Tag Archives: Virginia Tech

    Blog Post: Our First Trip to Hokie Town

    John Lilly No Comments

    By Full Member George Brunner

    When Brittany and I decided to take the leap of faith and move to Greensboro, NC, we knew there would be sacrifices we would have to make. Unfortunately, one of those sacrifices was not being able to participate in community in the same way as before. This was a decision we came to because we felt the Lord was calling us move to NC. This would allow me to do campus ministry and give Brittany the chance to find a teaching job. This was a sacrifice that we had–but certainly– didn’t want to make.  Little did I know, I wouldn’t have to completely sacrifice community. In a little town in southwest Virginia sits one of the largest technical schools on the east coast. Many of you are familiar with this institute; and no, I’m not talking about the University of VA. I’m talking about Virginia Tech.

    When I first learned that Youth Apostles was endeavoring to lead the campus ministry at Virginia Tech, I was thrilled. However, at the same time I thought, “This has nothing to do with me (other than I am a Youth Apostle).” My thought couldn’t have been further from the truth. The distance between Virginia Tech and Greensboro, NC is just over a 2 hours drive. I thought to myself, “Many of our brothers travel that far in the state of Virginia to participate in community, so there should be no reason that I should not make the trip to participate with the bothers in the Virginia Tech community.” The reason for our visit was two-fold. First and foremost, I came to gain knowledge from a great sage: the one and only Fr. David Sharland. Secondly, I came to participate in community with our brothers currently living there, including Chris Hitzelberger and his family, as well as Mark Embree and his family (who will join him shortly), and a few other brothers.

    Brittany and I left Greensboro on Friday evening after dinner to travel to the Hitzelberger home to spend time with Chris and his kids. We arrived just in time for bedtime stories (his wife Joanna was unfortunately not with us this weekend.) After the kids went to sleep, Chris, Brittany, and I stayed up for some time reminiscing about past events and how those events led to our current positions. My wife being the lovely old woman she is, decided to partake in her ZZZZZ’s around 10PM, while Chris and I stayed up for another hour chatting about our ministries.

    The next morning we woke up bright and early to the sounds of little voices and tiny feet scampering around the house. I was the first to get up and go into the family room to find all 4 children sitting on the couches watching TV. Since Brittany and I do not have children yet, I was interested to find out what youngsters these days find attractive on TV. Little did I know, the events that were to take place would change my life forever. I received my first taste of Ninjago. The Legos of my childhood pastime had come to life in animation on the television screen. The next forty-five minutes of my life were spent learning as much as I could about these four little Ninjas, their special powers, courageous hearts, and ridiculously amusing attire. As Chris arrived on the scene, it was just about time for Brittany and I to get ready for Mass which was to take place at 9AM at the Neumann Center at Virginia Tech.

    As he normally does on Saturday mornings, Fr. David led us in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. It was a small Mass with a few brothers, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was no different than having Mass at the McLean House on all those Tuesday nights. This was no doubt a Youth Apostle community. After Mass we took a short time to catch up with some brothers. Brittany and Andrew DeCelle grabbed some food, and I met with Fr. David. After our meeting, the real party began.

    Many students from the school were busy working around the house taking down Christmas decorations and placing them in a neat, organized, and labeled fashion which would bring a proud smile to Father David’s face. After we had helped move some boxes, it was time for the little work we had done to be over, and a small celebration to begin. Fr. David had ordered pizzas, the Hitzelberger family had arrived, Mak Embree had finished his work on the stairwell railing, and it was time to eat. During lunch, I got to spend some time getting to know some of the students, discussing who we thought would win the Super Bowl, and most concluding that Denver would have it in the bag. I could already feel the great sense of community with these students, and I know that the community at Virginia Tech will continue to grow. And knowing that Andrew Hadinger would be jealous that I was there and he was not, I could not help but send him a picture of how much fun we were having. He responded, “Not fair!” Unfortunately, our stay could not last as long as we would have liked, but nevertheless we could not leave until after the game of Hide-and-Seek. Everyone was found but Peter Maurer, who claimed, “Well, I guess that means I won.” We said good-bye to our new friends, good-bye to our old friends, and we’ll see you next month.

    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?


    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.


    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: //www.youthapostles.org/our-ministries/youth-apostle-missionary

    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.

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