May 25, 2011 // Local

South Bend Serrans promote ‘College Connection for Catholics’

Provides a unique graduation gift for college-bound students
SOUTH BEND — College Connection for Catholics (CCC), a program of the USA Council of Serra International and NET Ministries, unites college students with the Catholic faith on campuses. CCC is designed to connect incoming Catholic college freshmen with the Catholic presence on or near their campus, with the goal of helping the students stay active in their faith.

Serra International was formed in 1936 as a lay Catholic organization to support the vocations to the priesthood and community life (sisters and brothers) through activities such as this and prayer.

The program, which launched a new website in 2010, has become a premier national outreach program for the USA Council of Serra International and NET Ministries. It is a major step in helping promote Catholic campus ministries on college campuses. The College Connection for Catholics website features over 1,100 colleges across the nation; plans include increasing this number to 1,500 this year. CCC has generated positive responses from students, campus ministers and diocesan officials about its goal to reach this critical age group that is most likely to lose their faith.

Several hundred members of Serra Clubs have spent the past six years developing the CCC program. They have gathered data which confirms that only 15 percent of incoming Catholic freshmen are practicing their faith by the time they graduate.

More than 1.2 million Catholic students enter college life each year. Ninety percent of them attend a secular campus where it is difficult for Catholic ministries to reach them without knowing who they are. Members of Serra Clubs coordinate with their local diocese, Catholic high schools and parishes to obtain the names of graduating seniors and provide them with information about the Catholic presence at their college of choice. The clubs also provide Catholic campus ministry officials with these students’ names and information, so they can invite them to Catholic events and liturgies.

The Serra Club of South Bend, composed of Catholic men and women devoted to the fostering and supporting of vocations to the priesthood and religious life was formed in 1946. The purpose of CCC, to keep the young people who enter colleges connected to their Catholic heritage, is related to Serra and so the club is using its resources to further the efforts of CCC to the local youth.

Saint Joseph and Marian high schools have been enlisted to assist in obtaining the needed information on graduating seniors. This information will be forwarded to the Catholic Ministries program at the student’s college of choice. This will make it possible for the campus’s Catholic ministry group to contact the students at the beginning of their freshman year to invite them to participate in the programs and liturgical activities of the ministries.

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., if campus ministries reached just 10 percent more of the nearly 5 million Catholic college students across the United States and kept them active in their faith, it would add approximately 500,000 practicing Catholics to dioceses across the country.

“I can’t think of a better way to make an impact on the Church and the world than by reaching people who are at the very beginning of their careers and connecting them deeply to their Catholic faith,” said Father David Konderla, director and pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M.

Father James J. Bacik, who ministers to students at the University of Toledo, and author of “Empowered by the Spirit,” a campus ministry document for the U.S. bishops in 2006, said getting the names of Catholic students coming to the university from Serra Clubs is “like gold in our pockets. It is a great help in our ministry. These students are the future leaders of society and of our Church.”

Robert McCarty, executive director of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministers, said the College Connection program responds to the U.S. bishops’ goals for Catholic youth ministry: “To call young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ,” and to “draw young people to responsible participation in the life, work and mission of the faith community.”

For more information, the Serra Club of South Bend may be reached by contacting either: Dr. Frank C. Toepp,  chairman, South Bend CCC at (574) 272-1897 or e-mail at [email protected]; or Stephen Elek, Jr., communications, South Bend CCC, at (574) 291-0550 or e-mail at [email protected]

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