College students living away from home maybe tasting freedom, but they may be lonely and missing some of the structure that kept them grounded. The Newman Campus Ministry program may have some answers.
Father Vince Hawk, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Loudonville, is also director of Newman Campus Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and the Catholic chaplain at Ashland University. He and Joann Piotrkowski, assistant director for Newman Campus Ministry, are working to reorganize and revitalize the diocesan campus ministry program at seven non-Catholic colleges in the diocese.
“We’re aiming for stability so campus ministers can help develop student leaders and help them understand their ministry,” Father Vince said.
“The program at every campus is unique,” Joann said.
“About 50-65 students gather every Wednesday for a meal, professional development and prayer,” said John Szarwark, who heads the Roo Catholics at The University of Akron. They also have a strong relationship with nearby St. Bernard Parish, where students volunteer in a number of parish ministries.
An alumni chapter was founded last year by some Akron graduates, former leaders of the Roo ministry. “They saw the value of the Newman program and wanted to be able to support it at Akron,” John said.
At Baldwin Wallace University, there is a Sunday evening Mass in the historic Lindsay-Crossman Chapel on campus. Earlier this year, Steve Eyerman, who heads the BW Newman Center, invited Bishop Perez to celebrate Mass and join students and guests for dinner.
Sarah Stanley is the new full-time campus minister at Cleveland State University, where more than 20 programs — many student-led — are under way. She works from an office at nearby St. Peter Parish, where students often attend Mass. They also collaborate on programs with the parish and some volunteer at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, which assists the needy.
Case Western Reserve University, where Steve Perry is the Newman campus minister, reignited its Labre program. Volunteers bring food, clothing and friendship to the homeless on the streets. Nate Ediger, who heads the Ashland University Newman program, said a number of student-led initiatives are opening the door for a renewed relationship with St. Edward Parish in Ashland, including Thursday night Holy Hours in the parish adoration chapel. Some students volunteer at the parish hunger center and others with the PSR program.
“We hosted a Thanksgiving potluck last year for parishioners and students that was attended by about 90 people,” Nate said, adding the efforts to foster a collaborative culture between the Newman ministry and the parish are enhancing ministries at both the parish and university.
A.J. Hoy splits his time as Newman minister on the campuses of The College of Wooster and Oberlin. Wooster students are encouraged to attend Mass and get involved in programs at St. Mary Parish in Wooster.
There also are opportunities for the students in the various Newman ministry programs to work together. BW, Ashland, CSU and CWRU are planning a spring break immersion trip next year, Joann said.
“Young people want to know how to get involved,” Father Vince said, explaining that Newman ministry is trying to help bridge that gap as well as help students match their strengths to ministries at parishes and elsewhere. He said a program called Strength Finders has been useful. “We find it even helps them with job interviews. The students generally come back thankful.”
This story was featured in the September-October edition of Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine. Click HERE to read the entire digital edition.