Friday, November 22, 2019 - Updated: 1:02 pm
A revitalized campus ministry is helping connect college students with local parishes at a critical time in their faith journeys.
More students at Waynesburg University, Washington & Jefferson College and California University of Pennsylvania are attending Mass, doing service projects and deepening their relationship with Jesus, according to Meghan Larsen-Reidy, director of campus ministry.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth and the possibilities are endless,” she said. “We’ve reached out to a more diverse group and are building community.”
Start-up funding for the program at the three campuses was provided through sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! from donors across the diocese.
Waynesburg junior Morgan Conley serves as vice president of the school’s Newman Club, runs a freshman Bible study group, teaches third-grade faith formation at St. Ann Church and helps lead a new youth ministry program. The church is part of the new St. Matthias Parish.
“I was definitely out of my comfort zone at first,” she said, “but I have grown in my faith and as a person.”
On Nov. 15, Conley gave a witness talk at a student-led festival of praise at St. Ann’s.
Waynesburg students have received a grant for a service project with the local food bank called “Birthday in a Bag.” They will fill 100 bags with cake mixes, frosting, candles and other goodies for families to bake birthday cakes.
Washington & Jefferson sophomore Isabelle “Izzy” Kratz, president of the campus Newman Center, is teaching the faith to fifth-graders at nearby Immaculate Conception Parish. She also takes part in service projects, and appreciates the leadership of Larsen-Reidy.
“Meghan is a beacon of light,” Kratz said. “She’s very passionate about her faith and serving others, and helps keep us calm amid the craziness of college.”
For the last three years, the Newman Center at W&J has hosted talks on exorcism so that students can hear the truth about the subject and learn tangible ways to avoid evil and grow as people of faith, according to Larsen-Reidy.
Cal U senior Taylor Kodric, who was active growing up at St. Therese Parish in Uniontown, said their Newman Club, called Cal ROCKS (Reaching Out for Catholic Kinship), is benefiting.
“There are other religious groups on campus and now we have a more visible Catholic ministry,” Kodric said. “My faith is a very important part of my identity and has made me who I am.”
The college years are essential to keeping younger Catholics connected to the church. A study from the Pew Research Center found that nearly 80 percent of those who leave the faith do so by age 23.
Father Tom Lewandowski, who recently joined the campus ministry as chaplain, said it is critical for college students to get to know their local parish.
“We’re teaching them to share their gifts,” he said. “The parishes need them, and they need the parishes, so they’ll continue to be active wherever they go after college.
“We want them to build relationships with each other and meet other young people who are joyful in their faith,” Father Lewandowski said.