SAU swarms city with prayer and service

Zyon Velazquez
Amy Novak, left, president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, serves soup to students at the conclusion of the Bee the Difference Month Dec. 7. The St. Ambrose University community began 30 days of prayer and service Nov. 5 with “Bee the Difference Day” and concluded the effort Dec. 7.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The St. Ambrose University community began 30 days of prayer and service Nov. 5 with “Bee the Difference Day” and concluded the effort on the Memorial of St. Ambrose, the university’s namesake, Dec. 7.

Students, faculty and staff started with yardwork, a project the Student Government Association organized that day, followed by a variety of service opportunities throughout the month in the Quad-Cities area. On the final day, St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak and her husband, Ken, along with others, served bread, soup and honey (St. Ambrose was a honey-tongued doctor of the Church). Chaplain Father Ross Epping presided at Mass in Christ the King Chapel on campus and Father Bud Grant, a university theologian, concelebrated.

Bee the Difference Day, a longtime tradition, evolved to become Bee the Difference Month in 2021, during which all members of the St. Ambrose community take special time to live out one of the university’s core values of service, said Campus Ministry Director Tammy Norcross-Reitzler.


“Bee the Difference Month started with teams swarming yards in the neighborhood to rake leaves and clean up fall debris,” she said. “But we didn’t stop with that.” Throughout the month, students, faculty, staff and alumni reported:

  • Feeding the hungry by volunteering at Café on Vine, assisting at River Bend Food Bank and the Bee Nourished Food Pantry at JB Young. They also provided/delivered food through several other agencies and organizations and to the university’s neighbors, friends and family.
  • Clothing the naked by donating clothes, assisting organizations that sort and distribute clothing for people in need and purchasing winter wear for giving trees.
  • Mentoring, coaching and teaching children, teenagers, scouts, athletic teams and people who recently returned to the community from jail or prison.
  • Sharing expertise and providing administrative support and/or manual labor to a variety of nonprofits including animal shelters, Salvation Army, Quad City Botanical Center and other agencies.
  • Housing the homeless by assisting Habitat for Humanity and Humility Homes & Services.
  • Visiting the lonely by playing Bingo at a nursing home and assisting in after-school programs.
  • Sharing the faith by leading Bible studies or teaching faith formation.

Prayer anchored the effort. Father Grant, professor of theology and co-director of the Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan, wrote a prayer inspired by the saint’s writings. Novak and a number of students, faculty and staff wrote a daily reflection to keep faith at the forefront.

Father Grant and Ethan Gannaway, the academy’s co-director, held an open house featuring St. Ambrose of Milan artifacts and memorabilia. Father Grant also gave the homily during Mass on the saint’s feast day.

“This month is just a snapshot of what Ambrosians do every month — we pray and we serve. And we do a lot of both,” Norcross-Reitzler said. “I am so proud to be a part of this St. Ambrose community committed to making a difference.”

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