Campus ministry fosters personal and spiritual growth, students say

Students sing during a Thursday night Mass at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.

Campus ministry promotes theological study and reflection “so that intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth can proceed together; sustaining a Christian community on campus,” the U.S. bishops wrote in their pastoral letter “Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future.” “…Campus ministry gathers the Catholics on campus for prayer, worship, and learning in order that they might bring the light of the Gospel to illumine the concerns and hopes of the academic community.”

As college and university students prepare to begin the fall semester, here, three university students and one recent graduate reflect on the role campus ministry has played in their lives as young adults.

Newman Center ‘feels like home’

By Ashley Tauke


As I started at the University of Iowa two years ago, I wasn’t sure how faith was going to play a role in my life. I walked by the Newman Catholic Student Center every day on my way to class, but outside of Mass I never walked inside the center until the fall 2009 Antioch retreat. I’m so thankful I did.

I have met so many great people at the Newman Center through the different retreats, Habitat for Humanity builds, and blood drives. I feel exponentially blessed to call them friends. Being a part of the Newman Center gives me the opportunity to not only discuss my faith with others, but to live it and have it grow each day with the people who have become like family to me.

The discussions I have had during retreats or when just studying and hanging out with friends at the Newman Center have been some of the most significant, life-changing conversations of my life. Living out your religion and discussing how it affects your day-to-day life is not always an easy thing to do. But at the Newman Center, the diverse backgrounds of the people I’ve met give an interesting perspective as to how faith can be a priority in your life, no matter what. I have truly grown spiritually because of the time I have spent at the Newman Center, participating in different activities, and getting to know the people there.

I wish I had gotten more involved sooner and would encourage anybody who wants to live his or her faith more fully to attend the diverse events and programs offered at the Newman Center. It will not only be a place to hang out, do homework, or go to Mass, but I can honestly say it will feel like home.

(Ashley Tauke is a junior psychology major with a human relations minor at the University of Iowa. She is currently the Peace and Social Justice Fellow at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.)

Community is always nearby to help

By Ross Epping

I often ask myself where I would be in my life if I had not decided to go to St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Most of this thinking is derived from my experiences within campus ministry. Whether I was working with music ministry, working for campus ministry staffers Father Chuck Adam and Sheila Deluhery over the summer, attending Wednesday Mass or helping with retreats, I can honestly say I know no better community to be involved in.

One of the great things about this community is that each person comes from a different part of campus and a different group of friends. Thus, campus ministry forms one part of a spider web of communities at St. Am­brose.

Fr. Chuck, Sheila and Stella O’Rourke (another campus ministry staffer): each person leaves such an impression. They are always available to talk with, always willing to lend a helping hand. That’s what it’s all about — being there for one another, having that strong sense of community. The cultivation of a person’s faith, a stepping stone to something much bigger, a hand to hold through those hard times, a group of the best people you could ever meet: these are the traits of our St. Ambrose campus ministry. It’s a blessing to us all.

(Ross Epping is a 2011 graduate of St. Ambrose University, where he majored in theology and philosophy. He will begin studies as a seminarian for the Davenport Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., later this month.)

Extraordinary faith encounters

By Tim Jestice

Over the last three years at the University of Iowa, I have grown far beyond my expectations. Ironically, since I’ve been Catholic all my life and graduated from 13 years of primary and secondary Catholic schooling, I have been surprised by my spiritual development in college.

Upon entering the university, I joined the Newman Singers at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. I later accompanied them on their winter tour to Florida for a couple of weeks. The bonds formed with other choir members, as well as the hospitable parish communities, made up my first extraordinary collegiate faith encounter. After our two weeks of intense evangelization, I returned to Iowa City supercharged for God.

I pursued other areas of ministry, including retreats, Bible studies and service. I had a newfound thirst for a more developed interior life.

I discovered a great opportunity when a group of Jesuit priests and men in formation visited Iowa City for their Hearts On Fire retreat. From the Jesuits’ rich theological perspective and prayerful contemplation, I was awarded what was likely my second-most profound faith encounter while at the university.

I will soon serve my second year as Grand Knight of our college Knights of Columbus Council.

Before the end of my third year at the university, I was appointed director of outreach at the Newman Center, and I am certain this is my most significant opportunity for growth yet. I encourage all students of any faith to join us at the Newman Center because we intend to inspire a new understanding of the collegiate Catholic identity and reassert the presence of faith at the university.

(Tim Jestice is a senior finance major at the University of Iowa.)

Strengthening my relationship with God

By Alison Mooney

The campus ministry department at St. Ambrose University in Davenport is exceptional. The staff members are truly dedicated to serving the students, and the program offers numerous opportunities to get involved both on campus and in the wider community.     

My experience with campus ministry began during my freshman year on the Antioch retreat. As an incoming freshman, I didn’t know many people at St. Ambrose. Not only did the Antioch experience strengthen my relationship with God, but it gave me a greater sense of Christian community at SAU.

After that, I became more involved in campus ministry by serving as a eucharistic minister at Mass on Sundays, participating in service trips and helping with Wednesday night Mass N’ More (a student-led Mass with chaplain Father Chuck Adam, followed by a social). Campus ministry also helped me to get involved in other student organizations on campus, such as the Student Government Association in which I served as the SGA/campus ministry liaison.

I strongly encourage incoming students to get involved in campus ministry. No matter what your religious background, campus ministry has something to offer you — personally, spiritually or socially.

The people I have met through campus ministry events are some of my best friends, and I can honestly say that without the campus ministry program, I would not have found my home away from home at St. Ambrose.

(Alison Mooney is a senior at St. Ambrose University who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and on a doctor of physical therapy.)

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