by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (4/20/2012)
ESTERO â€“Â A group of students at Florida Gulf Coast University created some buzz when they processed through portions of the campus in an outward and obvious expression of their Faith.
The Eucharistic Procession was led by Father Michal Zyzska, the campus minister who carried the monstrance containing the Holy Eucharist. Dozens of members of the Catholic Newman Club, with the support of FOCUS team members (Fellowship of Catholic University Students who serve as an on-campus support group for Catholic students), followed behind and sang songs. The group then prayed the rosary as the procession wound its way through the campus grounds.
The buzz the procession created was electric, as many students stopped in amazement, many offered respect and remained quiet as the group passed, while still others questioned what was happening. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
This outward sign of faith was one of the highlights of a four day effort to raise awareness and encourage other Catholic students at FGCU to join the Catholic clubs on the campus and attended the weekly Mass and devotional meals.
The group had a tent sent up on the lawn near the library and each day concluded with Mass.Other activities included the opportunity to go to confession and adoration. Games and activities were also on hand during the day, while the evenings had Bible Studies and a movie screening of the Passion of the Christ.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the students on Wednesday, April 4. He noted that he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the group and their participation in a weekday Mass knowing full well the pressures of university life surround them and can lead them away from their Faith.
â€śWe are each sent out by Christ to spread His word,â€ť Bishop Dewane said. â€śExpand on the life you live and continue to be examples to others. Living life as Christ called you to — as children of God — will inspire those who see you to look on in wonder and amazement.â€ť
Nancy Dominguez, vice president of the Newman Club, said she was encouraged by the number of people who have signed up to join the club throughout the week.
â€śWe are getting the word out and that is important if we want to keep the club growing into the future,â€ť Dominguez said.
Dominguez said she understands why Catholic students do not go to Mass on a regular basis when they are away from home, but prays the Newman Club can help change their way of thinking. â€śIt is easy to make excuses and say you are too busy. I was in the same situation of being away from home and having a freedom to do what I wanted. We donâ€™t want people to be dragged to Church. It is a choice. We have to share with others how fulfilling it is to continue to be active in our Faith. This week is one way to do that in a big way.â€ť
Anne Ford, who serves as Sacristan during the Masses, said that when she first went away to college she did not actively seek out the Newman Club. â€śWithin a month, I realized something was missing in my life. That was Church and God. I quickly sought out and found the Newman Club and have loved being an active part of it ever since.â€ť
FOCUS Team Member Jamie Willhelm said the four-day outreach was having an impact. â€śPeople are coming up to our table and tent and finding us,â€ť Willhelm said. â€śWe are going to build on this success heading into next year.â€ť
The FOCUS team helps direct the Newman Club members to guide their Monday Devo(tional) Dinners and keep them aimed toward growing in their faith and relationship with God.
The greatest difficultly in getting a strong and unified Catholic presence on the campus is that more than half of the students do not live on or near the campus, Willhelm said. The commuters have connections to their home parishes and are often not on campus long enough to get involved in any club activities.
Diocese of Venice Youth and Young Adult Director George Smith was on the FGCU campus for much of the week, leading some of the discussions and offering words of encouragement. â€śIt is exciting to know that, after this week, no one on campus will be able to say that they have never heard of the Newman Club or FOCUS. We now have a foothold at FGCU now we need to take it to the next level, expanding the outreach not only to Catholics, but to all students at the university.â€ť
Smith noted that the Diocese encourages all FGCU students who are seeking the truth and searching for God to get involved with the clubs. â€śFOCUS and Newman work together to invigorate the Catholic Identity on Campus.â€ť Smith said. â€śThrough Bible studies, evangelization, weekly Masses and a Devo(tional) Dinner every Monday evening, students will find a great way to make friends and strengthen their faith.â€ť