Share this story

 | Alora Peters

A Story of Conversion: "“I cannot wait to participate in the Eucharist"

April 24, 2023 | Saint Leo University student is welcomed into the Catholic Church.

Many students look back on their experience at Saint Leo University as a time of learning, growth, and personal development. However, for junior Lauren Cheek, her time at Saint Leo has led to so much more — namely, her discovery of the faith and conversion to Catholicism.

Cheek, who is studying criminal justice, was baptized on April 8, during this year’s Easter Vigil at the Saint Leo Abbey Church.

Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, celebrated the Mass and administered the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first Communion to Cheek. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, and other members of the local Saint Leo community all gathered for the Easter Vigil and to witness Cheek’s reception of the sacraments.

Cheek’s journey began officially when she entered into Saint Leo’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program in July 2022. In RCIA, she and other students who are preparing to receive the sacraments studied together the fundamental precepts and teachings of the Catholic Church, covering topics such as prayer, morality, the liturgy, Scriptures, Catechism of the Catholic Church, the saints, and the religious experience.

“I definitely called it Catholicism 101,” Cheek said.

One of Cheek’s favorite learning experiences, however, was learning from her fellow RCIA students.

“I think the most fruitful discussion was learning about everyone’s journeys,” she said. “God brought us all together to have these talks and learn together.”

Growing up, Cheek had occasionally gone to churches in a variety of denominations, but had never investigated religion in depth before starting her studies at Saint Leo University.

Looking back, Cheek is grateful that she made the decision to come to Saint Leo, as she had originally strongly considered the University of South Florida (USF).

“Something in my heart told me I needed to go to Saint Leo,” she said. “I don’t know why — well, I do know why. I didn’t know why at the time.”

Cheek was introduced to Catholicism through two of her roommates, both of whom were practicing Catholics. Open, honest conversations with her roommates led Cheek to begin asking more questions about Catholicism.

“They sat down and had that dialogue with me,” Cheek said. “I had so many misconceptions about the Church.”

Cheek remembers one distinct moment last spring that spurred her to begin her conversion journey.

“I had had a really rough day,” she said. “I was exhausted, and tired … and I was walking by the Saint Jude Chapel [on Saint Leo’s campus], and I just felt this call to go in and pray. And as someone who didn’t know how to pray, had never prayed a day in her life, it was a scary call.”

Following that call, Cheek started attending daily Mass in the Abbey Church and attending more events with University Ministry. During the summer, she continued attending Mass and discerning whether she truly wanted to become Catholic.

After months of prayer and reflection, Cheek said that the reasons why she wanted to enter into the Church became very clear to her.

“I cannot wait to participate in the Eucharist,” she said. “I can’t wait to be closer to God through the Eucharist.”

Cheek is currently working as a peer mentor for the Saint Leo Abbey’s retreat team, where she hopes to share more about her experience with others who are preparing to receive the sacraments or who are curious about the faith.

“It’s definitely not easy,” she said. “This changes the rest of your life, but it’s such a fantastic change.”

Cheek does not think her conversion would have been as easy without the supportive community around her.

“I think God called me at the right time,” said Cheek.

Those who are interested in finding out more about the RCIA program at Saint Leo University may contact its coordinator, Lucas Nocera, interim directory of University Ministry, at

Alora Peters is a senior, Honors Program student, majoring in English-professional writing at Saint Leo University. She is editor-in-chief of The Lions’ Pride Media Group and is a communications intern for University Ministry at Saint Leo. Peters plans to attend law school after graduating.

(A version of this story was posted to The Lions’ Pride Media Group website)