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Catholic at UST

Catholic at UST

Peer Ministry: Evangelizing Campus One Student at a Time

Written by Caroline Stiles ’15, Catholic Studies and Philosophy 

The GrapeFun fact: Any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, is not in schism, and is not “notorious” for simony can be elected pope. This means, my fine Catholic Studies gentlemen, that you, yes you, could be elected pope. Of course, let’s be real. You all reside in Minnesota after all, and your accents are far too thick for the world to experience. So rest assured, you have nothing to worry about….you’re welcome.

I was asked to write this blog post because I am a Peer Minister and the President of Catholic Studies Incorporated. Apparently this is a sufficient condition for having an interesting story to tell.

A bit about Eer-pay Inistry-may: we are a group of four women and four men who live in the dorms and work to encourage and enrich the faith lives of other students. This includes putting on programs such as Theology of the Body, women’s groups, soul mate seminars, retreats and much more. We also put on Praise and Worship as well as Journey in Faith every other week. It’s pretty neat.

In my opinion, we have the most wonderful job on campus. How could it not be? I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but there really cannot be any better job. Working as a peer minister has been by far the most humbling experience of my life, and nothing says blessed like having the opportunity to bring others close to the Lord. The close, intimate relationships that we build with other students are beautiful, crucial and wholesome.

I know what you’re thinking: “Pshh, are they really even doing anything? Seems like a vague job description to me.” I’ve heard it before. What do Peer Ministers even do? Why don’t we have FOCUS? I get it. But in the most honest and humble way possible, I have to believe that the Lord is working through us to impact lives. Perhaps I am the only one, but for me, I grow by example. I need someone close to me who is pushing me to grow with the Lord either by tangible challenges or simply through their holiness.

This, my friends, is the very idea behind Peer Ministry. Sure we put on events, providing students with promising opportunities to push themselves, but more than ever we try to lead by example and build intimate relationships so we can have a partner in this battle for Heaven. Clearly this path to holiness is not a path we can take by ourselves. That’s where we come in. And when I say we, I mean WE, as in this whole campus, state, and world. I may have a title as Peer Minister, but let me assure you that there are more than eight peer ministers on this campus. We, especially as Catholics, are all in this as one. If there is one thing I have learned this year it is that the Lord uses each and every one of us to bring glory to Him. You don’t need a title to make an impact.

So that’s it. That’s Peer Ministry. Raw, life-on-life, God-driven relationships. It seems worthwhile to me. Praise the Lord.

Catholic at UST, Classes, Rome Abroad, Student Profiles

An Immense Gift for Seminarians

Written by Colin Jones ’14, Philosophy, Catholic Studies, and Classical Languages

When I first came to Saint John Vianney Seminary, my academic advisor gave me two reasons why I should major in Catholic Studies in addition to my required Philosophy major.  One, it wasn’t very hard to do, since a few of the classes overlapped with the seminary curriculum, and two, it offered the once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying in Rome.  Let’s just say it didn’t take me a very long time to make a decision (I mean, come on, it’s Rome!).  Before I had even taken my first class in Catholic Studies, I had declared it as one of my majors.

While you would probably be correct in saying that this was a rash, spur of the moment decision, looking back two years later I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  And I haven’t even gone to Rome yet!

For a seminarian studying to be one day ordained to the priesthood, God willing, the Catholic Studies program at St. Thomas has been one of the most tremendous blessings of my formation.  In the two Catholic Studies classes that I have completed, and the one that I am currently taking in the program, I have been blessed with the rich, profound, and transformative experience of learning about the beautiful faith of the Catholic Church, the Church which I hope to one day take as my bride.

In Catholic Studies 101, The Search for Happiness, Fr. Keating gave us a description of the Church which I will never forget: “To believe the way of truth, to pray the way of sanctification, and to live the way of love and transformation.” As a priest, my ultimate task will be to impart this understanding of the Catholic Church to every man, woman, and child who walks through the doors of my parish.  It will be my job to teach my parishioners that it is only in the Catholic Church that they will obtain the truth, the sanctification, the love, and the transformation for which they so ardently long.  And it will be up to me to show my flock that in a world which so often sees religion, particularly the Catholic Church, as a detriment and a hindrance to society, it is actually only through the salvific teachings of the Church that we can become truly free.

In my current Catholic Vision class with Dr. Junker, this has been precisely the topic at hand.  We have been reading everything from the Gospel of John, to Pope Benedict’s homilies on creation, to St. Augustine’s City of God, and in doing so have delved into two of the deepest realities of humanity with a “Catholic lens,” showing how the human person only comes into his true self when he is in union with Christ.  It is my prayer that, as a priest, I will be able to help others to see the world through this same “Catholic lens,” and thus show them the way to Christ.

In his 2012 letter to seminarians on the topic of Intellectual Formation, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington states that “ you are required to take so many courses in Catholic teaching, history and philosophy so that you are not only aware of the immense gift of the Catholic tradition, but that you are also well prepared to access it, understand it, appropriate it and share it”

While the Catholic Studies program is by no means a “required” field for SJV seminarians, it fits exactly into this description of intellectual formation which Cardinal Wuerl describes.  Through the Catholic Studies program, I have indeed gained a much greater awareness of and appreciation for the “immense gift of the Catholic tradition,” and have become “well prepared to access it, understand it, appropriate it and share it.” If it be the Father’s will that I one day bring Christ to world as his priest, I have no doubt that the beautiful gift of the Catholic Studies program will be an immense blessing for my priesthood.

And I haven’t even gone to Rome yet.  Praised be Jesus Christ!



Catholic at UST, Catholic Residences, Social Events

Good Company on Sunday Nights


Written by Jacqueline Lucca ’14, English and Catholic Studies

So often, Sunday nights can get lost in last minute homework cramming stress or that dreaded feeling – I am sure we are all familiar with –  that it’s the ending of the weekend.

            In Chateau Burgundie this is not the case.

            Every Sunday evening at 6p.m., Chateau Burgundie (the fancy name we have for the little house on Cretin and Summit) begins to fill up with students from every area of study to share a meal together. The house is easy to recognize these nights as the golden and white papal flag is flying from it and it is with bursting laughter and conversation. These dinners are not only a great way to get free food, which is obviously enticing, but also a beautiful way enter into Catholic community. Although one does not need to go to St. Thomas or even be Catholic to come, we always begin the meal with a decade of the rosary and end the night with the Salve Regina. These two prayers are the perfect bookends to keep the night focused on Christ through Mary and bring us together in prayer.

            These dinners, which were started by the Catholic Men’s house – the Fraternity of St. Michael, were originally much smaller. While originally there were only a couple of people coming to the dinners, there are now often over 50 people per night.

            The first dinner of this semester had close to 60 people there, all of whom enjoyed as much taco salad as they wanted.  Since the evening was lovely, students spilled out onto the lawn to enjoy the last of the warm weather.  Every night has a slightly different feel as there is always some variety in who the chefs are, what style food they choose to make, and which awesome people decide to show up. One night we had huge pots of chili boiling on every burner at Chateau Burgundy and people filling up the chairs, stairs, and kitchen.  Other nights we had chocolate chip pancakes and it was a little quieter. After the meal there are always people who stick around to chat some more, clean up, or occasionally, even start swing dancing. I’ve also known nights which end with people standing around the baby grand piano and singing duets at the tops of their lungs.

            How could anybody say no to free food and good company steeped in Catholic tradition?

Catholic at UST, Social Events

Sitzmann Smells of a New Season



Whether or not you are ready for it, when September arrives, it is goodbye summer, hello school.  The long, lazy days of summer fade fast and you are wise to quickly embrace the new season of cool classes and crisp fall days.  But a new season doesn’t mean a no-fun season.

In fact, at Catholic Studies, we are all about embracing new seasons, in style.  Sometimes that means prolonging the joys of the old seasons.  So, on a steamy 90 degree day in mid-September, under a hot summer sun, Catholic Studies faculty, staff, students, friends, and family gathered together to officially welcome the new semester with a backyard BBQ.   The Sitzmann Hall patio overflowed with burgers and brats, conversation and croquet, ladder golf and laughter, and of course, ice cream.  Old friends were reunited and new friends were made.  With a healthy dose of summer air, barbeque, and ice cream, the rich life of Catholic Studies once again landed full force at UST.

There is something going on at that big brick house across the street.  Can you smell it?


Catholic at UST, Leadership Internships

Leadership in Training

Written by Eryn Evander ’11, Business

Traveling for hours on a bus, sleeping on floors in close quarters, and engaging in servant leadership for nine days does not add up to your typical spring break trip. For 120+ UST students who went on the STLF (Students Today Leaders Forever) trip, however, that is exactly how they spent their break.
Being in the Catholic Leadership Interns had a big impact on how I viewed this trip.  I was one of the trip leaders and having the formation of our Friday Interns meetings under my belt showed me that resilience and patience are central attributes in a leader. The most salient life-lesson that I learned from this trip is this: all things will not go according to pre-determined plans if you do not lead with God at the forefront. To be resilient when things go wrong that are beyond your control is no doubt an indication of a good leader. The ability and willingness to take responsibility for these things when you do not keep this in mind is another. Continue Reading

Catholic at UST

Leisure: The Basis of Spring Break

Written by Garrett Ahlers ’12, Philosophy and Catholic Studies

This upcoming weekend is the spring hiatus here at the University.  I have a few friends who are heading down to Florida to spend a week on the beach.  A few others that I know are going to New York to visit a mutual friend ours who joined the Franciscans a few years ago.  Still others among my friends are heading out to do mission work in Honduras and Haiti.  And for my part, I will be on a silent retreat for a few days in the wooded hills of Wisconsin.

Four wildly different options among many for Spring Break.  And yet, there is a common theme that runs through our plans:  it is the promise of leisure.  Leisure is not exactly a word Continue Reading

Catholic at UST, Catholic Residences, Social Events

Ain’t No Party Like a Catholic Party

Written by Catherine Huss ’14, Catholic Studies and Fashion Design

In the winter of 2010, my older brother harangued me into attending the Catholic Studies overnight, which was made complete with Monte Cassino. “You’ll get to meet great girls, and I’ll even round up a couple buddies to dance with you” he told me. Great, just what I need, my brother’s seminarian friends to be forced to show his little sister a good time. Reluctantly I attended, and he was right. The women on the Catholic Women’s Floor were so welcoming. They raided everyone’s closet to find me an outfit for the night, as I had come totally unprepared. The Catholic Men’s Floor made us “Brinner,” and I even found the courage to sing and dance to “Single Ladies” for the karaoke contest. To this day, people still remember me for that unexpected performance.

 Last Friday night was the “2012 Catholic Studies Monte Cassino Night.” Named after the hill in Italy where St. Benedict first established his monastery, the evening is wrought with a black jack tournament, board games, door prizes, catered food, a mini bar and my personal favorite, the karaoke contest Continue Reading

Catholic at UST

Latino Leader Spotlight: From Miami to St. Paul

Posted by Alexandra Castano ’13, Catholic Studies and History
I have been a Latino Leader for the past two and half years. This time has been transformative and eye-opening.  I came to know about the Latino Leadership program because a couple of friends of mine from Miami, FL were also Latino Leaders. They encouraged me to go through the process of applying, and so I did and miraculously, here I am.
Being a part of this program has actually been a huge blessing for me, particularly since I moved from Miami (a city saturated in Latin culture, especially awesome Latin food) to St. Paul, MN (which I wouldn’t necessarily identify by its Latin characteristics). I have also grown to Continue Reading