The Office of Campus Ministry was established to make Christ present to the academic communities in the Diocese of Norwich. The ministry serves students, faculty and staff at Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, UConn at Storrs, and Wesleyan University.
The Coronavirus pandemic has altered the way we serve our students. For instance, the TLC (Tom's Leadership Council) student leaders group and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries continue to keep in touch with students through group chats, and having an online presence to all.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church, now Our Lady Queen of Peace parish after having been merged with St. Mary Church in Coventry, also offers Mass, Stations of the Cross, Holy Hour and Benediction to the students and parishioners via Livestream on their website, OLQOP.com.
Whether we are on campus or not, we encourage the formation of a faith community, regular opportunities for reception of the sacraments and provide spiritual and moral guidance to individuals and groups.
Here are but a few of the programs students can engage in once they are able to resume on-campus activities: Training for Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, Confirmation instruction, vocational discernment days, social outreach and social gatherings, community engagement, days of reflection, retreats, alternative spring breaks and Bible studies. Below is an overview of campus ministry at one of our locations.
Case Study-Campus Ministry at UConn
The Campus Ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas on the UConn campus begins with the orientation program for parents and new students. The parents and students are happy to hear that there is a Catholic church right on campus. On the first day of the semester, there is a 4 p.m. Mass followed by a barbecue where students are introduced to the FOCUS missionaries, the TLC (Tom's Leadership Council) student leaders, Fr. John and the staff. Not only are the students invited to get involved with Focus and TLC but also invited to help teach Faith Formation to the children of the parish preparing them for their sacraments, joining our Student Choir, becoming a lector and/or an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, as well as a student-run Knight of Columbus to name just a few.
During the first month of school the students are given various opportunities to get to know their fellow students. TLC offers movie nights, after-Mass pasta suppers or snacks, game nights, apple picking, pumpkin picking, and putting on a Halloween party.
Students visit soup kitchens to serve the needy, and the local nursing home. Each year there is a trip to Appalachia to help build and repair houses for the poor in Kentucky. They join with a pro-life group on campus to sponsor a van that provides ultrasounds to women who are pregnant. There is a pro-life holy hour each week.
The FOCUS missionaries offer bible studies several times a week in addition to a rosary walk every week, rain or shine. Their presence on campus has caused an increase in students wanting to come back to the church or to finish receiving their sacraments. That is followed by our wonderful RCIA program, where each Easter we welcome numerous students into or back into the church.
Focus annually plans and hosts an event called Men Serve Women where the male students prepare and cook a full course dinner and serve the female students. It’s a formal evening and wonderful to see everyone dressed in their finest.
Return on Investment
Working together with TLC and Focus, we’ve been blessed to have inspired a number of young men and women to become Focus Missionaries and continue the work of evangelization on other college and university campuses.
God bless and reward you for your support, it is making a big difference in the lives of our young adults and the future of our Church. There are six men who have entered seminary upon graduation, one being ordained to the priesthood for our diocese this summer and a number of young women who have entered religious and consecrated life. It is wonderful to celebrate our Sunday 7 p.m. Student Mass seeing the church filled and, on some evenings, standing room only.
We are very grateful to Bishop Cote and all those whose generous support makes it possible for us in Campus Ministry to continue our work of evangelizing and sharing God's love with all of the students.
By Nancy Brennan & Fr. John Antonell