By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published May 3, 2007
If Rudy Schlosser had his way, Georgia State University would be in for a name change.
“Georgia State Catholic University—that’s my goal,” he said with a laugh.
Schlosser is only half kidding. Since he began his role as the associate campus minister of the Georgia State University Catholic Student Association (CSA) in 2004, Schlosser has created a grassroots effort to expand the program and its attendees.
“When we first started, I had maybe 10 students on my e-mail list. Now I have over 800. It keeps growing and growing,” he said.
Schlosser first started serving the GSU Catholic community when he took an Italian class at the university. He noticed that there weren’t offerings for Catholic students on the campus, and he set out to change that. He contacted the priest, Father Thony Jean, who was assigned to Georgia State at the time, as well as serving at a parish. Father Jean encouraged Schlosser, who was then employed at Earthlink, to work on the program.
He began hanging flyers, advertising monthly Masses, and sitting out in the campus plaza with a banner advertising the Catholic Student Association—a tradition he still continues three or four times a week. As the program grew, they began to hold more Masses, and the archdiocese hired Schlosser as a full-time associate campus minister. Father Stephen Lyness, a parochial vicar at the Church of St. Benedict in Duluth, also serves part-time as the chaplain for the university, celebrating Mass four times a week in the University Center and hearing confessions.
Founded in 1913, Georgia State University currently enrolls over 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students on its downtown Atlanta campus. As a largely commuter college, campus ministry has its obstacles, Schlosser said.
“It’s a great challenge. The students come to school and then they leave. So that’s why we have Mass at lunchtime,” he said.
In an e-mail interview, Brittany Thomas, a junior French and international business major from Dacula, said that it was extremely important to her to continue her faith journey while in college.
“I always hear the same story from older people saying how they grew away from the church during a certain time in their life (which always seems to be the college years). Perhaps because for most people college is a time where they break away from home and try to find themselves,” she said. “Therefore, I strive to have a different story and not grow apart from my faith. I’m so happy that there is such a strong Catholic presence on our campus.”
Schlosser said that the GSU program is unique because there are no weekend Masses. Students go home to their own parishes for Mass. He also encourages his Catholic students to get involved in the archdiocesan young adult ministry (YAM) programs.
“A lot of (young people) unfortunately think that Catholicism ends after confirmation. I want them to be fired up about being Catholic now when they are challenged the most,” he said.
Charlotte Vargo, a junior exercise science major from Norcross, said that having daily Mass is a refreshing break from her hectic class schedule.
“It is very comforting to know there are many people at Georgia State with the same beliefs as me. It helps me with my faith journey because there are a lot of times when I need to go to Mass and talk to God, so it is very convenient,” she said.
Brian Olson, a senior history major, recently converted to Catholicism, coming into the church this past Easter at his Atlanta parish, Our Lady of Lourdes. When Olson first met Schlosser on campus, he was not a full participant in any religion, but was open-minded. Having the students, and especially Father Lyness available, helped to answer Olson’s questions about the Catholic faith.
“Before baptism and confirmation, the (CSA) allowed me to ask questions in an environment where I felt comfortable,” he said. “Now, Father Stephen hears me at confession and gives Mass. It serves as a continuous support, especially amidst the chaos that is a school day and among the diverse perspectives and points of view, be they religious, political (or) social.”
Schlosser hopes to expand the CSA even more. The university is supportive of his efforts, he said, especially when it comes to getting students involved in volunteer opportunities.
“There is a big push for service hours,” he said. “So anything we do, they’re happy about it.”
Construction is underway for new dorms, and Schlosser said he hopes to start a Bible study for the students living there.
Daily Masses draw from 10 to 25 students each day, and some of the students find the small community a perfect fit.
“I think that being such a small, unique group actually gives us strength,” said Nicole Edgworth, a junior journalism major from Kennesaw. “We realize that it is a truly special thing that each of us has come together here and now to be together and worship how we believe. It helps me to appreciate each person even more.”
In addition to his work at GSU, Schlosser also serves as the youth minister at St. Gabriel Church in Fayetteville and feels that he has found his calling.
“Battling for souls is my number one concern, and now I can do that 24/7, whether it’s teens or college students,” he said. “My goal is to inform all the students about our Catholic organization and to let them know that there is a religious group for them on campus. I want them to know it’s OK to be religious in college. Some day I want all of them to plan their classes around daily Mass.”
For more information about the Georgia State Catholic Student Association, contact Rudy Schlosser, associate campus minister, at (678) 794-3200 or email@example.com.