Campus Ministry

Marymount’s Poland Pilgrimage

John Lilly No Comments

By Benj Emrich:

Benj reading at JPII's home parish

Benj Emrich reading at JPII’s home parish

This summer Marymount University’s Campus Ministry organized a pilgrimage to Poland. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the trip.  On this pilgrimage we were able to follow in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II, St. Faustina Kowalska, and St. Maximilian Kolbe among other saints.  Throughout this trip we were able to visit many important places of the culture of Poland as well as explore its Catholic identity.  After a very long flight over the Atlantic from Dulles and a layover in Frankfurt, Germany I arrived in Poland very eager to experience all that it had to offer for my faith.

Madonna of the Black Tears

Image of the Black Madonna

After arriving in Poland we immediately began to tour the city of Warsaw. We traversed its streets in the official bus of the Polish National Soccer Team, and saw many important landmarks and buildings such as the Polish embassies.  Arriving at the Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa, or the “Queen of Poland,” we were able to view the Black Madonna, a beautiful Icon of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus.  We celebrated Mass there in a side chapel, spent some time in prayer, and then got settled into our hotel.

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Our Lady of Czetochowa Cathedral

The next day we continued to explore the Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa where we received a tour of the beautiful shrine, had Mass in the chapel of the Black Madonna, and had much more time for personal prayer.  This is where the devotion Poland has for the Blessed Mother moved me the most! Afterwards we drove to Krakow where we had a brief tour and got settled in our hotel.

On the fourth day of the pilgrimage we drove to Wadowice, visiting the birthplace and home parish of John Paul II and had Mass inside.  We then proceeded to a monastery / retreat center in Kalwaria where we toured the grounds and had a lot of time for personal prayer. Kalwaria was high up in the mountains, which made it a beautiful place to be.

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Fr. Jack and Fr. David celebrating Mass in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s chapel.

The fifth day was a very moving day.  We spent time touring the Auschwitz concentration camp.  It was eye-opening for me to see firsthand this place about which I had heard so many terrible things.  We walked around the grounds, saw the living (or dying) conditions, and even walked through the gas chambers.  On our tour we passed by the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died. This was a very moving experience because he is a true model of Christian courage.

On day six we traveled into the mountains to Zakopane; this was definitely the most beautiful and breathtaking place we visited in Poland.  We started the day with Mass in a local chapel and then spent the remainder of the day touring Zakopane and its local markets.  We also traveled by funicular railway to the top of one of the mountains where we could see a beautiful, albeit foggy, view of the town and its many mountains.

Mass in the Cathedral of the Salt Mines

Mass in the Salt Mines

Day seven was spent at two neighboring locations. The first was the brand new Shrine of Spirituality dedicated to John Paul II and the second was the Shrine of Divine Mercy where St. Faustina lived.  This was a day filled with prayer.  We had Mass in St. Faustina chapel within the Shrine of Divine Mercy, we toured the monastery grounds as well as those at the Shrine of Spirituality, and then we had free time to explore, pray, and visit many religious shops.

On the eighth day we drove to Wieliczka where we toured the oldest salt mine in Poland.  This salt mine is a beautiful piece of art.  We celebrated Mass in the St. Kinga chapel, which was within the mine. All the artwork, the altar, ambo, presider’s, chair, etc., were carved entirely from the salt.  The rest of the day was spent touring downtown Krakow.  We visited and toured the Gothic Royal Castle as well as Collegium’s Mauis.  After this we had dinner in a local restaurant where we experienced more traditional Polish food as well as music and dancing.

For our last day before our departure we traveled to Niepokolanow, a beautiful shrine dedicated to and designed by St. Maximilian Kolbe.  Here we spent the day in prayer, celebrating Mass in a chapel that was built when the Franciscan mission was first established in that area.  After this, we had another groupdinner of ethnic polish cuisine, we toured more of Warsaw, and then prepared for our departure the next day.

The 10th and final day of the trip was a sad day because we were saying good-bye to this place we had come to love.  While our group was leaving Poland and all of its spiritual wonders, the things we learned there and how we grew in our own faith will stay with us.  Personally, Poland delivered to me many spiritual gifts that helped me to grow in my understanding of the saints and devotion to the Virgin Mary.  I can definitely speak for everyone who went on the trip in that we all grew greatly from the experience of traveling to this beautiful and faithful land of Poland.

First Youth Apostle Missionary Sent to VT

adecelle No Comments

This past year, just before one of the small groups I was leading as an intern at Old Dominion University’s Catholic Campus Ministry, I received a call from Father Jack. If there is one thing that you learn very quickly as a member of Youth Apostles, it is that when the director calls you, he usually has something important to say. Father Jack did not disappoint, as he told me of the opportunity that the Bishop of the Richmond Diocese, Bishop DiLorenzo, had presented to us. Youth Apostles had been asked to serve at Virginia Tech’s Catholic Campus Ministry, and I was asked to discern whether or not God was calling me to join the team of members our community would send down there.

Father David Sharland had agreed to come on as the new Chaplain and Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech and Chris Hitzelberger and his family had discerned to move to Blacksburg so he could join staff as the Assistant Director. Father Jack made it clear to me that our mission at Virginia Tech would be more fruitful if we had at least one more brother join Chris and Father David–in particular, a single member who could live in community with Father David. At the time there were no ministry positions available to offer me, so the idea was that I would move to Blacksburg with my room and board taken care of by the community and I would find employment somewhere in the area. After a period of discernment, I knew in my heart that God was calling Youth Apostles to do ministry at Virginia Tech and I felt the call to move to Blacksburg for the first year of our new assignment.

Practicing my smile as an intern at the "Back to the Books BBQ" at ODU's Catholic Campus Ministry.

Practicing my smile as an intern at the “Back to the Books BBQ” at ODU’s Catholic Campus Ministry.

A few months went by as I finished up my Year of Volunteer Service interning at ODU and at a nearby parish youth ministry. I did some research into job opportunities in the Blacksburg area and looked at openings at Virginia Tech. Nothing grabbed my interest, and as the spring semester came to a close my girlfriend and I decided to do a novena to St. Joseph the Worker. As a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary, St. Joseph the Worker is the patron saint of her “MPD” (Mission Partner Development) efforts, so we prayed both for my finding a job and for growth in her support team for the coming year. Little did either of us know, God was about to lead me down a path that I had not even considered yet.

My girlfriend and me after my Full Member commitment to Youth Apostles this past January. Carmen is a FOCUS missionary at the University of Kentucky.

My girlfriend and I after my Full Member commitment to Youth Apostles this past January. Carmen is a FOCUS missionary at the University of Kentucky.

On day five of the Novena, Our Lord led me to recognize my desire to do full time ministry for another year. I was a little confused as to exactly what it would look like, but the peace and clarity I received in prayer showed me that it was without a doubt the best thing for me to pursue. I realized that helping found a new community of Youth Apostles, being available to pray Liturgy of the Hours and do a holy hour with Father David each day, and volunteering at the Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech in addition to a 40 + hour job (that would not necessarily accommodate any–let alone all–of those things) was simply too much for one person to handle.

Campus ministry has had a special place in my heart ever since I got involved in George Mason’s campus ministry my freshman year of college. I realize and understand the importance of reaching out to students at this critical point in their lives because it was through campus ministry that I began building upon the catechesis I received as a child as I learned how to take ownership of my faith and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If I was committing a year of my life to helping Youth Apostles minister at Virginia Tech, it only made sense for me to go all in with my efforts. The questions that remained were:

1. How could I work at a ministry that has no open positions?

And

2. How would I (and Youth Apostles) afford my NOT having at least a part-time job with some sort of sustainable income?

The answer to both these questions was to ask Father Jack to be open the possibility of doing something new in Youth Apostles. We had spoken a few times in theory about starting a new program to supplement the college ministry we already do, so it was only a matter of logistics once I asked to become the first “Youth Apostle Missionary” in the history of our community.

You may be thinking: Why choose to call this a “missionary” endeavor? A dream that Youth Apostles has had for some time is to have members ministering at the campuses we serve at that have non-administrative roles, freeing up their time and energy to do what Youth Apostles does best: relational ministry with young people. Saint John Bosco, one of the three patrons of Youth Apostles, recognized the importance of intentionally spending time with young people in order to witness to them and bring them closer to Christ. It is through the inspiration and intercession of Bosco that I am creating this new campus ministry position.

I realized that using the title “missionary” would remind me to concentrate my efforts on strengthening the campus ministry through building relationships with the students and leading them to encounter Christ in a real, personal way. Whether it’s grabbing lunch or coffee with a student, attending on campus events, leading and empowering students to lead prayer opportunities on campus, or lending a listening ear to whatever problems they are having within their faith, family or school lives, the opportunities I have as a missionary serving along with my Youth Apostle brothers at Virginia Tech are endless.

With an established vision for my position in mind, the only question left to answer was the financial one. The answer came through my familiarity with FOCUS. As Catholic missionaries at college campuses throughout the United States, FOCUS missionaries raise 100% of their salaries by asking friends, family members and anyone interested in partnering with them in the mission of spreading the Gospel to become their “Mission Partner.” A mission partner is anyone who prays and/or financially supports a missionary. By inviting others to become their mission partners, a missionary provides a tangible way for the mission partner to fulfill the great commission* that Christ laid out for His Apostles — even though they may not be able to give of their own time and effort on the “battlefield” for souls on college campuses.

*The great commission is the blueprint for evangelizing that Jesus gives His apostles with His last words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” –Matthew 18:19-20

It is through a Mission Partner’s prayers and (typically monthly) financial support that we missionaries are able to spend our time investing in the lives of college students so that they can come to know the great love Our Lord has for them. Without an understanding of how God has a plan for their lives, that they are not simply a particularly intelligent “machine” measured only by how much they can produce in their lifetime, it is easy for college students to lose the sense of meaning in their lives and begin trying to fill the void in their hearts with things that can never make them truly happy. But it is our hope that through the outreach Campus Ministry can offer to students, they find a sense of belonging in the Church, and begin to realize that their time, talent and resources are needed to help build up the body of Christ.

This is the first post of a series that I will be writing throughout the year. Please feel free to leave comments, send prayer intentions or inquire about how you can become my mission partner and join in the efforts of the New Evangelization on today’s college campuses. I humbly ask that as you follow my journey this year as a missionary at Virginia Tech, you keep both the students and the efforts of our Campus Ministry to bring students to Christ in your prayers.

In Christ, all things are possible.

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Andrew DeCelle is a Youth Apostle missionary serving the Newman Community at Virginia Tech. He raises 100% of his salary to cover personal and ministerial expenses so he can spend his time bringing students to Christ through relational ministry.
If you would like to support his work, please e-mail him at ajdecelle@yahoo.com

To follow Andrews DeCelle’s journey and get more information, please go to: http://www.youthapostles.org/our-ministries/youth-apostle-missionary

The Gift of a Child

John Lilly No Comments

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Alternative Spring Break with Catholic Campus Ministry at George Mason couldn’t have been a more grace-filled and wicked awesome week. From March 10 to March 17 I had the exciting and wonderful opportunity to serve the children of the Hogar San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Assisi Home) in Chaclacayo, Peru. The Hogar serve kids of all ages, from week-old babies to adults.

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Chaclacayo is about an hour and a half east of Lima

They give assistance to the kids by giving them three square meals a day, sending them to school, and most importantly giving them treatment for their various illnesses. Kids are sent to the Hogar by their parents who cannot afford to give them medical treatment or buy them medicine. All of these services are free for the parents and their kids, and once the kids are back to full health they return to their families. The most common types of illnesses are cerebral palsy, chronic diarrhea, malnutrition, tuberculosis and chronic respiratory diseases.

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Peru Group!
Top row: Olivia, Teresa, Isabelle, Kathryn, Mrika
Middle row: Danielle, Christina, Regina, Jessica
Bottom: Andy, Aldo, Matt, Craig, John, Martin

 Along with 12 other students from Mason, I had the privilege of helping the many children at the Hogar with their daily activities. A few of the tasks we helped them with included playing soccer, taking them to the park, helping them with their homework, or assisting them with their meals. One kid in particular, Bryan, stands out vividly in my memory.

 Bryan is nine-years-old and suffers from cerebral palsy, which limits him from having full muscular control of his legs. The week before we arrived at the Hogar  he had undergone surgery to fix the problem. Anchored into this legs were metal braces to help his muscles and bones grow properly. This meant that he was confined to a couch for the next several weeks.

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Towards the end of the week one of the students on the trip, Aldo, was visited by his grandmother and aunt. His family is originally from Peru, so they were estatic when they heard he would be just outside of Lima. When they came to the Hogar they brought goodie bags filled with candy and other sweets for the kids. They were also kind enough to bring us some as well! As Aldo passed out the goodie bags, I grabbed one to give it to Bryan. I gave Bryan his goodie bag and proceeded to sit down and take a break from the work we had been doing that morning. As he opened his bag he said to me, “Amigo, aquí!” (Here, friend!) and offered me some of his candy. “¿Para mí?” I said (For me?). He nodded his head.

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Matt and Bryan

I was floored by his generosity. He rarely, if ever, received treats and he had every right to keep them for himself. He didn’t have to share them with me. But he still shared what little he had. His generous gift of his possessions reminded me of the poor widow in the Gospel of Mark. She only gave a few cents in the temple offering, but Jesus found her sacrifice more pleasing than the rich people who gave from their excess (Mark 12: 41-44). She gave all that she had to God. In the same way, Bryan gave what little he had to me. It must have been agonizing for him to sit and watch his amigos play all day and not be able to join them. Despite being restricted to the couch all day, he never complained once. Even in his suffering he was focused externally. He was more concerned with the well-being of others than with himself. It was in this humble, simple moment in Peru that I saw Christ’s teaching of gift of self in action. Bryan allowed me to see what it means to be rich in the love of Christ. He exemplified what it means to be truly generous.

Youth Apostles Institute to lead campus ministry efforts at Virginia Tech

Chris Johnson No Comments

YAman_newThe Youth Apostles Institute has accepted an invitation from the Most Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo, the bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, to lead the Catholic campus ministry at Virginia Tech. The appointment will go into effect June 1, 2013.

Rev. David M. Sharland, YA, who has served as the chaplain and director of the campus ministry at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, since July 2007, has been named the new director of campus ministry for Virginia Tech’s Newman Community.

Chris Hitzelberger, a Full Member in Youth Apostles who has coordinated the parish youth ministry programs at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia, since June 2004, joins Father Sharland as the assistant director of campus ministry.

“It is with great joy and gratitude to God, that we announce this appointment,” said Rev. John P. Peterson, YA, the general director of the Youth Apostles Institute. “We are honored by the invitation to take on this important ministry that serves the large Catholic student population of such an outstanding university and we look forward to the opportunity to assist the Church in bringing Christ to the students, faculty and staff at Virginia Tech.

“We are also most grateful to Father John Grace for the years of generous and dedicated service to the Catholic community at Virginia Tech.”

The McLean, Virginia-based Youth Apostles Institute is a mixed association of the Christian faithful whose 80 Full Members and Candidates are committed to evangelize, teach, advise, challenge, console and love young people with the ultimate purpose of inspiring them to live Christ-like lives centered on prayer and the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Youth Apostles Full Members lead the diocesan youth ministry offices in Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses. Others are responsible for youth ministry programs at six parishes in Virginia and the campus ministry programs at Marymount University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University and Christopher Newport University.

YA Retreat 2013 – The Most Urgent Challenge

Chris Johnson No Comments

Pope Benedict XVI has told the U.S. bishops that the faith formation of the next generation of American Catholics must be their highest priority – not just passing on knowledge but shaping hearts. Speaking during this year’s retreat about “The Call to Youth Apostles,” Father Jack Peterson, YA, recalled the Holy Father’s message to the bishops who visited him last year in Rome.

The text below first appeared as a Director’s Corner in the May 2012 issue of Youth Apostles’ newsletter, The Apostle.

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The bishops of the United States have been traveling to Rome for their “ad limina” visits.

Youth Apostles General Director Father Jack Peterson, YA, addresses the brothers on retreat.

Youth Apostles General Director Father Jack Peterson, YA, addresses the brothers on retreat.

These visits, which take place every five years, serve a variety of purposes. The bishops make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, express their respect for and solidarity with the Holy Father, render an accounting of the state of their diocese to the Bishop of Rome, visit with the heads of various Congregations and Dicasteries and receive counsel from the pope.

During a visit on May 5, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in the United States. Pope Benedict raised the matter to the highest level of priority when he stated: “It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country.”

I read this and understood it as a loud call to Youth Apostles to step up our game as we strive to live out our mission to “evangelize, teach, advise, challenge, console and love youth with the ultimate purpose of inspiring them to live Christ-like lives centered on prayer and the sacraments in the Catholic Church.”

Now, forming young people in the faith has always been a major priority for the Church. As the Holy Father went on to say: “The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church.”

Yet, as the Chief Shepherd of the Universal Church further explained, “the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.”

Youth Apostles was founded with the purpose of addressing this aspect of faith formation. We desire to shape the hearts of young people by building healthy, appropriate relationships with them, journeying with them through the turbulent years of adolescence and inviting them to come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ with all of their hearts.

It is so much easier for young people to hear and respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ when their faith is shared by adults who live it authentically, take the time to get to know them, show genuine interest in their lives and patiently encourage perseverance as they grow closer to the Lord. In this setting, young people begin to desire to pray on their own, to root their lives in the Scriptures, to study the teachings of the Church, to attend the Sacraments regularly, to live the high moral standards of the Gospels and to serve their neighbor with generosity.

How do we as Youth Apostles step up our game to better address “the most urgent internal challenge” of the American Church?

First, we need to make sure that Jesus is truly the center of our lives. We need to become men of deep faith, truly transformed by the love of Christ. We need to live Christ-like lives of profound charity, strong conviction and extraordinary patience. We need to be men who are willing to sacrifice many aspects of our own lives in order to live generously for our brothers in community, our family members and the young people whom we serve.

Next, we must be strongly committed to the great project of our relational ministry so that we can fight through the many challenges of our culture and assist God in opening the hearts of young people to the joy and strength that comes from following Christ.

This commitment demands time, energy and prayer. It requires more than just showing up for a youth group meeting and preparing a talk. It entails coming early, staying late and engaging in meaningful conversations about things that matter to young people. It includes remembering your last conversation with them and following up on it at the next meeting. It demands going to an occasional game, concert or play, or at least asking about them afterwards if you can’t.

Such genuine interest paves the way for being able to share with the students the blessing of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ. They are willing to listen because they know you care and you are genuine. This is often the way Jesus Himself served the people He encountered.

Please pray for us in Youth Apostles. Pray that each member of our community will renew his commitment to grow in holiness, engage in intentional, relational ministry, and open young hearts to the pearl of great price, life lived in union with Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Pray that God sends more men to join us in our mission.

Father Jack Peterson, YA

The Norfolk Blog: Full House

Chris Johnson No Comments

Father Mike Kuhn, YA, and I arrived in Norfolk about 19 months ago, on the first day of June 2011, and the Norfolk community of Youth Apostles was born. The following Tuesday night we held our first community meeting. I knew we were starting a community from scratch in Hampton Roads, but had no idea what to expect or how long it would take. Six men attended that first meeting; three full members (Father Mike, me and Joe Clem – a lifetime full-member who has lived in nearby Newport News for many years), two candidates who were home on college break, and a guest (one of their high school friends).

The Norfolk Youth Apostles at Christmas: Father Mike Kuhn, Chip Snyder, Ben Fleser and Andrew DeCelle.

The Norfolk Youth Apostles at Christmas: Father Mike Kuhn, Chip Snyder, Ben Fleser and Andrew DeCelle.

A quick scan of the room during our most recent community meeting last Tuesday night gave me a bit of a thrill to see how much we’ve grown. You need to understand, our meetings over college breaks are always a hodgepodge. We have several college guys from Hampton Roads who attend year round, including the four men who made candidate commitments in Norfolk over the past year. However, several of our “regulars” during the school year travel back home over break and are out of range. But some guys who are home from college — mostly George Mason University — drop in, and invite their friends to join us. We really never know who will show up!

We also had a few special guests last Tuesday. Chris Maimone, a lifetime full member from Fairfax, paid us a visit after delivering his daughter to Christopher Newport University for her spring semester. Three of our members from GMU were home, and they invited two other Mason students from Virginia Beach to stop by. We also had a guest priest — a friend of Youth Apostles who is the pastor of a local parish — covering for Father Mike while he attended a campus ministry conference in Florida. In total, we had 15 men attending at least part of the meeting. It was a full house!

And that’s when it occurred to me: This is what we envisioned two years ago when we decided to move to Norfolk to begin the ministry at Old Dominion University. We have a great mix of men participating, whether you look at it by vocation ( the group includes priests, consecrated men and lay men) or commitment (full members, candidates, guests). We have members dropping in when they are in the area, we have guests who are interested in learning more about Youth Apostles, and we have developed friendly relationships with local clergy and other youth workers. We are firing on all cylinders!

Not to imply that our work here is now done. We’re only getting started! Our mission is to lead young people to Christ and help them fall in love with the Church. But as a satellite community it’s impossible not to compare ourselves with our main community house in McLean. By several measures we already compare well to the “home office” (as we like to call it down here!).

This Tuesday night (1/15) will mark the first meeting of the Spring semester, and we’ll be getting back to “normal.” The quotes are appropriate: college students are a busy bunch, and we’ve never had the same group of men two weeks in a row! I’ve enjoyed seeing our guests over break, but look forward to catching up with the students who have been away for the past month.

God continues to bless us abundantly in Norfolk. The group of young men we spend time with every Tuesday night is a constant reminder of that.

— Chip Snyder, YA

Full Member Mark Embree wins the George R. Brown Teaching Award

Chris Johnson No Comments

Full member Mark Embree, a professor of computational and applied mathematics, has received the highest honor for undergraduate teaching at Rice University.

The George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching is awarded after a vote taken among recent alumni.

Behind Embree’s success reaching students in the classroom lies a deep enthusiasm for his discipline. I really relish the challenge of sharing my love for mathematics, he told the student newspaper, The Rice Thresher. “When I give a bad lecture, I feel like I’ve done a real disservice to beauty, and that bothers me to no end.”

Embree, who studied computer science and mathematics at Virginia Tech and pursued doctoral studies in numerical analysis at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, has developed a reputation at Rice for designing projects and problem-solving exercises as an alternative to the textbook-and-blackboard style of math coursework.

One recent project prompted students to determine how to optimally distribute medical backpacks in Malawi. “I find it a real challenge for me,” he said, “to take students who have come to math through experiences in high school that are very rote and convince them mathematics is far more creative and beautiful than that.”

Marymount University – Alternative Spring Break Trips

Chris Johnson No Comments

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. [Matthew 14:28-29]

This March, Marymount University’s Campus Ministry took three different alternative spring break trips, all united by one theme: Step out of the boat. Two trips offered were a-days-trip away; Cranks, KY, for hands on demo and construction service and Stamford, CT, to volunteer for the Sister’s of Life and join alongside the Sister’s ministry of life. The last option was to travel abroad to experience the culture of the Dominican Republic, continuing to build the mission diocese of the Arlington.

42 students made their unique response to Jesus’s call, giving up their week long spring break to devote themselves to serving others. With limited, or no, cell phone use, humble living spaces and the eye opening realities of poverty, every student experienced a beautiful self-examining transformation. All returned to campus with a greater joy for their current situation and appreciation for what they have. Many seeds of God’s love were planted daily on each trip through the graces of Mass, opportunity for Confession, communal prayer, themed talks given by students and evening small group discussion. With plenty of stories and pictures, the first ever ASB reunion was organized last week, reaffirming God’s continual movement through every students experience. Thanks be to God!

Norfolk Youth Apostles welcome first two Candidates

Chris Johnson No Comments

The Norfolk community of Youth Apostles held its first Candidate Commitment Liturgy on Tuesday night, March 28th.  Two men made Candidate commitments to the community:  Jon Perez from Chesapeake, and Sean Mazary from Newport News.  Both are students at Old Dominion and are active in the Catholic Campus Ministry program there.  Jon is completing his third year of studies and Sean his first.

Many people made a special trip to be present for the special liturgy.  Fr. Jack Peterson, director of Youth Apostles, came down from Northern Virginia to officiate at the event.  He was joined by five other members who made the three-hour drive to lend support to our new candidates.  In addition, the entire staff of the ODU Catholic Campus Ministry and eight students from ODU also attended.  In addition, family members and other friends of our community were in attendance.

The Mass was held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk.  Fr. Mike Kuhn, YA, the CCM chaplain at Old Dominion, concelebrated with Youth Apostles’ director, Father Jack Peterson, YA.  Music was provided by John Hopke, the Director of Campus Ministry at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. 

ODU Students on ASB

ODU students visit Eastern Ky. for Spring Break Mission Trip

Chris Johnson No Comments

A dozen students from Old Dominion University and four staff members from the Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) spent the first week of March in McKee, Kentucky, on a mission trip.  It was the first such Alternative Spring Break, or ASB, trip for the Catholic ministry at ODU in recent memory.

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Fr. Mike Kuhn, Y.A.

Home base for the trip was the Catholic parish of St. Paul’s in McKee.  The tiny parish – technically a mission – is the only Catholic Church in Jackson County, and serves fewer than 50 families.  The students celebrated Mass with the parish on several occasions during the week and enjoyed a potluck dinner with residents after arriving on Sunday.  The students made their home at the dormitory facilities of the Christian Appalachian Project, a non-denominational Christian organization serving people in need in Appalachia.

ASB trips take many forms; the ODU trip was built primarily around service to the local community in Jackson County.  The students worked on a number of projects over the course of the week, including hauling gravel and digging trenches at the site of a soon-to-be-opened community park; assisting several residents with repair projects in their homes; and cleaning, painting and building shelves at “The Attic”, the thrift shop run by St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

The ODU group arrived in Kentucky only a few days after devastating tornadoes ripped through nearby areas of the state.  Jackson County was spared, but East Bernstadt in Laurel County, just south of Jackson, was the site of one of the deadly storms.  The students joined the clean-up efforts in East Bernstadt on Tuesday, helping to clear debris from a neighborhood, including a small cemetery.  It was an emotional day for all: it was gratifying to help where there was clearly so much need, but also humbling to witness first-hand the blind destruction of the storms.

The students also had opportunities to get to know the local residents.  One of the tenets of Catholic social justice teaching is the dignity of the person.  ODU students spent time the residents – in their homes, at the County’s senior day care center, and at the local community rec center – hanging out, meeting their families, and hearing their stories.  The students relayed later that some of the most poignant and profound moments from the trip were those spent not in service but in conversation.  Thanks to these opportunities for interaction students were no longer serving “the poor” but were now serving their new friends.

ODU ASB trip PicThe trip was organized by the CCM, so of course spirituality was a key aspect of the week.  The students celebrated daily Mass together and started and ended every day together in prayer.  Several students and staff members also prepared talks based on  1 John 3:11: “For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another. . . .”

No ASB trip is complete without a little fun!  The ODU students enjoyed two hikes in the Appalachian Mountains, where the first dots of spring color were beginning to appear.  They also spent a day in nearby Berea, Kentucky, home of the eponymous college and also a regional center for arts and crafts.  And who doesn’t love s’mores by a campfire in the middle of the forest, gazing up at the impossible number of stars visible in the clear night sky?

The trip was a great success for everyone.  The opportunity to experience God through service, prayer and nature inspired the students and the staff alike.  The students are already talking about next year’s trip. The CCM staff members are excited to see that several of the students on the trip are now more actively involved in CCM programs since they returned from McKee.  All are confident that the first ODU ASB trip in many years will be the start of a great new tradition in the Catholic Campus Ministry!

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