Finding Hope in Loneliness

Nicole Driscoll tells the story of how she found hope in spite of the loneliness she felt in her single life. Encounters with Christ in her loneliness led her to a deeper understanding of God’s mystery, creativity and providence. 

Listen to the podcast of the full interview with Nicole (20:23). 

Watch the video of Nicole’s story of encounter (5:07).

Nicole Driscoll, 26, was born in San Antonio, Texas, but moved around a bit for her dad’s job. She attended college at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and went to graduate school at the University of Notre Dame. She is currently the Campus Minister at Rice University and works in the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

At Rice, Nicole said she loves talking with the students about Catholic Intellectual Tradition and theologians or grabbing coffee with them or leading Bible studies.

“The students at Rice are really hungry to learn the faith and get to know God on a deeper, intellectual level,” she said. She calls her job a “ministry of presence” and is sensitive to the how students may question the Catholic faith during college.

Toward the end of the summer, her friend, Lacy, told Nicole that her fear of not reaching out to God was paralyzing her. Lacy told Nicole that all it takes to reach out to God is faith the size of a mustard seed.

“College is a time when you are learning who you are apart from your parents and your family of origin for the first time,” she said. “When I was a college student myself, I went through a period of time studying theology when I was just really doubting. I didn’t know if God was real. I didn’t know if Catholicism was truth. I struggled with those questions for a long time.”

Nicole’s unrest with not feeling God’s presence came to a head when she worked at a Christian summer camp. She worked on a cattle ranch in East Texas.

“It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many Christians seeking the Lord,” she said. “I was going through a tough time, but I thought, even if I can’t feel this myself, I want others to have a good faith life. I wanted to help others if they were having a hard time too.”

Toward the end of the summer, her friend, Lacy, told Nicole that her fear of not reaching out to God was paralyzing her. Lacy told Nicole that all it takes to reach out to God is faith the size of a mustard seed.

“After that, I slowly began to see God present to me in new ways – in nature, in the animals,” she said. “I came out of that time of questioning and doubt with this deep appreciation and heart-knowledge of God as mystery. I realized that I can’t put God in a box and I don’t know for certain who God is, but I know that God is bigger than that. I was able to come before the Lord in total freedom and be vulnerable with him.”

With the love of good mentors, she was able to question openly while her mentors accompanied her during her doubt. She now identifies with the role of the mentor.

“Oftentimes struggling with questions is very painful,” Nicole said. “The one thing that I try to communicate to young people is that even with questions, you still have a home in the Church. I try to be a welcoming presence for the students to try to embody God’s love for them. I think for the majority of us, conversion is a process.”

She said this embodiment happens in small ways like baking for the students or eating dinner with them at the on-campus dining halls.

“I think cultivating the virtue of hope is really important in those times of loneliness and brokenness,” she said. “In the moments when hope or joy is difficult, I look to ‘Ave Crux, Spes Unica’ because it is in looking to the cross that we find hope.”

The motto for the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order that founded both St. Edwards and Notre Dame, is Ave Crux, Spes Unica, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” Nicole said that through discernment, she has been able to hope in the cross of Christ, for herself and her students.

“I think cultivating the virtue of hope is really important in those times of loneliness and brokenness,” she said. “In the moments when hope or joy is difficult, I look to ‘Ave Crux, Spes Unica’ because it is in looking to the cross that we find hope. Death doesn’t have the final word; any death – loneliness, brokenness, boredom, despair. Many times we do not know how or when new life will come about, but we trust that it will because of the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even in those moments when hope and new life seems the furthest from our minds, God’s got it. That’s the promise of the cross and resurrection.”

Currently, Nicole and her fiancée, Chris, are looking forward to planning their wedding liturgy and preparing to enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony.

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