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Faith opportunities found at NKU
"NKU is a faith friendly place," said Father Eamon Kelly, L.C., he´s the assistant chaplain at Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Fr. Eamon Kelly, L.C.
Father Eamon Kelly, L.C. agrees that commuter colleges have special challenges.

[To read this article in pdf format, follow this link].

The following report is from the Messenger (3/17/06), newspaper of the Diocese of Covington, KY. It quotes extensively from Legionary Father Eamon Kelly, assistant chaplain for the Newman Center (Catholic campus ministry) at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). Regnum Christi members have helped Fr. Kelly and the Newman Center in their outreach to Catholic students on the commuter campus.

By Laura Keener, Associate Editor of the Messenger

“NKU is a faith friendly place,” said Father Eamon Kelly, L.C., in a telephone interview March 13.  Father Kelly is the assistant chaplain at Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Earlier that day he and Msgr. Gilbert Rutz, diocesan vicar general and chaplain for NKU, arranged for Bishop Roger Foys to meet with NKU president Dr. James Votruba and tour the campus.  Bishop Foys also ate lunch with students in the cafeteria and met with members of the newly formed NKU Newman Club. Father Ryan Maher, assistant to the bishop, and Dan Schomaker, seminarian for the diocese accompanied him.

Visiting “was important for me because NKU is an important part of our entire community and an important part of our Catholic community,” said Bishop Foys. “It is my understanding that 35 percent of the students attending NKU are Catholic. We certainly have an obligation to tend to their needs.”

In the summer of 2005 Bishop Foys appointed Msgr. Rutz chaplain of NKU and moved his residence to the Newman Center. At the same time he appointed Father Kelly assistant chaplain. Since then the Newman Club has resurrected some previous activi¬ties and is working to establish new ones.

Mass has once again returned to the campus. Msgr. Rutz celebrates Mass every Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. on campus. Students gather for Bible study and faith sharing afterward. On Wednesdays, the once popular Spaghetti Dinner from 5:30-7:00 p.m. has returned, with another Bible study opportunity following.

A new regular initiative is Wednesday’s “Lunch with Padre.” “Lunch with Padre” affords students, faculty and staff, the opportunity to have informal discussions with Father Kelly in the cafeteria.

“I’m addressing everybody -- faculty, staff; students -- everybody at the university, to serve the people,” said Father Kelly.  “Students can become very exhausted by our modern society. They’re working, finding time for recreation, classes, and study -- there is very little time left in their day ... when you see them in the cafeteria you can meet them where they’re at.”

One of the developments coming out of “Lunch with Padre” is NKU Right to Life. Nicole Smithson, sophomore, talked with Father Kelly at lunch about her desire to work in the pro-life ministry. She was president of the Life Club at Notre Dame Academy, Park Hills, her senior year and felt called to continue in the pro-life movement. She is now heading up the fledgling club at NKU.

“I contacted my high school and got a lot of brochures and information. We’ve had one meeting and have started writing our bylaws,” said Ms. Smithson.

Ms. Smithson said she was encouraged by the response of students. Two hundred indicated by e-mail that they were interested in participating.

Bethany Kramer, Newman Club president, is also working on a new initiative for Lent -- “A Week of Passion.” From March 19—27 the Newman Club, cooperating with the Interfaith Council, will have daily showings of Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” with discussion following each showing. (See box for show times.)

Working with other faith-based clubs on campus is another important aspect of Father Kelly’s ministry. The Newman Club and other Christian clubs together celebrated the Week of Christian Unity Jan. 18—25. And Father Kelly said he had a very good meeting with the leader of the Jewish Student Organization.
“There are many areas we can work together,” said Father Kelly.

Ms. Kramer said the biggest challenge facing the Newman Club right now is getting the word out. Since many of the students at NKU commute they may not stay on campus for long after classes.

‘There are a lot of ideas to do things, we just need to work on making it more available to students,” she said.

Father Kelly agrees that commuter colleges have special challenges, but he invites Catholic students, and their home parishes, to look at the role of the Catholic college student in a different way.

“It is important that students have a sacramental base rooted in their parish life. Our role [the parish community] is to be a resource so they can fulfill their mission among their peers,” said Father Kelly.

Father Kelly also believes that the Newman Club is becoming more well known. The first campus Mass this school year, celebrating All Saints Day, Nov. 1, attracted about 50 people. On Ash Wednesday over 170 people received ashes. “So just in numbers the word is getting out,” he said.

For Ms. Kramer the best part about being a member of the Newman Club is being able to share one‘s faith among “the diversity of ideas that a college can bring and [among] people your age, going through the exact same things you are, on the same campus you are. There are more ways to relate to each other.

Ms. Kramer said she was glad to meet Bishop Foys at lunch and during the meeting with students. “It was awesome that he was able to come and to connect with college students. His presence, just being here, was great. Hopefully there will be more opportunities for him to visit.”

Bishop Foys was equally appreciative.
“I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the students who belong to the Newman Club and are leading the Newman Club. They seem very excited about what they are doing and about their faith,” said Bishop Foys.

On April 7, 2006  "The Messenger" published another article about the pastoral work at NKU. You can read it here.



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