ROCHESTER — Mary Grace Schreiber is salutatorian of Aquinas Institute’s class of 2023. She’s also a published author.
Yet the teen’s proudest achievement is not tied directly to her academic or literary success.
“I’ve had people tell me that they can really see that I live my faith, which is … the biggest compliment I can receive,” said Schreiber, 18.
Aquinas senior writes devotional book, leaves her legacy in school library
Schreiber recently completed a project that incorporated her faith as well as her academic skills. In their senior year, all Aquinas students complete Capstone Legacy Projects focused on topics of their choosing and demonstrating both the knowledge and skills they have gained at Aquinas, and the legacy they’re leaving to the school, according to Meredith Kallfelz, Aquinas’ associate director of advancement, enrollment and communications.
For her project, Schreiber chose to write a devotional book for teens, and she is literally leaving her legacy in the school library in the form of two copies of the self-published book. Schreiber’s book, God At the Center: A Catholic devotional for teens about how to live with God at the center of all they think, do and say, was released in April in hard copy and e-book formats.
The 96-page book contains Schreiber’s reflections on more than 70 Scripture passages. The reflections are organized into seven sections on such themes as faith; sin and forgiveness; trust; and worry and stress — all topics chosen with teens in mind. She said she hopes the book might help teen readers to develop closer relationships with God and new perspectives on the challenges they face.
“God really is always present, all the time, every place to every person. Whether you believe in him or not, he’s here,” she explained. “I think that just living with that mindset definitely can change the way you see the world and the way that you think. I think that makes it better.”
Teen’s struggles with stress, anxiety inspired her to help others
Schreiber said her own struggles with stress and anxiety motivated her to write this devotional for other teens. She had always stressed over her grades, but her anxiety about them reached an all-time high just before a midterm she took in her junior year, she recalled. She’d been both praying and studying constantly before the exam, and she said the combination of prayer and work helped her to feel confident during the test.
“Doing both helps us to have the assurance that we did everything we could to help ourselves and God will take care of the rest. This combination has, therefore, really helped to ease my stress and anxieties in the challenges I have faced,” she wrote in a reflection in her book’s “Worry and Stress” chapter.
Schreiber’s devout Catholic grandmother modeled the faith
This realization may have been new to Schreiber, but her Catholic faith is not. She attended elementary school at Seton Catholic School and middle school at the former Siena Catholic Academy before starting at Aquinas in ninth grade. She worships with her family at St. Thomas More and Our Lady Queen of Peace parishes in Brighton, and counts her late-grandmother, Carmella Lisena, as one of her strongest role models of faith.
“I would always (visit) just to spend time with her and help her with whatever she needed help with. She would always talk about her faith whenever I would go there,” Schreiber said of her grandmother, who passed away in 2021. “(Faith) was always something that was really important to her, and it was something important in my life, too.”
Teen says process of researching, writing book strengthened her own faith
Schreiber, who dedicated the book to Lisena, said the process of choosing Scripture passages, writing reflections and editing her manuscript also proved to be something of a journey of faith.
“As I was writing, I struggled with feeling like I had a lack of credibility. I’m 17, 18 when I’m writing this. What do I know what I’m talking about?” she recalled.
However, the positive feedback she received from peers, teachers and family members who read the book changed her perspective.
“It’s made me a lot more confident in my faith,” said Schreiber, who will study physical therapy next year at Nazareth University in Pittsford.Tags: Profiles in Faith