As college students in Indiana return to school, they do so behind masks. With several state, university and diocesan mandates dictating how to approach the COVID-19 pandemic, on-campus Catholic ministry has had to shift to comply with these new rules.
Purdue University Fort Wayne
Students at Purdue Fort Wayne will return to a campus where they cannot use certain entrances and exits, study rooms and even water fountains. The Catholic ministry on campus, Mastodon Catholic, has adapted.
“With the changes necessitated by reopening the university, there are a number of factors affecting how we usually minister to the campus,” said PFW junior Michael Langford, incoming president of Mastodon Catholic. “Naturally, this will be a highly dynamic situation as the semester unfolds, and we will be working closely with the university to both cooperate with their requirements, and yet still effectively reach the student body.”
“Mass and confession beforehand will still be held on campus,” Langford continued, “though with both the diocesan and school measures in place to keep students and faculty safe. We will attempt to offer it outdoors as much as possible as well to simplify social distancing logistics and keep everyone safer.”
Langford added that Mastodon Catholic will offer socially distanced Bible study as well, which will be outside if possible.
“We will also be encouraging students during the pandemic and at all times to keep one another accountable to prayer, even when apart.”
Father Thomas Zehr assumes a new role as chaplain of Mastodon Catholic this semester.
The Catholic ministry at Manchester University, Manchester Catholics, will institute similar adaptations.
“I think that the biggest change in moving forward will be how we conduct our meetings and how often we will meet,” said Benjamin Miles, a sophomore who is secretary of the ministry. “I think there will be plans to meet in outside locations so that it will be easier to maintain social distancing.”
“The Manchester Catholics club has been keeping a sense of positivity and unity as we all go through these trying times,” he noted. “I think that as we get closer to the start of the upcoming school year, we’re noticing that our prayers for a safe return are being answered and that we will all be together again soon.”
Father Dennis Di Benedetto will continue as chaplain of Manchester Catholics this fall.
Holy Cross College, Notre Dame
Campus Ministry at Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, will pay close attention to the handling of hosts and other sacramentals before and after consecration to ensure that there is minimal contact that could spread the novel coronavirus. Additionally, St. Joseph Chapel on campus is carrying out regular cleaning guidelines instituted by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
“By wiping down the chapel after Mass and adoration, we are attempting to keep germs at bay,” said junior Isabella Parrish.
As an intern, Parrish will plan several retreats and parishes for her fellow students. “I will plan a total of three retreats, which will be spread out over six weekends to allow for more people to attend each time. These retreats are called Spes Retreats and take place over the weekend,” she continued. “Along with these retreats I will be planning pilgrimages to both Montreal, Canada, and Lourdes, France, assuming we are able to travel outside of the country.”
Parrish noted that the pandemic has required campus ministry to split the retreats into two weekends, with a limit of 30 retreatants each weekend.
Dane Litchfield, a student at Holy Cross, involves himself with several ministries on campus and believes that campus ministry at the college has “been a leader throughout the pandemic.”
Litchfield participates in the liturgical choir and is a lector and altar server. He is also a member of the campus hospitality team as well as the “Saints for Life,” among other groups.
As an altar server, Litchfield has observed some changes in how they prepare for the liturgy this fall.
“Mainly, the choir of servers has been reduced and only the master of ceremonies assists the priest in the offertory, since there is no procession of gifts. The candle bearers also must distance themselves out more when standing by the ambo for the Gospel. Mainly logistical things. The spirituality of the altar servers is still vibrant and present at Holy Cross College.
“Holy Cross College has shown true leadership through this entire year, with an especially vibrant and devout Catholic identity being expressed across campus,” he added. “I don’t think anywhere else could someone say ‘happy feast day’ to an acquaintance, form those bonds with someone you see on a constant basis, or witness to Christ in the manner that Holy Cross College does in its pursuit to develop scholars, citizens, leaders and disciples for today.”
Through an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, college students in the diocese have persevered, finding ways to continue worship while socially distanced.
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