'Religion for me is all about family'

| Rik Visschedijk

The UT hosts a diverse community of students and employees of various backgrounds. With Christmas fast approaching, we have talked to several people from the UT about their faith and how they experience this festive period. Today: Paola Nicolella, UT student originally from Italy.

Who: Paola Nicolella

Position: Master’s student Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology

Faith: Roman-Catholic

‘Religion for me is all about family. My most strong believes, like love and respect, are transmitted to me through my family from childhood on. I was raised mostly in Italy, in Naples and Rome, and so the Roman-Catholic faith has always been a strong influence on me. We visited church several times a week and it always felt right to have that anchor in my life.’

Search for a church

‘Of course, every religious person has a moment in life when you contemplate whether or not your belief is originating from within yourself, or that it is a part of your upbringing. I had this experience when I was considering to move to Enschede for my studies. There are people who start studying and stop going to church. For me, this was out of the question. When I decided to go to Twente, the next step I took was to look for a Catholic church.’

‘The most trying time for me was when I arrived in Enschede. I found myself alone a lot, and in church I also was alone. The mass is mostly in Dutch, so it was hard to relate to. I did not hesitate about my belief, but I missed things that were important to me; belonging to a family mostly.’

Same struggles

‘Then I got involved in Ariëns Katholieke Studenten Enschede and found people going through the same struggles. We formed an international group and go to church together. And we spend time together to celebrate Sunday after church, with talk and food. I’ve been asked to join the board as commissioner for community buildingfor Ariëns, which I’m happy to do.’

‘I go to different churches; the Jacobuskerk, the Jozefkerk and the Sint Lambertusbasiliek in Hengelo. The institution is very different from Italy, there are a lot less priest and religion is less an issue for people. I have always kept my faith and have gained a lot from it; because of my faith I’m never alone. I feel the Lord is always near. This is important to me. And I want to help others finding their place. At Ariëns I help welcoming students to Enschede and introduce them to others.’

Communicative priests

‘I am confident I will keep my faith. Belief for me is personal and intertwined with family. And I have always had good experiences in church, with a good and communicative priest. With our current Pope Francis we see a slow but certain transformation of the church. We have to adapt to society a bit, but uphold our basic values. I believe the main role is for the priests: they have to explain the Bible in a way that correspondents to modern times.’

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