By ALLISON MAWN, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 30, 2022
As the school year begins, college campus ministries around the country are kicking off their programs. The Catholic Center at UGA, in the heart of Athens, is no different.
The Catholic Student Association (CSA) hosted Welcome Week Aug. 22-26 to celebrate the return of students and launch various ministries for the year.
Each night found a different ministry sponsoring an event to bring students together for community and deepening of faith.
To begin the festivities, the Diversity and Inclusion Ministry, which seeks to promote the universality of the church and make all feel welcomed, hosted a potluck Monday, where students were invited to bring their favorite dish to share. The final spread included chicken adobo, chana masala, brown chicken stew and bánh mì.
Tuesday saw the return of the beloved praise and worship ministry, Seeking Water. The theme of the night was Eucharistia, emphasizing the overwhelming love and life available to us through the Eucharist. Attendees got to spend time in Jesus’s presence in adoration, being led by the ministry’s worship band.
On Wednesday night, all the new freshmen were invited to don their best rodeo attire and attend the Ignite kickoff. Ignite is a ministry geared towards freshmen, inviting them to deepen their faith by attending weekly talks and small group discussions. For Welcome Week, however, it was all fun with lawn games and dancing.
Nathan Coyle, a freshman who attended several Welcome Week events, said what’s most exciting about Ignite is “the community that is here, the family that is found.”
Thursday brought the initiation of a new ministry called Ablaze, which is a combination of past men’s and women’s ministries and a ministry known as Arch, which had faith-based talks and group discussion akin to Ignite, but was open to all students. The Ablaze ministry rang in the year with the Catholic Center’s new priest, Father Michael Bremer, playing Stump the Priest.
Father Bremer fielded questions from students on all types of subjects from biblical evidence of purgatory to what happens if we are sorry for a sin, but are enjoying the consequences. Father Bremer, who is a UGA alumnus, showed off his best bark and later received a pie to the face. Other activities from Ablaze’s first outing included human-knot untying and a game where participants try to pop balloons tied around each other’s ankles.
Friday ended the week with the Welcome Week Tailgate to celebrate the upcoming football season and the university’s reigning national championship football team. The evening brought food, games and community. Father Brian McNavish, the Catholic Center’s director, did not escape the week unscathed. He also received pies to the face from attendees who won 10 tickets for pie throwing by playing games at the event.
Welcome Week events put the CSA board to the test, including co-presidents Cecilia Nilsson and Stephen Thompson.
“I keep noticing every year that just more and more people keep coming,” said Thompson. “Compared to my freshman year, it just feels like there are more freshmen every single year and they bring energy, and the existing community just gets invigorated by that.”
Thompson also noted that the creation of the new ministry Ablaze reflects a CSA board goal to put more focus into planning each event, allowing students to get the most out of it.
If Welcome Week was any indication of how this year will go for the Catholic Center, it is shaping up to be a successful year.