SAU campus ministry ready to make students feel at home

Tammy Norcross-Reitzler
Lauren Bollweg plays the piano in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. When classes resume, liturgies will include instrumental music but not singing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Campus ministry at St. Ambrose University begins a new academic year with adaptations to foster faith while mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. “We want to try to do as much as we can do safely and creatively to make our students feel spiritually ‘at home’ here,” said Chaplain Father Thom Hennen.
Mass in Christ the King Chapel

Daily and weekend Masses will not require a ticket or lottery system. “Based on what we are hearing and seeing from the parishes in the diocese, we felt we could safely ‘wait and see’ what the demand will be. We expect that many of our students will play it safe,” Father Hennen said.

“We are reminding them that they are still currently dispensed from their Sunday obligation and we are also encouraging them to consider attending one of our daily Masses Monday through Thursday instead, especially if they would be more comfortable doing so. We will be limiting attendance more strictly to students,” he said. Outside visitors who are not part of the faculty, staff or student body will go through screening and check in at the Rogalski Center, he said.


Father Hennen said he might consider adding Masses or a ticketing system if a large number of students choose to attend in person while pandemic restrictions continue. The chapel can accommodate 80 to 100 people for Mass under the diocese’s current pandemic guidelines. The number varies because roommates or housemates can sit together in the same pew. Seats will be marked for social distancing. Masses will include instrumental music but not singing.

Wednesday night Mass

The popular Wednesday night outdoor Mass at 9:15 p.m. will continue, but move from its usual location, the Grotto, to a new space. “It is clear that the grotto area is too small. So, we are looking at having it on the north lawn of Hayes Hall where there are a number of memorial benches and a larger area where students might set up chairs, blankets, etc.,” Father Hennen said. “We would set up the altar in front of the larger Celtic cross. Students could also sit up above on the patio area outside the chapel.” As in the past, adverse weather conditions would move Mass into the chapel. “We will also be livestreaming (probably via Instagram) our Wednesday night Mass, as well as the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, for those who still choose to participate remotely.”

The campus ministry staff produced a video about the changes for the campus ministry department. View it at

Gathering space/lower chapel

Physical distancing requirements have resulted in rearrangement of furniture in the chapel’s gathering space and lower level, said Campus Ministry Director Tammy Norcross-Reitzler. “Our hope is that Christ the King Chapel will continue to be a safe place for students to study, relax, pray, hang out and seek spiritual companionship.”

Programs and retreats

“Obviously, in-person retreats will likely not happen for a while, which is a huge disappointment. We are looking at some hybrid virtual small-group options,” Father Hennen said. “We had some good success with this in the spring for our senior retreat.” He hopes campus ministry staff can provide something similar for the new student retreat. “I anticipate that all of our programs will need to be radically adapted. We will probably try to do more through our peer campus ministers, in small groups, and in the residence halls,” he added.


During spring break, the campus ministry team offers service trip options. “I went ahead and reserved with Sacred Heart Southern Missions for our Mississippi trip, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Father Hennen said. The trip to Well of Mercy in Chicago that Norcross-Reitzler leads “may be a little more doable.” Service trips will depend on the status of the pandemic, diocesan and university policies and the host site. “If there is a way to safely do these trips, then I think we should try.”

Meet the staff

In addition to his duties as the university’s chaplain, Father Hennen also serves as vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport and as an associate director of vocations for the diocese. Norcross-Reitzler has taken over Father Hennen’s previous role as director of campus ministry. She will oversee campus ministry staff and peer campus ministers in the development and implementation of spiritual programming and pastoral services for students.

Lauren Bollweg, coordinator of music, justice and media ministry, will continue to oversee and provide music for liturgies, work with Ambrosians for Peace and Justice and coordinate social media and other outreach for the campus ministry department.

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