she had any advice to pass onto the undergraduates still plowing through their degrees. She thought about it for a moment, then said, "Take advantage of everything. The retreats are important, and one weekend out of your college career is not a big deal! Listen to God speaking through your community. And just have FUN!"

Kaitlin found a family when she came to Newman—a family that taught her that it's okay to wear her faith on her sleeve, to be open about who she is in Christ, and to be excited about being Catholic. Her joy in her faith is obvious. "I am so in love with God!" Her first family is made up of her younger brother, who attends the University of Washington, and her older sister, Meghan.

Kaitlin's personality is very bright and warm, and she seems like a friend from the first moment you meet her. Further confirmation of her welcoming spirit came when I asked her where she thought she might focus her Newman time next year. She said that she is considering outreach, but is open to where the spirit might lead her—a fitting place to be for this joyful girl who's in love with the Lord.

(Article from the Summer 2009 Newsletter.)

Cody Jorgensen

What is the first word that comes to mind when you see Cody Jorgensen? Tall. He's extremely tall, happy, and talkative. OK, three words, but when it comes to Cody, short descriptions simply do not apply. With very little prompting, Cody was happy to talk to me about his school journey and his incredibly active faith life. 

Cody came to Seattle from his hometown of Selah, WA, when he started as a freshman in biochemistry at UW. His freshman year was spent mainly in his studio apartment at Husky Place, in classes, and at home in Selah every other weekend. He made many acquaintances that year, but he longed for deeper, more compatible friendships. Because he lived at Husky Place, Cody walked by the Newman Center every day—and one day, his feet walked into the Center, instead of around it. Cody chose to go to Mass for the first time. That choice changed his life permanently.

Within a year, he became an RCIA student, added a second degree at the UW, and came into full communion with the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil. Since then, he has been to St. Albert's down in San Francisco twice, and he now looks forward to the day, roughly two years from now, when he will be able formally pursue a Dominican Novitiate. In the meantime, he's hoping to become a peer minister and test run what an intense commitment of service might look like. He currently helps out on Newman's Community Fellowship Committee within the Student Council, and also on the RCIA team.

Through Newman, Cody also found the community he was looking for and now lives in a huge house near Greenlake with seven other Newmanite men. Now Cody does not just have a life; the lasting friendships of God and this community have given him a vibrant, passionate life, and they have changed his path forever.

(Article from the Winter 2009 Newsletter.)

Elizabeth Muhm

Elizabeth Muhm is a fourth year student at UW. She is a math and computer science major, and her favorite class so far has been a computer graphics class she took this spring quarter. She also studies Chinese and is in her second year of Chinese at UW. Outside of the classroom, Elizabeth loves running, rock climbing, and traveling. 

Originally from Spokane, WA, Elizabeth has been involved with the Newman Center since her freshmen year. During high school when she was touring colleges, she visited Newman and the fun, warm, and friendly atmosphere appealed to her very much. She immediately joined the freshmen group her first quarter at UW, and she's been involved at Newman ever since. Her favorite thing about Newman is the community—the students, staff, and whole community are happy to be there and willing to welcome others. She always looks forward to walking in and seeing all her friends at Mass on Sundays. A highlight of her Newman experience was at a retreat one year with Fr. Tom Kraft. He stayed up all night playing his guitar, and everyone joined in singing with him and playing games and having a wonderful time. Furthermore, she also loves the Newman retreats in general because they give her a chance to take a break from homework and focus on faith for the weekend, as well as provide time to hang out with great people.

(Article from the Fall 2008 Newsletter.)

Adam Solove

You may have seen Adam Solove around the Newman Center on Sunday or Wednesday evenings--in fact, you almost can't miss the tall, dashing figure who offers his voice at our Masses and his design skills to the Newman website. As a grad student, he translates traditional Chinese poetry and runs the leading blog of China Studies online. As a Newmanite, he joins us on familiar stomping grounds for him, since he attended the George Washington University Newman Center during his undergraduate years. 

It was at GWU that he met Alison, his girlfriend and one of the biggest inspirations along his faith journey. As they have grown in their relationship, it has been her questions, faith, and example that have made the biggest impact on Adam. "She makes me want to be a better Catholic; she makes me try harder."

Today at the Newman Center, Adam lives out his faith journey as a member of the nine p.m. choir. "It's one of my charisms," he says. "I'm not very good at it, but singing for others is something that brings me closer to God." He also tries out different activities within the community, such as attending an undergraduate Bible study. He hopes that the Newman Center will offer even more opportunities for him to share and grow his faith in community. So the next time you're at a nine p.m. Mass, go up and introduce yourself to this genuine, funny, and faith-filled individual.

(Article from the Winter 2008 Newsletter.)

Eve Zaunbrecher

Eve, 18, grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, with her parents and late brother. But family vacations to visit her aunt and uncle who live in Olympia slowly had her falling in love with Seattle and the University of Washington. Not only did Eve’s aunt and uncle show her the university, but they also introduced her to the Newman Center. "When I decided to come to the UW, my aunt told me about the Newman Center and how it’s specifically there to serve students." 

Eve grew up Catholic but recalls that at times they would only go to Mass when it was convenient. After deepening her faith in high school, she was determined to get involved in the Newman Center once she got to the UW. "There was nothing really like it in Louisiana that I knew of," she explained.

Once Eve moved into her dorm, things moved quickly. She saw the Newman welcoming table on campus and introduced herself, and after her first Mass at Newman she met Lupe and joined the choir! Eve not only got involved with the choir but joined the Newman Center’s freshmen group, Critical Mass. Coming to the UW can be a big change for students and they can often feel lost in a sea of 40,000 other students. Critical Mass was specifically created with the purpose of offering new freshmen a fun, faithful and supportive environment to assist them in navigating the challenging transition to university life. 

Eve’s experience at Newman and in Critical Mass was more than she could have hoped for. "I was so excited to come to the UW and meet a diverse group of new friends. I really wanted to make a ‘fresh start’ and find a place where I was accepted and felt comfortable," she said. The Newman Center has become her ‘home away from home’ where she can be around people "who share your Catholic faith, believe the same things, are going through the same struggles, and are asking the same kinds of questions as you are, people who are able to be that much more supportive."

Eve added, "I really tend to be a lot happier in life when I’m in that kind of faith community, where we’re all here for the same reason: for our love of Christ and to grow in our faith."

There’s another reason why Eve is happy to have found the Newman Center. Eve was the first recipient of the newly created quarterly $200 Textbook Scholarship made possible through the gift of a generous benefactor. "Just one of my books was $115 this year!" she said. "I was so excited I called my parents and told them. They were so happy. I’m paying out-of-state tuition, out-of-pocket. My family was really grateful."

Parlez-vous Francais? Something you might not know about Eve is that she was enrolled in a French immersion program at an early age and hence, has been fluent in the language since she was five. Eve loves sci-fi movies, international studies, playing the bassoon and history. Someday she hopes to be an interpreter in Eastern Europe or an ambassador.

When asked if she had any advice for future freshmen looking at the Newman Center she said, "Don’t just look, come in! It’s worth it!"

(Article from the Fall 2007 Newsletter.)