Most Catholic Studies students would agree that Catholic Studies is more than an academic major. For many, it’s a place to engage socially, to be challenged intellectually, to live virtuously and to grow spiritually. While this lifelong mission is encouraged in a variety of ways, several Catholic Studies majors have stepped forward as leaders in fostering the department’s communal character. Eucharistic Adoration, retreats in St. Paul and Rome, Catholic S.O.U.L.S., and The Signature newsletter are just a few ways Catholic Studies students are reaching out to one another and to the university as a whole.
Eucharistic Adoration Catholic Studies major Paul Monson, a junior, was instrumental in establishing 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration on the St. Paul campus, which began in September 2005. Held Sunday night to Friday evening, Eucharistic Adoration is located in Koch Chapel in Koch Commons, which is ideally situated between three residence halls.
The idea for continual adoration grew from biweekly adoration held in Sitzmann Hall during building hours, Monson said. “Other students and I wanted to pass along a gift we had discovered in the Blessed Sacrament to our peers,” he recalled. “We wanted to restore a practice of continual prayer for our university, and where better than before our Lord?”
While Monson credits Dr. Don Briel, Father Jeff Huard, St. Paul’s Outreach and the Koch family for their roles in the establishment of 24-hour Adoration, he also acknowledges Catholic Studies as the foundation for his leadership in this initiative. “Catholic Studies has not only taught but encouraged me to live this faith I was embracing,” he said. “This worldview, articulated and fostered through Catholic Studies, provided the motivation to spread Christ’s Real Presence to all and make Him the center of our campus, always available.”
By making adoration accessible to all St. Thomas students, Monson hopes the university will experience “a reawakening of faith and commitment to its Catholic heritage and identity” as well as an “outpouring of God’s grace through his Son on our campus, especially in its day-to-day life.”
Retreats Each year Catholic Studies sponsors retreats during the fall and spring semesters for students at both the Twin Cities and Rome campuses. On March 3-5, Catholic Studies and Campus Ministry sponsored the annual Lenten retreat at the Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minnesota. The weekend gave students an opportunity to get away, both physically and mentally, from the distractions of college life and focus on the meaning of Lent. With Catholic Studies professor Father Michael Keating, campus minister Denae Fielder and theology professor Angie Fischer leading the reflections, the retreat provided ample time for students to have quiet time for prayer and reflection. “Opportunities to take a weekend to nurture our faith lives are both precious and few,” Fielder stated. “Even though college life is so busy, there are even fewer opportunities after college.”
Students studying in Rome this semester also took a weekend away from the Eternal City to focus on prayer and silence. On March 24-26, Father Joseph Carola, a Jesuit priest and the new chaplain at the Bernardi Residence, introduced students to the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The retreat was held at the estate of Villa Palazzola, located 18 miles south of Rome. Situated on Lake Albano, the site has a view of the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. According to Father Carola, “Lent is a most appropriate time for a retreat, for it is a time of spiritual renewal and preparation for the great celebration of Easter.”
Catholic S.O.U.L.S. Catholic Students Open and United in Living in the Spirit, or Catholic S.O.U.L.S., is completing its second year as a student organization, and its success is obvious by the number of students who have dedicated themselves to the group. “There’s just a great sense of community,” Catholic S.O.U.L.S. president Annie Fochtman said. “Really genuine friendships have come out of it.”
While some participants may have originally attended the weekly meetings for the friendship, many have stayed because of the faith. In a university setting that has no shortage of Christianbased clubs, Catholic S.O.U.L.S. stands out as an instrument for Catholic catechesis. Working in conjunction with the Center for Catholic Studies, the undergraduate student organization addresses both the spiritual and intellectual aspects of the students’ formation.
Catholic S.O.U.L.S. grew out of the earlier Catholic Studies club Caritas. When rebuilding the organization, the new leaders chose not to identify the group as a club. “A club has an idea of membership behind it,” said Fochtman, a senior Catholic Studies major. “We want people to feel free to come and go as they please.”
Each month a new focus is chosen for the weekly meetings. This allows students to do more than “skim the surface,” Fochtman said. “We want them to wrestle with [the topics].” Last semester students discussed the Mass, the papacy, the universal call to holiness and Marian apparitions. They focused on the concept of beauty throughout the spring 2006 semester.
The SignatureThe Signature, a student-run newsletter for Catholic Studies undergraduate students, is almost as old as the Catholic Studies department itself. Published seven times a semester, the newsletter features faculty and student interviews, course profiles, and lecture and event information. The Signature is produced entirely by undergraduate students, most of whom are pursuing Catholic Studies majors. Senior Maria Wiering currently edits the publication.
“The goal of The Signature is to foster communication and connectivity between students, staff, faculty and those interested in the department,” Wiering said. “Highlighting different aspects of the Center for Catholic Studies and covering important events such as guest lectures are ways to keep everyone in the loop.”
The newsletter’s name originated from its founders’ trademark of signing the end of their articles. While this practice is no longer observed, many of the pieces give writers a chance to display their creative side. A good example is “The Local Best,” a regular column that is The Signature’s entertainment guide and is designed to encourage students to explore the culture of the Twin Cities. Each month students vie over who will get a chance to share their favorite haunts. “We cram a lot of information into the newsletter’s six pages, and I think students find it’s worth reading,” Wiering remarked.