St. Mary’s Ryken senior calls her Catholic education ‘a gift given to me’

Published by the Catholic Standard on June 2, 2021

By Richard Szczepanowski

Julia Baddour 21

Julia Baddour, a member of the class of 2021 at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown

Julia Baddour, a graduating senior at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Maryland, knew from the time that she was in the second grade that a Catholic education was the perfect fit for her.

“I started attending Catholic school in the second grade at Cardinal Hickey Academy located in Calvert County, Maryland,” she said. “I had a religious sister as my teacher, and I just fell in love with the school and Catholic teachings. Since that experience, I knew I would do everything in my power to continue my Christian education.”

The very fact that Baddour, 18, began attending Catholic school, she said “was a gift given to me and my sisters by our grandparents.”

She said her grandparents are Christian immigrants from the Middle East ­– her grandmother immigrated from Cairo and her grandfather came from Jerusalem – who came to the United States to escape “danger because of their Christian faith.”

“It was actually Catholic Charities that saved my grandfather’s life. He came to the United States, and Catholic Charities assisted him obtain his American citizenship and gave him a scholarship to a Catholic university which led to his first job,” Baddour said. “My grandparents decided after this experience that out of gratitude to the Catholic Church, they would send their grandchildren to Catholic school. This story has brought me where I am today and has increased my love for Catholic education.” 

Baddour said her Catholic schooling not only provided her with a solid education, but spurred her to become a Catholic. She was Confirmed this past Easter, and a St. Mary’s Ryken alumnus served as her sponsor.

“When I started attending Catholic school, my faith kept growing and growing, and I knew becoming Catholic was something God was calling me to do so I could be closer to Him and the beautiful community,” she said. 

Baddour said that the St. Mary’s Ryken school community “prepared me for this special day in my life.” The school is sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers.

“I felt very supported by my friends and family, especially the St. Mary’s Ryken community,” she said, adding that Lauren Weeks, a 2020 graduate of the school, served as her sponsor and “was the perfect person to look after me spiritually. 

In addition to her sponsor, Baddour said she is also grateful to “my school’s campus ministry, Father Scott (Woods) my spiritual director and Ryken’s main priest, and all of my amazing theology teachers who have supported me and prepared me.”

The daughter of Mazen and Andrea Baddour, Julia has two younger sisters – Olivia and Claudia. The family attends Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Owings.

During her time at St. Mary’s Ryken, Baddour said “my favorite class has been my theology courses. It is the only class that can help you for eternity.”

“Theology is the most important course anyone can take, especially social ethics and moral theology because it teaches you how to be a good person,” she said. “Especially in today’s society, this class is so important because it teaches us how to respect people and ourselves. It influences the way someone views the world, and teaches us to advocate for justice in accordance with our moral standard.”

Baddour was part of Ryken’s Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools (XBSS) Stewards. The XBSS Stewards are a group of seniors who serve as witnesses to the faith to the school community and dedicate themselves to carry on the Xaverian charism and ministry.

In addition, she was a member of the National Honors society, the Tri-M Honors Music Society, the International Thespian Society, student government, show choir and women’s elite chorus. 

“I have enjoyed these activities because each one has provided me with unique leadership opportunities, helped me grow in my faith, provided me with a community of students who have similar passions as I do, and led me to making amazing friendships,” she said. 

Ending her Catholic high school years during a time of pandemic, Baddour said, “was a sign from God for everyone to slow down, and spend time with our families. This pandemic has made me realize how busy our lives have been and … made me and my family prioritize our time together and grow closer together. Of course, these times have been tough, but in a way I am grateful for the time I have been able to spend with my family.”

In the fall, Baddour will begin classes at Belmont University, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. She will pursue a double major in vocal performance with a musical theater emphasis and theology. 

“My goal in life is to be a musical performer who proclaims the word of Christ and lives as a sign of His presence in the world through my art,” she said. “I don’t like how often our culture’s entertainment is the exact opposite of Christian morals. I believe God has called me to be part of the change in the industry and be the example of what good art and morals Christian artists should be promoting.”

And after her musical career, her long-range goal is “to eventually be a theology teacher. I have loved the gift of Catholic education that has been given to me, and I would love to share it with other students one day.”


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