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Inner and Outer Beauty: An Interview with Alessia Catena

Editor’s note: Tim Shelgren deepened his acquaintance with DC Service Corps member Alessia Catena in an interview last week.

I have known Alessia Catena for two weeks. My first impression of Alessia reflects maturity and both inner and outer beauty. She presents herself in a way that shows she has confidence and does not hesitate to take on a leadership role when asked. Conversely, she also seems to enjoy sitting quietly in a group as the others carry on, whether in serious dialogue or in rambunctious play. A recent interview with Alessia shows that my first impressions may be correct.

I was curious about her sense of style so I asked Alessia about her interest in fashion as a youth and now. With a modest smile she stated that she was “always a tomboy” growing up and feels she still is. Unlike one of her sisters, with whom she compared herself several times, Alessia doesn’t mind being seen wearing socks with dresses. She actually loves wearing socks with dresses -sometimes Christmas socks in August. She “dresses for herself, not others.”

Alessia may have acquired her uninhibited approach to dress while in college. There, Alessia said she was“not weird enough” compared to her classmates, who had multiple colors of hair and crazy clothes.

Alessia’s college roommate, Monica, was much like her. Monica was her first Catholic friend and they spent a lot of time together. They were both responsible when splitting responsibilities, like at the grocery store. They would each have cash ready at the register every week and would split the bill in half. They were a team, they portrayed the “same image.” At times people asked Alessia and Monica if they were dating. “That’s just weird,” Alessia and Monica would respond.

Another factor that may have contributed to their strong friendship was their majors. Monica studied music in college, and Alessia studied graphic design. Their friendship remained lively because they didn’t bog one another down with too much attention on one topic. Also, Monica was extremely neat; Alessia was not as extreme. They lived with this difference with “no problems” ever.

Back in college Alessia said to herself, “I need to find a male version of Monica.” Surprisingly, later she did. She found Chris. Chris’s personality, activity-related interests, and sense of humor are a lot like Monica’s. Now officially a couple, Alessia and Chris are nurturing a long distance relationship. Chris is living and serving in the military in Japan. Alessia sees strong potential in the relationship: she is thrilled that Chris has recently found interest in knowing more about Christ. He has immersed himself into a personal study and practice of Christianity. Is he the one?

I would not be surprised if Chris and Alessia do lean toward the idea of long-term commitment. Faith in Christ is Alessia’s number one priority in life. When I asked Alessia to imagine what advice she would give to her family and loved ones surrounding her on her imaginary deathbed, she described a life of seeking God, “intoxicating” yourself with Christ, and utilizing the power of Christ to “prepare for battle.”

Second priority to Alessia is “community.” As part of the Casa San Salvador community she is experiencing a realization that “everything is done better in community.” I like that Alessia would emphasize this idea in her last words. This statement indicates that she is advising her family and loved ones to stay together. In the decades ahead, these beliefs are sure to support her in becoming a strong wife, mother, and community member… if she chooses that route.

I certainly cannot predict Alessia’s future. But I can say that my first impression was accurate. Her self-expression in dress, her love for her friends and family, her relationship with Christ, and her belief in community do, indeed, show that Alessia is a mature young woman who possesses both inner and outer beauty.

Reflection question: What advice would you leave as the culmination of the lessons you have learned in life?

Tim Shelgren has led many youth mission trips as a committed Christian. He has worked as a hair stylist, massage therapist, and yoga teacher, and most recently as a counselor at a residential home for teenage boys. A father of three and grandfather of five, Tim is passionate about working for equality for all people and has a special interest in working with children and youth without families. After living recently in Arizona and Pennsylvania, Tim is looking forward learning and growing spiritually by serving in another culture. He likes rock and tree climbing, riding bikes with friends, and playing piano, just like he did when he was a kid.