Campus Ministry: New Faces, Same Welcoming Space
Students and visitors find Campus Ministry to be warm and welcoming—a peaceful space where they can hang out, study, pray, or seek guidance from anyone on the staff. Named for Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the influential 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus who was known for his commitment to social justice, the Center is located on the ground level of the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola.
“It’s a busy place,” says Rev. Mark Scalese, S.J., director. “Students and staff are planning service trips, getting ready for retreats, doing homework, preparing food to serve at a local homeless shelter—there’s always something going on.
“But, of course, what’s more important are the exciting things Campus Ministry is doing outside the building,” Fr. Scalese added.
In any given year, Campus Ministry coordinates activities and programs for the entire University community, including religious services, retreats, service outreach, and domestic and international immersion experiences.
Students have numerous opportunities through Campus Ministry to enhance their spiritual life—from service projects to becoming Eucharistic Ministers (EMs) and Lectors. There are 35 new EMs and lectors this year—joining 50 “veteran” students already serving the community at three masses every weekend. EMs and Lectors participate in bi-weekly formation meetings and yearly overnight retreats. In addition, up to 30 students sing at weekend masses as members of the Praise Project and the Lord’s Chords. This year, with the arrival of Dr. Dugan McGinley as Director of Music and Liturgy, the EMs, lectors and musicians are coming together as part of a coherent liturgical ministry to the university community. These student groups also serve at special liturgies in Egan Chapel and around campus for First-Year Orientation and Fall Welcome, Alumni & Family Weekend, and Commencement.
In addition to weekend Masses, Campus Ministry organizes special multi-faith prayer services commemorating 9/11; the violent attacks in Charleston, Beirut and Paris; the Thanksgiving holiday; and the Holocaust Remembrance Service (along with the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies). Jewish Shabbat services and Muslim Friday Prayer are also offered several times each semester.
“We all need to come together in times like these,” Fr. Scalese said. “Campus Ministry really becomes the heart of the campus then.”
Retreats are an important way for students to detach from the intensity of their classes and connect more deeply with each other. In September, some 70 first-year students, RAs, and peer retreat leaders take part in the First Year Escape, which provides opportunities to discuss the transition from high school to college, make new friends, attend an outdoor Mass, and enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking, or making s’mores by the campfire.
Usually 35 to 40 students will participate in each of the high-intensity Kairos retreats in November and March. During these retreats, student leaders share stories about the ups and downs of their personal and spiritual journeys, and retreatants have the opportunity to do the same thing in small groups. They learn to be vulnerable with one another and that experience becomes cathartic and transformative.
Service projects and immersion trips are other key avenues for students to explore who they are and gain insight into issues of social justice. Each year, more than 40 students and adult leaders travel to Jamaica, Ecuador and Nicaragua in January and May for international immersion experiences. Next spring, 60 students will spend an “alternative spring break” on service trips in Appalachia and New Orleans. (Read more about these trips.)
There are also regular service opportunities locally with various underserved populations.
Next year, 10 students and adult leaders will travel to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day in August—part of a 300-person pilgrimage sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport.
And, of course, there are spontaneous trips. “In September, we pulled together a bus trip to Philadelphia for the outdoor mass with Pope Francis,” said Fr. Scalese. “There were 75 students and alumni who went.” (At right, students pictured en route to the Papal mass. View a slideshow of photos from the week.)
Fr. Scalese (left), who has taught film, television and media arts in the Visual & Performing Arts Department since he came to Fairfield in 2004, became director of Campus Ministry in July. There are a number of new faces joining him this year: Dr. Dugan McGinley, Director of Music and Liturgy; Fiona Shovlin, Campus Minister for Social Justice and International Immersion; Mr. Douglas Ray, S.J., Campus Minister for Retreats; and Nargis Alizada, Muslim Chaplin. They join other CM staff: Wylie Smith Blake, Campus Minister for Community Engagement and Domestic Immersion; Deacon Tom Curran, Liturgical Ministries and RCIA Coordinator; Rev. David Spollett, Protestant Chaplain; Kathleen Haimoff, Administrative Assistant; and Deborah Picarazzi, Operations Assistant.
“We want to be there for students in whatever way they need—to provide a safe space for them to explore and discover what makes them fully alive as human beings,” Scalese said. “With all of the distractions our culture provides for their attention, that can be challenging, but it’s deeply satisfying.”
Visit the website for more information about Campus Ministry.
At the Advent Mass on Sunday, December 6, at 11 a.m., the University community will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola, with a reception afterward. Alumni and parents are welcome!