Campus Ministry

    Students climb to the CCM Summit

    John Lilly No Comments

    Definition of a summit: the highest point of a hill or mountain. 

    10947171_10101936617918976_7978510841396975441_nThe fourth annual Catholic Campus Ministry Summit kicked off this past weekend at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville, VA. Over 700 college students from around Virginia came to this 24-hour conference.

    Shout-outs went to Virginia Tech, who brought the largest group of students (150), as well as UVA-Wise for driving the farthest (8 hours).

    Ennie Hickman, a Missionary from Texas, was the main speaker at the event. He kicked off the event with an engaging talk on Friday night. He challenged the students to really develop an authentic relationship with Jesus. He told them that it wasn’t about the words they spoke, the shirts they wore, or the awesome people the met: it was about meeting Jesus face to face.DSC_2847


    Saturday featured breakout session for separate guys and girls time. Later in the day, students were able to attended various workshops that focused on culture, missionary life, dating, religious life, the Mass, and many more. There was plenty of opportunity to go to confession as well. Many of priests of the Diocese came for several hours to hear students confessions.

    Overall, there were 15 Youth Apostles in attendance from Virginia Tech, ODU, CNU,  NOVA, and from the Diocese. It was inspiring to see so many brothers participating in this awesome event.

    Many of our brothers put in long hours to make this event successful and impact the lives of hundreds of college students. We look forward to next year’s Summit!

    Virginia Tech Joins Thousands of Catholic College Students at SEEK 2015

    adecelle No Comments

    My wife Carmen, Father David and I began our year by attending SEEK Conference 2015, an event put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). SEEK is an opportunity for college students from across the nation to deepen their relationship with Christ through frequenting the sacraments (daily Mass and adoration with the 9500 conference goers and over 5500 confessions heard throughout the week!), talks given by nationally renowned speakers (Matt Fradd, Chris Stefanik, and Helen Alvaré to name a few), and have fellowship with one another. We were also treated to a Matt Maher concert and a performance by the hot pocket loving Jim Gaffigan.

    Virginia Tech students and campus ministry staff enjoying a meal together at SEEK 2015.

    We brought a small group of students who were interested in attending the conference with us, and were able to have dinner with one another the last night of the event to catch up and see how everyone’s experience went. This was the first year that staff and students attended SEEK from Virginia Tech’s campus ministry, and based on our experience, we intend to bring a large group to San Antonio when SEEK 2017 rolls around!

    It was great to see Youth Apostles represented at SEEK by our lay consecrated brothers Peter Clem and Jonathan Mundell. In addition to joining us for the various talks, Masses and events, they manned a sponsor booth at which they spoke to dozens of students about the mission of Youth Apostles. It was also great to see our brother Youth Apostles from George Mason University (and their students!) at SEEK. The conference was a wonderful glimpse into the strength of the young Church on so many of our college campuses and gave me much hope for the good God is doing through young people each and every day.


    If you would like read more about SEEK 2015, click here

    About the author:

    Andrew DeCelle is a Youth Apostle Campus Missionary at Virginia Tech. Along with his wife, Carmen, he leads Bible studies, mentors students in their relationship with Christ one on one, and finds ways to bring the joy of the Gospel to students through participating through various activities on campus. You can find out more about Andrew and Carmen’s missionary work here.

    Advent Reflection: Unrepeatable Joy

    John Lilly No Comments

    The Advent season often gets overlooked in modern day society. The craziness of Christmas is in full swing by Black Friday. All the gifts, decorations, and shopping is a must for all modern day Christians, it seems. Yet don’t we go through this every year?

    jolly-christmas--family-christmas-celebration-vol02-decorating-christmas-tree--family-christmas-wallpaper-98278Recently at Catholic Campus Ministry at ODU, we decorated the house in preparation for Christmas. Most of the students leave long before Christmas, so the staff does their best to make the CCM house come alive with Christmas spirit. One student, Matthew Vanacore, and myself started decorating the house last week. We expected more help, but the longer we decorated the more we realized that it was just the two of us! I started to get irritable and frustrated that no one else was stepping forward to help us. “Don’t they know how many lights we need to hang up?” I thought to myself. People should be getting into the Christmas spirit by helping us!

    But then it hit me: anyone can hang up these lights and make them look good. But not everyone has that unrepeatable Christmas joy. Matthew and I blasted Christmas music, joked around, and kept a joyful spirit throughout our decorating. That is the true meaning of Christmas and why we decorate our houses. It’s not about the external of the decorations, it’s about the internal disposition with which we decorate.

    It was in this moment that I experienced Christ’s joy and peace. It wasn’t in the decorations, the music, or even in the beautiful nativity scene at the house. It was in the joy and laughter that Matthew and I experienced while decorating the house. Christ was most present in that moment to us, in our laughter and our jovial attitudes.

    Norfolk Community: Monarchs Assemble!

    John Lilly No Comments

    Pope Francis came to join CCM for the football game!

    Homecoming 2014 took place this past week at ODU. The theme for this year’s Homecoming was “Monarchs Assemble!” As a result, there were many superhero themed banners, costumes, and floats throughout the week.


    Sophomore Joe Kingett paints a window for CCM as a part of Homecoming

    CCM kicked off the week by Painting the Town Blue. Each student organization at ODU was given a window at the Webb Center (the student union) to paint and decorate. Many fraternities, sororities, and other organizations on campus participated. From CCM, Omar Diaz, Julia Drake, Jarell Perez, Joseph Kingett, and Jimmy Noone all helped make the window look fantastic. The design came about through the creativity of Julia Drake. She also serves as the Promotions Chair on the CCM leadership team. The rest of the students did a superb job completing the work on the window. The window served as not only a fun activity for the CCM students, but also helped promote CCM on campus. The finished product can be seen to above!

    PicMonkey Collage

    CCM students help paint a paw as a part of Homecoming 2014

    The second Homecoming event was Paw the Pavement. As with Paint the Town Blue, each student organization was given a small white paw to paint. Josh Duncan headed up the expedition to make the paw look amazing. Numerous students came to help throughout the day. The design was a combination of the efforts of Josh and Joe. The event allowed students to showcase their artistic abilities. Many other student organizations participated as well.


    CCM’s float for Homecoming

    The final event for homecoming was the parade and the tailgate before the football game. The parade consisted of a Pope Mobile put together by the men of CCM. Fr. Mike made sure Papa did not blow away, and the rest of the students followed behind and in front of the truck with signs. Each student also wore a cape for the superhero themed day. Pope Francis even donned a cape as well! After the parade, students played cornhole and football back at the CCM house. A large group turned out for the tailgate, and Pope Francis made an appearance once again (see picture at top).

    The football game capped off a great week, as ODU came from behind to beat FIU on a last second field goal. The Monarchs intercepted FIU in the closing moments and then proceeded to kick a game-winning field goal to win the game 38-35. All in all, the week was a smashing success!


    GMU Fall Retreat Reflection

    Peter Clem No Comments


    Last month, over 60 students left George Mason and drove out to West Virginia for the Returning Student Retreat hosted by Catholic Campus ministry. The following is a reflection from Elizabeth Kirby, one of the students who attended, and her personal experience on the retreat.


    “This year, I came on the retreat as I normally do, which is, struggling in my prayer life, discouraged, and questioning my value in the eyes of God in a Church made of billions of people. I was completely unenthused about my personal future in the Faith, especially with the rocky road that it has been so far. Even though I didn’t show up in the best state whatsoever, God did.

    During the retreat, the talks were incredibly inspiring, as usual, and accompanied by visual aids such as rocks and crosses that made you search your own soul to place a unique meaning on each item. Our small groups were great and we had hours of fruitful religious discussion over the weekend. Truly, this retreat made me reflect on my own life, my failings, my successes, and my place in the eyes of God. On top of a great confession with Fr. Close, the retreat was almost perfect.

    Though I did not have any sort of epiphany or overpowering “life changing moment” on the retreat, I did get one thing: assurance. I learned throughout the weekend was that it is 100% okay to question, doubt, and even fail miserably at the Faith, so long as we continue to educate ourselves and always strive to get back on our feet once again and look towards God. It’s a cliché message and one we’ve heard before, but I was thrilled to hear it from God Himself, who came down to West Virginia for a weekend to have a chat with me.”

    Norfolk Community: What Can I Do For You?

    John Lilly No Comments

    “What Can I Do For You?”


    New CCM Staff Members, John Lilly and Jimmy Noone, pose for a photo on ODU CCM’s Beach Retreat

    This has been the theme of community life in Norfolk, VA since Jimmy Noone and I moved down to Norfolk back in August. Sean Mazary and Michael Pantazis also moved into the house.

    Life in Norfolk has seen a bit of a transition the past few months. Jimmy comes in as the new Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at ODU since Andrew Waring’s departure to work for the Diocese of Richmond. I have been doing a Year of Volunteer Service as the Campus Ministry Intern at ODU. Overall, though, it has been great so far! The students are awesome and our new director, Julie LaBelle, has been doing a fantastic job in her new role. Fr. Mike is full of smiles, as always.


    New Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, Julie LaBelle, gives a talk on ODU CCM’s Beach Retreat.

    Michael and Sean are both currently students at ODU. Sean is a senior studying Business Management and Michael is a junior studying Marine Biology. They are both great to have in the house.

    Fr. Mike continues to be the tried and true chaplain at ODU. He continues to be a source of inspiration to the students. He is always available for Confession and there is daily Mass four times a week on campus. His joyful attitude is contagious on and off campus.

    There has been lots of laughs in the house thus far. Everyone brings their own flavor to community. There’s a good communal atmosphere, and honesty and communication are a big staple of the house. We all seek to live out a spirit of service for each other on a daily basis.

    Married Full Members Andrew Waring and Joe Clem are consistent presences at Tuesday meetings, which is a big boost to the community. Their example as married members serves as an inspiration and a steady presence to the community. They offer good advice to the younger members and are excellent role-models.

    There are usually four to five ODU students at meetings as well. This has also added a nice burst of energy to the community. We are trying to encourage as many of them to come on Tuesday nights (or occasionally Saturday mornings!) as possible.


    ODU CCM Chaplain Fr. Mike Kuhn poses with Pope Francis during the first week of classes.

    Fr. Jack Peterson, Jonathan Mundell, and Peter Clem paid us a recent visit this past Tuesday. Fr. Jack gave a wonderful talk on community life and how it’s so necessary for us as men to be accountable with one another. He gave examples from his own life, as well as the many experiences he has had living in community. Other members pitched in with their take as well, making for a great discussion.

    In short, things are great in Norfolk. God is definitely blessing the community as well as the ministry. There are great things in store for us down here, and if you’re ever in town  just hollar!


    Be Not Afraid: ODU Beach Retreat 2014

    John Lilly No Comments

    50 students from ODU went on Beach Retreat from September 19th to 21st.

    “Be Not Afraid!”

    These famous words by St. Pope John Paul II was the theme of Beach Retreat this past weekend. Fifty ODU students who participated traveled to Sandbridge, VA for a weekend of prayer and fellowship. Full Members Fr. Mike Kuhn, Jimmy Noone, and John Lilly helped make the weekend a success. New Director Julie LaBelle and student Samantha Glascock also greatly helped organizing the retreat.


    From left: Samantha Glascock, Fr. Mike, and Jimmy Noone

    There were numerous talks given by students and staff, time for adoration and confession on Saturday night, and a good amount of small group time.

    The students exhibited a strong desire to grow in their faith throughout the weekend. The excitement and passion the students had for each other and for the Lord was tremendous.

    Many students lives were touched on the retreat. Candidate Sean Mazary gave a talk on how we encounter God in our lives. Fr. Mike also gave a great homily at Mass on Saturday night. He talked about how students need to persevere in prayer and never give up! Christ compels us to go deeper with him.

    Josh Goodman also led the group of students in Praise and Worship throughout the weekend. Here’s a video of one of the songs!

    Overall, the weekend was a huge success. Many students said the retreat was the best they have been on since Youth Apostles came to ODU. They had a great sense of community throughout the weekend. The students continue to inspire the revamped staff, and the year promises to be exciting!

    Virginia Catholic Campus Ministry Summit 2014

    John Lilly No Comments
    The Virginia Catholic Campus Ministry Summit, hosted by the Diocese of Richmond, is 24 hours of worship, teaching, and fellowship for Catholic college students from all over the state, hosted at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It is coming up in less than two weeks on January 31 – February 1, 2014.

    Chris Stefanick will be the keynote speaker this year and Jackie Francois will be the doing the music, as well as speaking at the women’s session. The weekend will include workshops on tons of relevant Catholic topics, Mass, Adoration, Confession, and plenty of time for getting to know other awesome Catholic students.

    The cost for the event is only $10 per student, which covers the program, lodging, meals, and bus transportation from schools within the Richmond Diocese (though the conference is open to students from any school within the state).

    All youth ministers and CLC leaders can help out by passing along this info to their kids who have moved on to college, campus ministers and chaplains can help by spreading the word to their students at their various schools, and college men can help by joining us and bringing a couple friends!

    Check out the Facebook event for more info!

    In digest form, here is all the key information:

    Virginia Catholic Campus Ministry Summit 2014

    Date:           January 31 – February 1, 2014

    Location:     St. Thomas Aquinas Church / The John Paul Jones Arena

    University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA


    Any questions contact John Hopke.

    Retreats, concerts, and more retreats in the 757

    John Lilly No Comments

    There have been many stirrings down in Norfolk as of late. Despite the growing size of the community, a good amount of activities have been going on the past few months.


    Andrew Waring hanging out with students on beach retreat

    The ODU CCM, headed by Fr. Mike Kuhn and Andrew Waring, saw a successful beach retreat at Sandbridge to kick-start the academic year. The theme of the retreat was “Watching & Waiting,” taken from Psalm 5. Candidates Sean Mazary and Brian Fila attended the retreat, along with roughly 30 other students from ODU.

    The weekly “Soul Food” gatherings have also resumed with the CCM house overflowing. The most recent edition featured a riveting talk from Ben Fleser on Faith & Art.

    This Halloween, CCM is collecting food for the needy with the theme “Trick or treat so kids can eat!” ODU Senior Joe Budi also moved into the Youth Apostle house and has been a fabulous cook and worker!


    YM Extraordinaire, Ben Flesser

    Blessed Sacrament’s Youth Ministry Program has been steadily growing. Thanks to the efforts of Ben Fleser, the last 12 months have seen a consistent increase in volunteers and youth. Ben has worked hard to develop the youth programs and has rounded up a strong group of dedicated volunteers, along with growing numbers of both middle and high schoolers. Next weekend, November 8th to November 10th, Ben will be leading a group of high schoolers from the parish on a retreat. Please pray for him!





    CNU also had its student retreat at Sandbridge this year. Additionally, They hosted a faith-filled concert from Audrey Assad with over 320 attendees on September 27.


    John Hopke introduces Audrey Assad at a concert at CNU

    They are enjoying the use of the new university chapel. Every month, Fr. John David (pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel) comes for adoration and confession with the students.

    They have also started a new strategic planning for long term growth at CNU’s CCM.

    Furthermore, OLMC is carrying over the boys group, called “Brother’s that Worship,” or “BTW.” They are starting a yearlong reflection of the “The Bible,” the shortened movie version.


    There’s A Fire Blazing At The Chapel!

    John Lilly No Comments

    Over the past few weeks at George Mason Catholic Campus Ministry, there has been a certain buzz around 4515 Roberts Rd.


    Fr. Peter Nassetta & Oscar the Pig

    The year kicked off with the annual Luau at the chapel. Students began arriving promptly at 5:30pm, and never stopped coming. The smell of Oscar the pig spread across campus, luring students out of their dorms. CCM Student Leaders also aided in promoting the Luau on campus. A few brave souls elected to wear a pig costume around campus to spread the word about this giantly awesome party. Others took to chalking the sidewalks across campus, which helped direct students to the chapel. And yet others handed out fliers and manned kiosk desks to inform students about upcoming events.

    Aided by the Holy Spirit, the chapel was blessed to receive over 1500 students on Friday, August 23rd. Along with plenty of food provided by Oscar himself, students met new friends, played cornhole, listened to a live band play, and roasted marshmallows toward the end of the night.

    A few weeks later, freshman escaped the drudgery of Fairfax, VA and ventured out to the breezy dunes of Virginia Beach. This was the Freshman Beach Retreat that CCM puts on every year. The retreat consisted of talks by both students and staff members. Saturday night adoration and confessions were heard.


    CCM 2013 Freshman Beach Retreat


    The theme of the retreat was “Abundant Life in Christ.” As the students spent time in small groups, listening to talks, and in prayer they came to experience the rich, awesome life Christ had in store for them on campus. As the weekend progressed, these 60 new freshman began to foster growing relationships with each other, with the older student leaders, and with Christ Himself.

    They returned to campus that Sunday, September 22, energized and refreshed. Christ had put a burning flame of love on their hearts, and many of these new students began attending daily Mass and weekly bible studies afterwards as a result.

    Two weeks later, the not so fresh upperclassmen went on retreat as well. They journeyed to the mountains of Priestfield, West Virginia for a weekend away from the world.


    The them of the retreat was “Unlocking the Spiritual Riches of the Church.” Like the freshman beach retreat, talks were given by both the staff and by students. One of the talks focused on St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her Little Way. Other talks dove into the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the charismatic movement in the Church.

    Saturday night confessions were heard by six priests from around the Diocese of Arlington. A majority of the over 70 students on the retreat went to confession. Adoration, which consisted of silent prayer time, a penance service, and songs of praise went on during this time as well. Students also had ample time for silent reflection, small group discussion, and the ability to bond with each other during free time.

    Furthermore, daily Mass attendance has spiked as well because of these retreats. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday Mass is held on campus in the HUB. Roughly 50 chairs are set out, but frequently over the past month there have been 5-10 students sitting on the floor!

    God continues to work powerfully in the hearts and minds of the students at George Mason. Fr. Peter commented last week that the fire in the hearts of the students is like fire: it catches the more it is spread. It’s attractive to others and Christ’s love is able to spread the more the fire catches. Let’s pray this keeps up!


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