Fleeing Egypt, and learning to choose joy 

 Written by Jennifer Alemian , Gloucester Catholic High School 

 My life wouldn’t be the same without Catholic education. It has been more than a privilege to attend Catholic School for most of my life and to earn an education some individuals would dream of having. Catholicism has always been a part of my life and who I am.  

I was born in Cairo, Egypt and lived there for about 11 years. My immediate family moved to New Jersey in 2011 due to the Egyptian Revolution, which was when the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt. It was extremely dangerous, especially for Christians.  

While I lived in Egypt I attended Sacre Coeur de Heliopolis, which was an all-girls school that is a combination of a Catholic school and a Muslim school. Every week Catholics would all, as a school, go to Mass, while Muslims went to class to learn about their religion. It was an experience that taught me many lessons, for example, respecting cultural differences and diversification.  

Moving to New Jersey was a very difficult chapter in my life. I had to make new friends, learn how to speak English, and I wanted to fit in with the crowd. Although it was a difficult chapter in my life, it made me learn that God has a plan for everyone. Middle school and high school shaped me into the person I am today.  

I was always scared to go to high school, but I knew I’d be comfortable when choosing Gloucester Catholic. I went through a lot throughout sophomore year and I was in need of someone to guide me and help me through it. Ms. Heeder, my sophomore religion teacher, helped me through my struggles every single day. She was the shoulder to cry on when I needed it. Whenever she realized I was upset or having a bad day, she would give me a bracelet to wear for the day that said, “Choose Joy.” Ms. Heeder taught me how to have open arms for everyone and to be welcoming.  

Gloucester Catholic gave me so many opportunities, for example, Kairos. Kairos, a three-day Catholic retreat program, taught me many lessons. Through Kairos, I realized that I am not alone. I got to know different types of people and their experiences on a new level. My relationship with God grew stronger everyday throughout the retreat. I got to talk to God through nature walks and long talks with amazing people.  

I got an unexpected letter from someone during Kairos. When I opened the envelope, a bracelet was attached to the letter and it said, “Choose Joy.” I immediately had tears of joy when realizing it was from Ms. Heeder. Ever since Kairos, I’ve been going to church every Sunday and started praying more. I appreciate the gift of life and Catholic education more than I ever had. I learn something new every single day, whether it’s learning more about my Catholic faith, or life lessons. I thank God every single day because of the best gift I could ask for, my Catholic education.