‘God is like my best friend’
Question: You went to Notre Dame University this summer. What was that all about?
Answer: Notre Dame Vision is a program set up for young Catholics so they can meet other young people interested in learning about their faith.
Q: How did you get chosen to go?
A: St. Bernard’s Church in Waterville was already participating in the program and sent a DVD to our church for the ninth-grade class to watch. I was interested the minute they played the DVD and knew it was for me. I chose to go the summer of 2010 and I enjoyed it so much that I brought along five other girls from Mount Carmel this summer.
Q: What was it like at Notre Dame?
A: When we pulled up to the campus I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The gardens, Touchdown Jesus, the grotto, the churches – just everything was beautiful.
Q: What did you do while you were there?
A: I stayed for five days. During my time there I attended Mass three times and reconciliation once. I also attended scripture-based plays. We had groups of eight or nine other people my age, and a mentor in faith who was a college student who attended Notre Dame. We did activities that related to Mass, and activities that helped us better understand our religion. The activities helped me to grow in my faith life.
Q: Did you make any friends that you keep in contact with now?
A: I did make good friends there who I talk to now. In life, it is not easy to develop a friendship in five days, but at Notre Dame it was. I feel those relationships will be long-lasting. I am still in contact with my mentor in faith. She gives very good advice and she loves to hear from me. She always tells me, “No matter how close to God you are, or how much you know about Him, you can always grow closer and learn more.”
Q: Was there one person who made an impression on you?
A: Julia, my mentor in faith, made a long-lasting impression on me for one specific reason. The winter after my first year of attending Notre Dame Vision, Julia was in Africa on a mission helping sick children. When I made my Confirmation in June, I choose the name Angela, after Angela de Medici (a missionary who experienced blindness while on a pilgrimage to help young girls understand/develop their faith). She is my favorite saint, and Julia reminded me of her in many ways.
Q: If you could pick out one thing you learned, what would it be?
A: Keep learning and growing and never give up.
Q: What’s it like to be in the Mancuso family with mom, dad and twin sisters?
A: My family is very chaotic. My sisters and I argue a lot and get mad at each other. But then in two minutes we are over that. My parents are very loving and supportive in everything I do. I come from a close-knit family, so to be away alone was very different and scary for me and them. But Notre Dame felt like home to me, and I felt safe.
Q: Do you feel any responsibility because you are the oldest?
A: I do feel a lot of responsibility being oldest, and I love it. I do help my mother a lot and take care of the house.
Q: Lots of young people don’t care to talk about religion. What about you?
A: I love talking about religion. I know some people are embarrassed or ashamed, but I am proud to believe in what I do.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a Catholic? What don’t you like?
A: The best thing about be Catholic is that there is always more about our religion that I don’t know. I keep learning and find new things out every day. The only thing I don’t like is that religious education classes end after Confirmation. I believe that is why most teens don’t come back to church until they get married. I think we should still have classes after Confirmation. And thanks to my 10th-grade religion teacher Lisa Nicoletta, it is being done. A small group from my 10th-grade class will be meeting with Lisa once a month to continue our religious education.
Q: If you had the chance, what would you tell a friend about what God means to you?
A: God is like my best friend. Best friends are there when you need something, or don’t know what to do and need a little push in the right direction. And God is that for me. I am always looking to God for answers. I trust in God and understand what happens isn’t always what I want, but have faith in him and endure it.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
A: My biggest influence is my dad. He brought me to religious education and church since I was a baby. He cherishes his religion and only wants the same for me. He encourages me to participate in Mass and be the best Catholic I can. When I was younger he encouraged me to be an altar server and to help out some of the religion teachers with the small children. When I turned 15 he encouraged me to be a lector. To this day he still encourages me to participate in everything I could. He is a big supporter of the church, and he hopes I will continue to be.
Q: Tell me about Anastasia, the young woman. What is she like?
A: I am loving, caring and sometimes hard-headed. I care a lot about everyone. I like to make sure everyone is taken care of. And I also like to be in charge and make sure everything runs smoothly. I am very family oriented. I love my parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I also have a close relationship with my godfather and his family who I consider to be my family too.
Q: What do you hope the future holds for you?
A: In the future I hope to become a doctor and serve people as I continue to serve the Lord.
Q: Any advice for people your age?
A: Stay close to the church. Your religion is the foundation of your life. My mother took me to play group at Mount Carmel from age 3 and I have had church a part of my life since then.