College campus ministries make disciples

They come from different generations, but Zach Temple and Father Terry O’Connor share a common bond. Both decided to enter the Catholic Church while they were 19-year-old college students.

Father O’Connor recently met Temple, a sophomore at Robert Morris University in Moon Township, while celebrating Mass at the campus chapel.

“It filled me with great excitement, and we felt that connection,” Father O’Connor said. “How special it is to be called by the Lord to be baptized.”

After Temple began to participate in campus ministry, he said he was moved by the Holy Spirit to join the church.

“All the little ways we show God we love him, such as making the sign of the cross, I now understand from RCIA why we do this,” Temple said.

Each year on Holy Saturday the Catholic Church welcomes new members through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The program is mostly provided through parishes, but colleges and universities also offer it, inviting students and staff to be fully initiated into the faith.

Tanner Lowicki, who graduated from Robert Morris last year, received the sacrament of confirmation because he wanted to learn more about Catholicism. While on campus he was in the Newman Club and was a lector. Today he attends daily Mass.

“Choosing to go through RCIA later in life made learning about the faith my choice,” Lowicki said. “I have a strong desire to help my parish community and assist other young adults in finding their faith.”

RMU campus minister Gary Slifkey said two students are in their RCIA program this school year; five were welcomed into the church in 2018.

“We invite them to participate,” he said. “Go forth and make disciples — this is our mandate from Jesus.”

Linda Donovan, a campus minister at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, said five people are taking part in their RCIA program this year, including three students.

“Many are influenced by their friends who are Catholic,” she said. “It’s really wonderful to be able to walk with them on this journey and see their faith developing.”

Sarah Lenkner, a first-year nursing student at Carlow University in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, will be baptized, receive the Eucharist and be confirmed on Holy Saturday, one of three people in Carlow’s RCIA program. As a child, she attended Mass with her family, but never went to faith formation classes or received the sacraments.

“After getting involved in campus ministry I felt like now was the time,” Lenkner said. “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, Jesus is always going to forgive me and make things right.

“RCIA is a rewarding experience,” she said. “I’m learning a lot about the faith.”

Lenkner also received the Mike Clark-WTAE-TV Chimbote Mission Travel Award and will visit Chimbote, Peru, this summer, learning more about the Chimbote Foundation’s mission to serve the poor.

“I want to travel the world and help the needy, spreading joy, love and hope,” she said.