While, for many of us, our Catholic experience revolves around the priests and religious who tend to us, the students at St. Tom’s at Purdue University make their own defining impact. Meet the newest officers of the Purdue Catholic Students organization and read what they have to say about their experience as active members in their collegiate parish!
Sarah Huber, President of Purdue Catholic Students
My involvement with Purdue Catholic Students (PCS) and St. Tom’s began slowly during my freshman year, but it has rapidly grown as I have become integrated more and more into the wonderful community of Boiler Catholics I found here at Purdue. I’ve really come to know, love, and appreciate everything that St. Tom’s does for our students, resident parishioners, and campus as a whole, and how present God truly is in all of our ministries and outreach programs. My leadership experiences as a small group Bible study leader, a staff member for our powerful Boiler Awakening retreat, and now as President of Purdue Catholic Students (PCS) have helped me see just how vital our ministries are for meeting the needs of students and challenging them to grow deeper in their faith. One of the things I love most about our Catholic faith is how many opportunities we have to encounter Christ every day through the sacraments, God’s Holy and Living Word, our global community, and service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. PCS at St. Tom’s is no exception in providing these opportunities to Catholic students, but what I think is so powerful about the ministries here is that they are led by students, who have exams and relationships and work and fears about the future. This makes these student leaders really relatable and able to connect with and welcome in other students on campus who may be hesitant about getting involved in their faith.
For me, St. Tom’s is an oasis of peace among the craziness and busyness of college life. I can’t walk through the doors of the building without getting tackled by at least one warm and friendly hug, and I have experienced an incredible amount of personal growth in my own faith life through my involvement here. I have been awakened to God’s infinite love for me, I have strengthened my relationship with Jesus Christ and developed a true love for the Eucharist, and I have met some of my best friends who I know will keep me accountable in my faith for a lifetime! The staff here is incredibly dedicated to our Boiler Catholic community, and I am grateful every day to have such a dynamic environment in which to foster my faith life during my time in college because I know that many other universities are not so fortunately blessed. I know that St. Tom’s has given me the tools I need to live out my faith beyond Purdue, to further build the kingdom of God, and to use my gifts and talents to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Michael Ehlert, Vice President and Treasurer of Purdue Catholic Students
Simply put, I love everything about the Catholic Church, everything from triumphant liturgies to the humblest acts of kindness done in Christ’s name. The Catholic Church is living and breathing scripture. Mass is the center of our welcoming faith community. Homilies at St. Tom’s are rich in the Roman Catholic Tradition, and this is very important in helping our generation connect with Christ through the ministry of the Church. Frustrated with an empty, broken secular culture, our generation finds profound hope and peace as we turn to genuine Catholicism. With deep faith, Fr. Patrick, Fr. Cassian, and Fr. Timothy do not hesitate to boldly challenge us in their homilies to live better lives, be better witness to Christ, and understand and appreciate the teachings of the Church. We are then better equipped and inspired to be a voice of change, a light in our sometimes very dark world.
The friars at St. Tom’s make the sacraments very available with 15 Masses and 11 hours reconciliation per week plus 15 hours of weekly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. Students, residents, and visitors fill the chapel as they pray rosaries, read Scripture, or simply listen to Christ in silence. Fr. Patrick recently extended our reconciliation hours, and many times, there is still a huge line! If you prayerfully offer the sacraments, people will come. Starting only three years ago with three people, our 9pm Wednesday Night Mass now averages well over 150 people with a full choir. We need sacraments to help us advance in our faith journey, and St. Tom’s has no shortage of them. There’s a trend out there that Churches are more welcoming when they avoid hard-core Catholicism especially among young adults, but Purdue Catholic Students has experienced quite the opposite. The faith community at St. Tom’s is thriving because our priests and resident and student parishioners allow the Holy Spirit to blossom fully in the Roman Catholic Tradition.
Colleen Sheehy, Secretary of Purdue Catholic Students
Hello! My name is Colleen Sheehy and I am currently a freshman who was recently elected secretary of Purdue Catholic Students. I have not even attended St. Thomas Aquinas: the Catholic Center at Purdue for an entire year yet, and it has already left a marvelously significant and enduring impression on my life. I was raised in a Catholic family and attended various vacation Bible schools, youth retreats, and camps growing up, but had no clue what fantastic new facets of spirituality awaited me at Purdue. Actually, on my second Purdue campus visit, in April of my senior year, I can remember seeing St. Tom’s standing tall from across the grassy Memorial Mall and commenting to my mom: “Oh, well, that’s where I’ll go to mass on Sundays!” And most certainly I do attend mass at St. Tom’s… But in addition to the beautiful mass, I participate in so much more. St. Tom’s is truly the ‘crème de la crème’ in the world of college faith growing and sharing, and I am blessed beyond measure to call it my home away from home.
Perhaps my favorite component of St. Tom’s is its profusion of unique ministries. Every talent, every skill set, every passion, every enthusiasm, every need or want, can find an excellent place among the 30 or so ministries that St. Tom’s provides for its students. Getting involved here, while it may seem intimidating or nerveracking, is certainly one of the greatest decisions one can make. This community will embrace any individual with open arms unlike any other, which is a very special gift indeed. I am immensely excited to serve on this officer team! God has blessed me abundantly!