In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables he writes, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves — say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
This quote sums up much of senior Andrea Vasquez’s life, as she responds to the conviction of Christ’s love for her by zealously making others aware of their own belovedness.
There is no Victor Hugo quote that addresses making keychains out of one’s own wisdom teeth, but this applies to Vasquez as well.
She made four keychains — after cleaning the teeth, of course — for herself, her two best friends, and her sister. “They don’t use them,” she said.
Born in California, Vasquez is the second daughter of Mexican immigrants. Music was always in the house, which allowed her vocal talent to flourish. When Andrea was four, her family moved to the DFW metroplex, eventually settling in Keller, TX when she was twelve.
This move to Keller was the beginning of Vasquez’s winding road to UD. In the midst of her family’s reversion to Catholicism, she began attending youth group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where a UD alumnus was the youth minister.
“He just had an incredibly attractive faith … his zeal and his sense of humor and an incredibly loud laugh just like you and me … I just wanted what he had and he spoke incredibly highly of his experience here at UD.”
Vasquez committed to UD, but in February of her senior year of high school, she performed as a finalist with the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Treble Choir in San Antonio. The experience caused her to reconsider her plans for college.
“I never had been able to perform and rehearse with such devoted and focused musicians … It was so impactful and I saw how much joy it brought me and that it did speak to a talent I had in music.”
Vasquez decided not to attend UD and instead studied vocal performance at University of Texas at Arlington. However, Andrea says that once she was at UTA, “I felt like I’d made the biggest mistake of my life … I felt like I’d missed out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the education that I do believe is uniquely offered here at UD.”
Vasquez’s father encouraged her to reach out to UD. “When I realized that I could just transfer and that [my scholarship] funds were still being offered to me, I accepted it in a heartbeat and I found my way back over here, thanks be to God.”
Although Vasquez is graduating from UD as a psychology major with a theology concentration, her love for music remains integral to her perception of the world — and not just because she can still play “Ode to Joy” on the recorder.
“I’m not like a quirky girl for saying this, but the fact that sounds can bring us goosebumps and bring tears to our eyes or laughter amidst friends…I don’t think there’s anything else like it…I think it’s a proof of God’s existence, of beauty in the world.”
Her studies have allowed her to not only learn about God but about herself in light of the Creator’s goodness. “In my ‘Thought of JPII’ class Dr. Walz was discussing the concept of reading yourself in light of Scripture … [T]heological pursuits [help me] to understand why I am the way I am and why I have certain aspirations and desires.”
“[I]t’s really allowed me to make sense … of the deep sufferings of my past, as well as the ones I know I’m bound to experience and encounter in the future, as well as why certain things bring me joy.”
Whether she is tutoring overwhelmed freshmen who don’t know their noema from their noesis, working tirelessly as the vice-president of UD’s Thomistic Institute chapter, or serving as a small-group leader for Blessed is She, Vasquez thrives off of finding ways to share her relationship with Christ and herself with others.
“I definitely experienced towards the beginning [of my time at UD] a sense of … feeling isolated, ostracized, that I didn’t fit in and … a lot of it really did have to do with my own insecurities, but being able to thrive in [TI and Blessed is She] and see my strengths … I think it’s just really empowered me.”
As she reflects on her experience here, Vasquez says she has found joy and strength in “being able to see those beautiful, joyful faces on the way to my incredibly hard phenomenology class.”
“It’s the little conversations and the little moments in the Cap Bar, or getting to meet someone new and making them laugh because I usually employ like five accents within one sentence or one conversation.”
This fall, Vasquez will pursue her masters of clinical mental health counseling at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She departs with a contagious freedom that will allow her to continue to encourage others in their identities as beloved children of the Father, as well as in their newfound fake accents or loud laughs. Through the Lord’s pursuit of her, Vasquez delights in “Finally being free to be myself and to share the gift that I am with other people, and thus obviously in response, to be able to experience the gift of others.”