Enya Pilegaard

My name is Enya Pilegaard, I was a student at Newman College Ireland from 2016-2018 and at Thomas Moore College with Newman College 2018-2019.

My initial introduction to Newman College came through my sister, who was also considering the College. During this period, I was enrolled in health science studies in Derry with aspirations of becoming an occupational therapist. 

I had no desire to study liberal arts, as I have dyslexia and had hardly read a book outside of what was required to get me through school. I was not academically inclined and the prospect of this course seemed daunting to me.

I was raised in a large Catholic family where my faith was of great importance. Despite this, being surrounded by aggressive secularism in my academic environment and among my peers, made me realise that I needed the tools to face these challenges to keep my faith in the contemporary world. Thus, became a student of Newman College Ireland. 

The initial impression that resonated with me regarding this educational experience was the presence of lecturers who authentically embodied their faith. Alongside students, they actively pursued Truth and wisdom both within and beyond the confines of the classroom. Whether engaging in morning mass or participating in conversations during meals, we were immersed in a Catholic culture that facilitated the practical application of our learning. If a student encountered difficulties comprehending a lecture, opportunities for in-depth discussions over lunch were readily available. These lectures not only imparted knowledge but also served as exemplars of what it means to live a virtuous life, whether as a devout priest, a dedicated spouse, or a nurturing parent.

 Moreover, I also made enduring  friendships , friendships that got me through some of the most difficult times in my life. These friendships were built on a foundation of shared values in faith, truth, and beauty, fostering an environment where we could challenge each other to grow in the spiritual life. 

Through the study of Catholic liberal arts at Newman, we encountered a universal study of knowledge, through Mathematics, History, Literature, Political Science unified by the central role played by Philosophy and Theology. We also studied Georgian chant, iconography and had many elegant speakers give talks various subjects. 

Traveling to the United States through an opportunity provided by Newman College proved to be a profoundly enlightening experience. Witnessing numerous intellectually astute young Catholics in the U.S. stood in stark contrast to the environment in Ireland, underscoring the necessity for a Catholic college in Ireland.

The lessons I learned from Newman College have resonated with me beyond my college years. I became actively engaged in the pro-life movement, primarily advocating pro-life stances through various media platforms and traveling throughout Ireland canvassing. After graduating, I worked for a charity all across Ireland for three years, visiting schools on a daily basis and providing retreats. I have delieved talks to hundreds of teenagers on apologetics and explaining the faith to them. When lockdown happened, and I was not able to go into the school for 6 months, during this time, my siblings and I were approached by our Bishop to spearhead an online Sunday School initiative. This was aimed at imparting catechism lessons to young children. Despite lacking prior experience in media production, we devised a YouTube challenge, creating weekly videos featuring brief teachings and providing a platform for priests to deliver short homilies to the children. Notably, one of these priests was a lecturer from Newman College.

 I also met my future husband,Tait Pilegaard, through my friends at Newman College and my stay in the United States. A Chirtsendom Graduate, who worked as a teacher in Catholic liberal arts academys all across the US. Following our marriage, we devoted our spare time to a youth group, where my husband imparted knowledge on various aspects of faith to young adults, while I coordinated speaking engagements and lectures on different facets of the Catholic faith. Keith Kelly, also a former Newman student, volunteered alongside us, instructing teenagers on logic and apologetics using insights leaned from his studies at Newman College.
Following the birth of our son, who we named John Henry, my husband and I established Catholic Family Days in our Dioceses. This initiative brings together young Catholic families to educate children about saints and the teachings of the Church.

I am incredibly grateful for my experience and time at Newman College, it formed the person I am today and opened my eyes to the riches of our faith. 

I believe that the Catholic liberal arts forms an all-rounded person and its education is the best foundation for any vocation and career. 

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