Redemptorists from the Baltimore Province become involved in Young Adult Ministry at Immaculata University, Pennsylvania, United States.
by Royce Thomas, C.Ss.R.
It would not surprise me if St. Alphonsus held a hearty smile upon seeing the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as the IHM Sisters, and the Redemptorists collaborating in ministry. Br. Kenneth Stigner, C.Ss.R., and myself, Royce Thomas, C.Ss.R., are the two Redemptorists on the team working with campus ministry director, Sr. Laura Downing, IHM, assistant director Ms. Amanda Bielat, and graduate student Mrs. Maggie Czapski.
The coming together of these two congregations rooted in Alphonsian spirituality saw a fusion of dynamic ministry spreading throughout the campus.
One year before the arrival of the Redemptorists at Immaculata, Sr. Laura began her campus ministry leadership with an intentional steadfast promotion of Alphonsian spirituality. Therefore, excitement among the IU community was palpable when the news broke that Redemptorists would be a new addition to the campus ministry team. I can testify that the efforts of infusing Alphonsian spirituality by Sr. Laura were fruitful upon hearing a student during a planning session for a Kairos retreat say, “we must include something on the love of God; we must include Alphonsus.”
Working in campus ministry is life-giving. Each day presents new opportunities to journey with college students searching for deeper meaning in life. The fascinating reality of campus ministry is that some days can go exactly as planned, but many days require you to be flexible and ready to respond to the demands of campus ministry. For instance, in the fall semester, a group of faithful campus-ministry students would frequently discuss/debate topics of the Church and the world, often seeking direction from campus ministry. As a result, a new program was added to the schedule called “God-chat” with Fr. Royce. Each Thursday at 6:45 p.m., the original group of students and additional students gather in campus ministry to discuss the Church’s teaching on several topics and how this impacts life in the world as disciples of Christ. At the end of the discussions, the group heads to the chapel to spend one hour in Eucharistic adoration.
Since the arrival of the Redemptorists to the IU community, additional Masses were added to the schedule based on the request of students, both during the weekdays and weekends, along with continuing the one-hour adoration time on Thursday nights. Many students can be seen using the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament prayer book during said adoration time.
During my initial formation, the importance of Our Mother Perpetual Help devotion left a mark on me; hence, I knew I had to include this among the IU community. Each Wednesday at the end of midday Mass, we pray OMPH prayers followed by a blessing with the Icon.
The Redemptorist presence is being felt at the Immaculata during the popular Tuesday community night programming. Community nights, started by Sr. Laura, offer a time for students to come to campus ministry to share a meal and build community while listening to various speakers. Beginning this fall, we had Frs. Denis Sweeney, Peter Linh, Phillip Dabney, and Paul Borowski, with still to come in the spring semester, Frs. Richard Bennett, Francis Gargani, and Dennis Billy. Also on the horizon here at IU is the first ever Redemptorist Lenten mission preached by Redemptorists coming this March.
Each day campus ministry offers spiritual, communal, service, and social-oriented programs and activities to engage the students of Immaculata University. Campus ministry is very much the place to be on campus, which is evident by the number of students that come in daily and the growing number of core students, both Catholics and non-Catholics.
Aside from the powerful spiritual retreats, from meetings, praying, advising, and listening to students all day, I feel most rewarded in this campus ministry by witnessing the growing number of students coming through the doors. The continuous rise of students at weekend Masses and the love and appreciation the students are developing for Alphonsus and the Alphonsian tradition are incredibly encouraging. The team can attest that the work can be tiring, the hours are long, and the unpredictability of what the students might bring can be daunting. However, observing and absorbing the community spirit is truly inspiring. Again, it would not surprise me if St. Alphonsus is smiling and very much pleased with the campus ministry at Immaculata.
The relationship of collaborating with campus ministry is only six months in existence, and the fruits of this initiative are already evident.
Courtesy: The Baltimore Beacon