The seeds of Cynthia Obiekezie’s faith were planted by her parents, took root in her parish and blossomed at college. Now she’s helping others grow in their relationship with Jesus.
While earning a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at California University of Pennsylvania, Obiekezie served as president of the Cal U Catholic community during her senior year. She graduated last May and is now a member of a campus ministry alumni advisory board.
She also teaches faith formation to second grade students at Christ the Divine Shepherd Parish in Monroeville and Penn Hills.
“It’s a blessing to have her on the team,” said Father Larry Adams, moderator of team ministry. “I’m really impressed by her positive energy, attitude and demeanor. She’s providing witness to others.”
“I was active in the faith growing up at Saint Gerard Majella Parish,” said Obiekezie, who was born in Nigeria and moved here with her parents at age 4. “But it was Cal U campus ministry that gave me a chance to grow, to find my faith for myself, and help me to learn my identity.”
Director of campus ministry Meghan Larsen-Reidy met Obiekezie as a sophomore and saw her leadership potential.
“Cynthia was attending Mass every week, but at college she realized she had to really take ownership of her faith,” Larsen-Reidy said.
Her spiritual journey got a boost in early 2019 when she attended the SEEK Catholic conference in Indianapolis, encountering Christ in a deeper, more personal way.
“I met other Nigerian Catholics and found ways to connect with others,” Obiekezie said. “It was the most valuable experience of my life.”
Studies show the college years are essential in keeping younger Catholics practicing their faith. A report from the Pew Research Center found that nearly 80 percent of those who leave the church do so by age 23.
In an effort to offer guidance and support for younger Catholics, Larsen-Reidy and campus ministry chaplain Father Tom Lewandowski are linking local parishes with college students and alumni of Cal U, Washington & Jefferson College and Waynesburg University.
Obiekezie is on board with any outreach that helps to connect people with Christ.
“I became so much stronger in my faith through campus ministry,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to get involved in teaching faith formation.”
As a co-instructor at her parish, she leads parents through online lessons and hopes to grow in the role. Obiekezie works as a care attendant at UPMC Shadyside and is looking at graduate school to study international relations or acting.
She’s excited about the future, and her faith.
“I love the prayers we say, and the saints, and that we emphasize the role of Mary,” she said. “She is a beautiful guide.”