‘As good as it gets’

Bishop England teen lives her faith and is a true Christian example for students and teachers

by Nancy Schwerin

CHARLESTON — Katie Vaughan lives her life trying to be a light of Christ for others. She recently underwent a 30-day meditative prayer process and meets regularly with a spiritual director. She attributes her spiritual growth to the prayers of others.

Katie is a fun-loving 17 year old.

A senior at Bishop England High School, she is also the head leader of the 100-member campus ministry program. Katie and 17 group leaders guide the spiritual growth of the team, and they reach out spiritually to the community at large.

The group organizes retreats for eighth-graders and in-coming classes from nearby elementary schools. That’s where the dynamic teen first met the campus ministry team. While an eighth-grader at Christ Our King/Stella Maris School, a 15-member team gave a retreat for her class.

“It was the first time I saw a group of young people so excited about something so pure and substantial,” Katie said. “They were having healthy fun and telling stories about how they’ve struggled and the difference it made in having a Christian support team.”

She meets with her team the first and third Tuesday of every month and with the 17 leaders every Wednesday for bible study.

Each program member signs a pledge, which Katie said has held her accountable over the years. The members promise to steer clear of drinking, drugs, sex, cheating, lying, and to try to be a light of Christ for others.

“We didn’t sign the pledge to hold us back, but to set us free to experience the fun in high school,” said the leader.

Members have dropped off when they didn’t uphold the pledge. Katie said that regrettably the percentage of freshman is much larger than the seniors, and there are more girls than boys in the program.

It’s the in-between years in which temptation plays the greatest role.

Katie said sophomore year was the hardest. Between old friends and new ones, she said “There came a time when everyone wanted to experience new things.”

It was then she had to make a choice. Peer pressure and “wanting to be liked by guys” were strong attractions, but Katie chose to abide by what she agreed to in the pledge.

In her junior year Katie was asked to be co-leader with Molly Holtzclaw, a 2002 graduate. The pair became quick friends and together struggled through the difficulties of peer pressure and high school.

As a senior, Katie was named homecoming queen. She said she was shocked and honored by being named.

“My brother told me it was a good chance to give glory to the true queen of heaven,” said the teen.

Also in her senior year, she was appointed leader of the campus ministry program by Ann Forbes, campus minister at Bishop England.

“Katie is an outstanding individual, particularly for her age. She is really far ahead in her commitment to her faith, understanding it and living it out,” said Forbes. “She’s a true witness to her peers. All those qualities, as well as being a great student, combine to make her a great leader. She continually shows desire to grow in her faith and is a role model for the adults and the students. She’s a true gift.”

At the Steubenville Charleston conference last July Katie began a new phase in her faith. There she experienced adoration and the true presence of Christ. Since, she’s been focusing on learning more about the significance and beauty of the Blessed Mother and adoration.

While visiting Franciscan University of Steubenville last summer, she became interested in consecrations. Her interest prompted Jeff Kirby, a seminarian who taught Katie at Bishop England last year, to give her a copy of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.

With Kirby’s help, she began an intense 30-day period of prayer and meditation. During this time she was going to daily Mass and found a spiritual director, Msgr. Lawrence McInerny, pastor of Stella Maris Church. The priest has encouraged her to spend at least 30 minutes in prayer each day.

And Katie is up for the challenge.

In being a light of Christ for others, she said, “It starts personally; you have to be in shape personally and frequenting the sacraments. When those things are in line it helps me to see past the impurities of others, through prayer I see flaws in myself. You can’t help that joy from spilling over. It’s not so much that I preach the word, but live as I know I’m supposed to.”

Katie will attend Franciscan University of Steuebenville in Ohio next fall and plans to major in religious education.

For now, she will keep on being a teen-ager.

She said, “I try to take a childlike approach, to be a 17-year-old and not jump too far ahead of things and to be simple and pure in my speech and actions and thoughts.”