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Making Christ Visible in Southern Illinois • Diocese of Belleville

Donations can be made on line to The Catholic Service & Ministry Appeal by clicking here.

Or by check by sending a gift to
Diocese of Belleville
222 South Third St.
Belleville, IL 62220

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CSMA Offers Hope, Help in Diocese of Belleville, Ill.

Faith Flows from the Newman Catholic Student Center

Story and photos by LIZ QUIRIN
Messenger editor

The hub, the core, the heartbeat of a campus community: Some words just can’t capture fully what students describe as the Newman Catholic Student Center at Southerc newman 2n Illinois University in Carbondale.

Newman creates and supports a Catholic community on campus, and it provides, for some, a lifeline to young adults who are away from home and searching for a place and people to anchor them during what can be a tumultuous time in a young person’s life.

However, Newman and its staff don’t sit inside a building just on the edge of the campus waiting for students to show up. The staff provides liturgy opportunities, service projects, retreats, discussion and prayer groups and ways for students to delve deeper into their faith life, strengthening and expanding it through the college experience.

Students can drop in, participate in group discussions, find a quiet corner to study, stop by and talk to Father Nicholas Junker, sacramental minister at Newman, meet with director, Tim Taylor, or step into the chapel for quiet prayer.

While many students belong to or drop in at the Newman Center, a small group of 10 students form the core of the Student Ministry Team that includes three basic pillars of ministry: spirituality, outreach and faith formation and social justice.

Jen Kramper, a campus ministry intern and a student from 2008-2012, said the core group “comes up with a vision for the future with students establishing goals.”

Some Newman Center students have started small groups in their dorms, especially on West Campus where they pray the rosary, conduct Bible study and now have five four undergraduate and one graduate small groups that meet.

Men can meet at the Newman Center on Tuesdays at 6 a.m. to pray the rosary. Once a month everyone is invited to participate in the morning rosary.

The women gather for Women’s Wednesdays at 7 p.m. to share “a sweet treat” and discuss an article.

Thursdays many students gather for “Food for Thought” to share a meal and conversation.

Taylor, Newman director for almost seven years, said:  “One of the big challenges is that young people today really need to believe in what they are doing; they are not the type to be content going through the motions. They are looking for things to be excited about and passionate about.”

One student put Taylor’s thoughts into words. “We’re passionate about our faith and want to show others and encourage them,” Andy Foy of Elkhart, Ind., said.

Students attended Catholic training camp to learn about establishing small groups for the Bible study in the dorms.

Junior Christian Peterson from Antioch, Ill., said he began going to the Newman Center for Mass, and his roommate, Craig Morris a sophomore from Bloomington, Ill.,  said he went to Newman for the same reason. And, they always offered students food and fellowship after Mass.

“I wanted to be able to come and be with people who believe the same way I do,” Peterson said.

Both young men helped “restart” the Knights of Columbus council the Brothers of Southern Council in Carbondale that now has about 60 members.

Involved in social justice and faith formation, Peterson said Newman Center students gathered and made valentine cards for nursing home residents. After they delivered the cards, they stayed to visit and play Bingo.

Several of the students said their faith has been strengthened through the Newman Center, and a few said their parents’ faith has grown through conversations with their children.

“I was just trying to learn more about my faith,” Javier Hernandez of Elgin, Ill., said. “I didn’t have a strong connection to my faith, and I came to Mass here.”

He stayed for the food and fellowship as do others and now participates on the core team.

Claire Dawson of Versailles, Ky., said, “I used to have a really strong faith community at home, so Newman was a perfect fit for me.”

The spiritual life team is planning to host Stations of the Cross around the campus lake during Holy Week. They said it will include a candlelight procession.

Taylour Arkfeld, a junior from Gaylord, Mich., has been involved in many activities during her time at SIU. “While at Newman, I have been involved with retreats, adoration, Women’s Wednesdays and the Student Ministry Team,” she said.

These activities have helped Arkfeld grow in her faith, and Newman has become her “home away from home. As a freshman, I came here knowing no one. Newman enabled me not only to go to Mass but also to make close friends. Without Newman I would not have had the same appreciation for my faith, and my college experience would not be the same.”

Kailey Zalucha, a sophomore from Heyworth, Ill.,  wonders “What hasn’t Newman done for me that impacted my life? I can’t pinpoint an event, but just a combination of everything Newman has to offer has changed my life for the better.”

Zalucha said she is  “a small group leader for a group of undergraduate students on West Campus and I have absolutely loved being a part of that because not only am I helping others grow in their faith, but I am also helping myself grow closer to God and helping to evangelize SIU.

“Without Newman and the people here I would not be where I am today in my faith at all. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be on a student ministry team, leading a small group and pretty much spending all of my free time in the Church, I wouldn’t have believed it, but thankfully that’s where I am today.

“A Newman Center is needed on a college campus because as much as students may say they don’t need Church and God in their lives, they do. Most students deal with the stress of school, being away from home for the first time, trying to find themselves, and without the rock of the Church and God, many can become lost,” Zalucha said.

Maggie McGowan a junior from Macomb, Ill., has been involved at Newman since her freshman year, “participating in Student Ministry Team, singing in the student choir, leading a small group,” and living in student housing provided by the Newman Center, called the Gray House.

“Newman has become my second home no matter how busy I get in my academic life (which can get pretty crazy, let me tell you), I always make sure to find time for my Newman family. In the three short years that I have been at Newman, I have grown exponentially in my faith and in my love for Christ and the Church.

“When I first came to college, I was unsure about Church teachings and a bit skeptical of religion, but the Newman Center opened my eyes to the wonders that God can work through a truly welcoming community. Seeing so many people who are so in love with the Lord is nothing short of inspiring. Now, by the grace of God, I hope to go into ministry, something I never would have dreamed possible when I was a freshman.

“I thank God every day that the Newman Center gives me the opportunity to pursue the life that He calls me to live. So many wonderful people make Newman what it is,” McGowan said.

Taylor will begin a lecture series on Theology of the Body Feb. 22 (Romantic Love and Lust) and continuing March 21 (Marriage and Communion), April 4th (The Gift of Celibacy), and April 18th (Sexuality, Meaning and Purpose).

The Newman Catholic Student Center received $76,800 from the 2015 diocesan Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal. Please support the 2016 appeal and give what you can.

Combat Veteran Finds Peace, Support at Newman

When Ben Cascarano, 28, transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, he didn’t know what to expect, but he certainly didn’t know he would grow in his faith, embrace a community that he hadn’t realized he needed and forge lifelong friendships, even after he graduated and returned home to Lisle, Ill.

c benBut that’s what happened when he began attending Mass at the Newman Catholic Student Center, and little by little, he expanded his participation for the next almost three years.

Maybe Cascarano isn’t a southern Illinois man, but his relationship with people at Newman gave him a new lease on faith while he was there which continues as he finds his niche at home once more.

In thinking about contributing to an appeal that supports the Newman Center with people from many places outside the Diocese of Belleville, he said: A community becomes a kind of parent, and the people of Carbondale who support students in many ways at the Newman Center can help “raise them,” in a way, and make a lasting impact on their lives, wherever they go.

Before he graduated, Cascarano wrote this about his experience of Newman: “I was a confused combat veteran that was struggling with a lot of problems pertaining to PTSD and was still struggling to adjust to life as a civilian after my short stint in the Army. I attended Mass at the Newman Center regularly, but otherwise I lived like more or less of a recluse; I didn’t bother talking to many parishioners all I wanted to do was go to Mass and then go home to mind my own business.

“Early in 2014, following a particularly bad bout of depression, I felt compelled to break out of my solitary shell and attempt to seek some sort of companionship.

“Gradually, I became much closer to the staff, who were seemingly always there and more than willing to help a student with virtually anything needed.

“I also began to accumulate friends among the student population who attended events and hung out together outside of the Newman Center. Before I knew it, I was volunteering my time and efforts for Newman events with my new-found friends.

“The Newman Center became the center of my life and bound me closer not only to great people but also to Christ as well.

“It anchored me when I was adrift in a sea of confusion and sorrow and provided me with a chance to grow (both intellectually and spiritually).

“It essentially helped me heal old wounds that stayed with me for years after my time in Afghanistan, and even laid to rest some of my guilt about the things I’d done over there” (because he saw more combat than he thought he would).

“Because of the Newman Center, my faith has grown exponentially and helped me to incorporate Catholicism as a way of life rather than just a thing to do for an hour on Sundays.

“Wherever I go from here on out, I will always remember the role that this place had in shaping me as an individual; indeed, I owe my very life to this church and its staff,” he said.

Now, Cascarano is looking for a job, and looking forward to what God has in store for him.

“I just want to be happy and keep my faith strong.”

The Newman Catholic Student Center received $76,800 from the 2015 diocesan Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal. Please support the 2016 appeal, and give what you can.

CUP Reaches Out to Those in Need

When catastrophic events interrupt people’s lives that were just making it, everything changes. A chasm opens, and stretching a budget from week to week and month to month becomes impossible.

c cupSome of the people who have lived through one catastrophe or another know they can turn to Catholic Urban Programs CUP in the Diocese of Belleville for help.

   While CUP, one of two diocesan outreach agencies, primarily services Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair Counties, they also provide assistance in other areas of southern Illinois that are not served by Daystar Community Program, the other diocesan outreach agency which serves counties in the southernmost part of the state.

CUP staffers, like Venessa Marion, speak daily with people who have come to a place in their lives where they see nothing but trouble and need someone to listen to their stories and help them find hope.

Marion talked to a woman from Randolph County who had been referred to CUP when things went terribly wrong for her and her family.

They were “making it” when her husband, the primary breadwinner for his wife and six children, suffered a complicated break in his leg. He couldn’t work, and the family needed help to make it through this period in their lives.

The family was receiving food stamps, but “they got behind on their utilities,” Marion said, adding that CUP has adopted a policy of asking clients to pay 20 percent of bills to increase accountability for the funds they receive.

The family needed money to make a good-faith payment to the utility company, and then a federally funded agency would help with the rest that was owed.

“We gave them $75.00,” Marion said, “and they were so grateful.”

While it doesn’t seem like a great deal of money, without it they wouldn’t qualify for the other program.

Marion remembers another woman many years ago was helped with home repairs and utility bills.

Later, she recovered, and now “she comes in periodically and drops off money,” maybe not a lot but it’s what she can afford, Marion said.

Another man who also wanted to make a donation to CUP after he was helped, brought in $10-$20 a month, including the day he died.

“When people get back on their feet, they want to help the next person,” she said, “and the ‘thank yous’ and the appreciation makes this job worthwhile. We meet people at times when they may not be so lovely because they’re in desperate situations, but we have to meet them where they are.”

Executive director of CUP, Gerry Hasenstab, said the agency is trying to stretch its dollars further every month because Illinois has no budget.

The state owes Holy Angels Shelter and CUP thousands of dollars for various programs, but Hasenstab doesn’t know if a budget is ever approved whether the funds will be reinstated or reduced.

“We’re living on reserves at the Shelter,” he said.

Now, with budget constraints and other programs reducing assistance or closing down entirely, CUP is trying to meet more needs than ever before.

CUP works with other agencies, including the FBI that has called for help with crime victims.

Hasenstab said CUP also looks to the future when the agency might be able to “restart a volunteer program we once had for seniors. We were making home visits and checking in on folks.”

Yet funding is always a challenge, Hasenstab said.

Not dwelling on the negative, Hasenstab said, “while joy is sometimes hard to find, just knowing what we do, through all our departments and programs, we really do change lives.”

And families are not assisted in isolation. Because of the various programs within CUP, “we can help families in a number of ways: Children are enrolled in Griffin Center after-school and summer programs and emergency shelter is provided at Holy Angels. The Family Law Office might help in another way; if they need food, they come here,” he said, “and we can stabilize them so they can move forward.”

“How can a child study with no lights or no heat? he asked. “If we can stabilize their lives we’re not just putting a Band-Aid on it.”

CUP’s vision statement describes the agency in southern Illinois “where hope prevails, justice reigns and people are transformed.”

Catholic Urban Programs received $205,800 from the 2015 Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal. Please support the 2016 appeal, and give what you can.