Campus Ministry revamps Lenten season programs

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As the days grew longer and the sunlight brighter, the Catholic Church left the reflective period of Lent and entered the Easter season: a time of rebirth and growth.

Throughout the Lenten season, many Jesuits, students and the Campus Ministry staff “set out to challenge the student body with intentional programs angled at personal reflection and change,” said George Collins, S.J., director of Campus Ministry.

According to Collins, all programs planned to highlight that Lent is not a time of sadness, but rather a time for preparation and celebration with God.

Throughout the six week Lenten period, Campus Ministry planned several programs to guide students in their “walk with Christ,” said Collins.

Lent, the forty day period leading up to Easter, is a period during which Catholics remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Lenten season is considered the highlight of the liturgical year, and Easter the foundation of Christianity, said Collins.

As such, Campus Ministry focused its programming on the two facets of a traditional Catholic Lenten experience: almsgiving and prayer.

“By engaging students in this way throughout the Lenten season, they are able to better appreciate where they are in relation to God,” said Collins.

Almsgiving is essential during Lent because it allows students to “make a difference and be active and engaged with the world,” said Collins.

Therefore, an empty water jug was placed in the foyer of the chapel on Ash Wednesday.  Throughout the Lenten season, students and community members were encouraged to place their spare change in the jug as a donation.

The money raised went to Catholic Relief Services, a charity which assists the poor and vulnerable all over the world.  The Egan Chapel community raised $1,600 during Lent this year, a testament to the willingness of the entire Fairfield community to serve others, Collins said.

Campus Ministry’s programming also focused on moving the student body closer to God through prayer and reflection throughout the Lenten season.

“The Lenten Busy Student Retreat was aimed at students with full schedules who are interested in enhancing their prayer life,” said Gregory Vigliotta, campus minister for retreats.

The retreat took place on campus over a three week period, in the midst of the participants’ everyday lives.  Fifteen students from all backgrounds participated in daily prayer, weekly spiritual direction with a campus minister, and four community-wide gatherings throughout the retreat.

“I think the Busy Student Retreat fit into a lot of student’s Lenten plans because it was highly individualized and conducive to self-reflection and prayer,” said Vigliotta.

Senior Audrey Longfellow, a participant on the Busy Student Retreat, agreed.  “The retreat allowed students to focus on personal spiritual development without the distractions of daily life on campus,” she said.

Regardless of personal or community-wide Lenten plans, this particular Lenten season was special for the Catholic Church as a whole, due to the election of Pope Francis.

However, for Collins the election of Pope Francis, though significant, did not alter his Lenten experience.

“While he is a tremendous figure for the Catholic Church, the true emphasis should be placed on the new pope’s humility and simplicity,” said Collins.  These are qualities that are important not only during Lent, but throughout the liturgical year, he added.

For Collins, the Easter season is a simple continuation of Lenten challenges.  Though students may not have accomplished their goal during the Lenten season, there is always tomorrow, next week or even next Lent.

“There’s never a bad time to hop on board,” said Collins.

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