A Muslim Usher at Baccalaureate Mass

I had a unique opportunity to assist as an usher and volunteer during Commencement weekend at Baccalaureate Mass. To be quite honest, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Despite attending a prominent Catholic university for the last two years, I had never attended mass before this service. As you can imagine, I was quite nervous and anxious as I entered McDonough with no idea of how people would react to a Muslim girl in hijab offering assistance during a Catholic religious service. Would people just stare, deeply perplexed at what they were seeing–a Muslim girl at mass? Would no one approach me with questions or follow my directions? These questions raced through my mind as I got closer to campus.  But once I entered McDonough, I was greeted with nothing but warm smiles and kind words from a diverse group of volunteers of many different faith traditions and backgrounds. I realized I had a lot in common with some of the volunteers and was not the only one with jitters. As families began entering the gymnasium, I was assigned as one of the volunteers responsible for greeting attendees and offering programs. I had no idea what to expect as I greeted incoming parents and family members. Would they walk pass me and just stare? Would they accept a program? These questions raced through my mind as I stood carrying programs beside the other volunteers. Much to my surprise, I received several sincere and heartfelt greetings and salutations. I never felt so honored and humbled by the beauty of kindness I witnessed that morning. I received extensive “thank yous” and welcomed warm smiles each time someone passed through my door. I occasionally ran to grab more programs as my stacks wouldn’t last more than a few minutes until I completely ran out. I distinctly recall one couple taking the time to ask for my name and if I was a student attending the university. They listened attentively to my responses and wished me well on their way to their seats. I remember I couldn’t stop smiling because my face represented the joy and happiness that filled my heart. I was extremely touched by the kind manner I was greeted with by each individual I met and offered a program.

Once mass began, I shuffled around with the other volunteers to ensure families that were still making there way into the gymnasium were greeted and given programs. I was assigned to make sure all the graduates seated had programs to follow along during the service. The graduates seated in the rows closest to me looked up at me surprised as I whispered asking if anyone was in need of a program. Several graduates smiled at me and politely asked those seated around them if they needed programs. They then would look towards me and reach out a hand and in five minutes every graduate seated had what they needed. As I walked towards the back of the gymnasium, curious eyes followed me as well as smiles and greetings. I was a source of distraction but not with the negative connotation I had imagined. I felt welcomed and more importantly, wanted. No one made me feel like I was lost or didn’t belong. It was one of a few moments in my life where I didn’t feel bad about being “different”. Yes, I did look very different from your average mass attendee but no one made me feel like I didn’t belong because of how I look.

Khadija Mohamud, SFS’17