New Beginnings at St. John's in 2023
Where is your happy place?
For me, without a doubt, it’s St. John’s Catholic Chapel. For eleven years, first as an undergrad and now as a priest, that chapel has been my spiritual home. I could spend hours in there just sitting and contemplating its various features which have only been enhanced by our recent renovation and restoration. Each new or restored element connects us to our past, our patrons, and our faith.
As we begin a new academic year, I can’t help but think of you and all those who have also called this chapel home. I hope that from time to time you think back to your days here and I hope even more that you wonder what we are up to. So much good continues to take place that I want to be sure to share it regularly with you through newsletters like this one.
First, with respect to Newman Hall, we remodeled the Sun Room and the Newman Club areas to create more inviting and attractive spaces for socializing, studying, and dining. This year, Newman Hall is at full occupancy, with an anticipated waitlist for 2024-2025, and our hospitable and energetic move-in experience remains unlike any other.
Liturgically, Sunday Mass attendance has returned to our pre-pandemic levels, even more impressive, we have not witnessed the typical dip in attendance that usually occurs after the first few weekends. Our choirs are larger, more robust, and full of beauty. And interest in RCIA is the largest it has been in over a decade.
Koinonia Retreats, with its small but growing endowment, continues to inspire hearts and minds as they introduce students to the heart and soul of the Catholic Illini community. NFK 149 saw thirty-seven students encounter Jesus in Adoration, Confession, and community and we were thrilled to welcome home more than 100 alumni during our NFK 150 Alumni Reunion & Retreat this month - along with more than 40 first-time participants in the NFK 150 student retreat.
Our Small Group Bible Studies also continue to impress. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), since 2000, and The Evangelical Catholic, since 2018, both train students to lead small groups and grow as disciples of Jesus. This fall, not halfway through the semester, nearly 300 students have attended at least one Bible Study, and more than half of those have attended three or more.
Yes, St. John’s is my happy place. But what brings me even more delight is to see that so many students continue to find their happy place here, too.
I hope you are excited to hear what’s happening on campus and I hope you come and visit us soon. You are in my prayers!