My First Communion

Other volunteers and I were tasked with assisting the service attendees to their assigned “communion station” to prevent long lines and ensure everyone participating in communion would be able to quickly and safely return to their seats. To carry out this task, each volunteer was assigned a specific region of the room to guide attendees to their respective stations in an orderly fashion. Frankly, I was quite nervous and doubtful about how effective I would be in getting those seated in my section of the room to listen to my directions and wait patiently until I told them they could go to communion. But once I reached my assigned section, those seated in the bleachers looked at me in amazement. Once communion began and sections of the room were dismissed to their stations, those seated in my section looked at me attentively and listened carefully to my directions to remain seated until their communion station was ready. Once I received the green light, I started dismissing my section in pairs of bleachers; navigating my way from the bottom to the top. When I asked those seated to remain patient until the dismissed groups returned, I received nothing but ‘thank you’s and smiles. As people returned to their seats, I received several handshakes, pats on the back, and other sincere gestures of gratitude that completely threw me into a state of shock. All those seated in my section listened to my directions and returned to their seats in an orderly manner. I was literally blown away and quite proud of how well my section performed during an otherwise chaotic and stressful period in the service. I remember laughing to the thought of leaving Muslim Life to work for the Catholic Chaplaincy as I had never managed to effectively receive the attention of so many people during a religious service. I survived my first communion at nineteen years of age in a packed auditorium at a Catholic University. What couldn’t I do? I felt invincible. 

The important lesson I learned from my experience at Baccalaureate Mass was to expect the unexpected. As cliche as it sounds, it accurately describes what I learned from serving as hijabi usher and volunteer at a Catholic religious service. If I could have convinced myself earlier that day not to worry about how I would be looked at and treated, I would have saved myself from unnecessary nerves and concerns. I should have entered the gymnasium that morning as a proud Georgetown student attending a university that respects people of all faiths. I was treated with the utmost respect and kindness because I was clearly someone of a different faith appreciative of the Catholic and Jesuit values that encourage pluralism and acceptance. Each person that approached me to personally thank me for my service provided me with significant hope  in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. I wasn’t treated any differently from the other volunteers except that I received more attention for standing out as person of a different faith. There are very few occasions that I have experienced in my life where wearing a hijab allowed me to receive positive attention, kind remarks, and acceptance. Baccalaureate Mass was one of those experiences I will never forget for how kindly and beautifully I was treated by complete strangers of a different faith.

Khadija Mohamud, SFS’17