Published June 7, 2007
“On the Deck,” a young adult program that ministers to Catholic college students, kicked off its fourth annual summer session in Marietta May 31. The ministry serves college students ages 18-22, offering them a chance to continue their spiritual development while home for the summer and preparing them to go back into the college atmosphere.
The group meets Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. for 10 consecutive weeks during the summer in Marietta. Due to its increasing popularity, “On the Deck” is also now held on the south side of Atlanta on Tuesdays, starting June 5, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, a Franciscan-staffed parish.
In addition, “On the Deck” holds a retreat at the end of the summer to wrap up the program and to encourage students to go back to school with a renewed and strengthened spiritual life. This summer’s retreat will be held Aug. 10-12 at Covecrest Camp in Tiger.
The theme for OTD this summer is “Empty,” and will focus on the different ways that personal emptiness allows space for the fullness of God. Prepared topics range from dating relationships to finances and tithing.
“On the Deck,” which was established in 2004, boasts a strong and experienced leadership team. Among the leaders are Lisa Epperson, a graduate of Furman University, and Mike Judge, an Auburn University graduate. Epperson, who previously worked as a youth minister at St. Ann Church in Marietta, now serves as the Eastern regional director for Life Teen. Judge, who hosts the Marietta “On the Deck” meetings at his home, has worked with Spirit & Truth, Steubenville Atlanta and “Revive!,” the Atlanta Eucharistic Congress Young Adult Track.
Also part of the leadership team are Adam Hunt and Father Linus DeSantis, OFM Conv. Hunt graduated from Berry College in 2001 and has been very active in Atlanta’s Young Adult Ministry with programs such as Spirit & Truth and St. Joseph’s Young Adults.
He is also the chef, grilling 10 different meals for “On the Deck” in Marietta from a potato bar to breakfast on the grill. Meals are eaten family-style.
Father Linus, campus minister at Kennesaw State University and Berry College, has been part of the leadership team since its beginnings. However, he recently received a new assignment from his religious community and will be leaving Atlanta this summer.
On the south side the team includes Danielle McKenna, an OTD programming intern in her senior year studying theology at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Rich Dittus, a senior at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., majoring in sacred music who has been an OTD music intern for three years, and Rudy Schlosser, associate Catholic campus minister at Georgia State University.
Schlosser said the south side OTD will feature pizzas, spaghetti and other fare, also served family style.
“On The Deck” gives young Catholic students just what they are looking for—a casual encounter with other young adults in the area, while still offering a chance to pray and visit together, as well as meet new people and enjoy free food.
“The need for college students to come together as a faithful, Christian community is enormous,” said Epperson. “Many have come out of strong youth ministry programs and don’t know where they fit in within the church now. Myself, Mike Judge and Adam Hunt all feel the desire to provide college-age students with a place to foster community, faith and discipleship.”
For more information about “On the Deck” visit www.otdatlanta.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Locations are the home of Mike Judge, 2545 Waterstone Way, Marietta 30062 and the parish hall at St. Philip Benizi Church, 591 Flint River Road, Jonesboro 30238.