By Nadia Maria Smith
CS&T Staff Writer
There are a number of outstanding Catholic student leaders at Temple University, and one of those is 21-year-old Alexander Gibbs, according to Temple’s Newman Center chaplain Father Shaun Mahoney.
A senior, Gibbs has served as the spiritual coordinator at the Newman Center for the past two years. He is responsible for organizing a variety of events to help students grow deeper in their relationship with Christ and the Church. Those activities include Eucharistic Adoration, Bible study sessions and faith-formation meetings. He is also responsible for assigning students to fill the various liturgical roles for Sunday Mass.
However, Gibbs wasn’t always into his faith. In fact, when he arrived at Temple as a freshman, he was not a practicing Catholic.
“I was raised in the faith but I started having animosity toward it in high school, and when I got to college I thought, ‘Now I can stop going to church,'” Gibbs recalled.
But by the end of his freshmen year Gibbs was having a spiritual reawakening, thanks to a required class on intellectual heritage, in which he learned about Greek philosophy, studied Aristotle and Plato and explored the impact of Christianity on Western thought while looking at various Christian thinkers.
“I had the good fortune of having an extremely Catholic professor, Professor Craig de Paulo, who is now a Byzantine priest,” Gibbs said.
His conversion came about as a result of “a combination of not being happy with who I was, the humbling of the class, the witness of my professor, my sympathy for St. Augustine and the beauty of everything I was learning about,” he said. “I thought, ‘What have I been doing for 18 years? How could I have missed this? It was right under my nose.’ I was taken aback by the beauty of truth and learning.”
Although the class has since changed its name and content, Gibbs remains grateful for the experience and the doors it opened for him. One of those doors led to the Newman Center where he met Father Mahoney. Gibbs went to confession and returned to Mass. He got involved in student groups and by his junior year he decided to run for the post of spiritual coordinator.
“I am very apostolic spirited so I am very interested in engaging others about the faith and learning more about the faith,” Gibbs said of his reasoning for seeking the post. “One of the things I realized when I returned to the faith was that my knowledge of my faith was absolutely zero. It has been a process of learning, and one of the things I came across was vocations. I realized then that I was called to something and decided to figure out what [that is],” Gibbs said.
He has been discerning a priestly vocation under the direction of Father Mahoney and feels strong enough about his calling that he has applied to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He hopes that after he graduates in May, he will be able to further discern his vocation at St. Charles.
Regardless of where God will eventually lead him, one thing he has learned for sure is that “if there is any time when you need to know your faith, think about who you are and come into a relationship with God, college is that time.
“My main focus these past two years has been to get people to realize where God is acting in their lives ultimately with the goal to bring them into a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Gibbs said. “That is the goal of the Newman Center.”
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at email@example.com or (215) 965-4614.