By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT —Getting the word out and personally inviting students living in the dorms to campus ministry programs is paying off at St. Ambrose University. This year, the peer campus ministry program began in all 10 residence halls on campus.
Campus Minister Tammy Norcross-Reitzler said the idea came about last year when the campus ministry staff was trying to figure out how to reach students living on campus. Staffers do not have access to the dorms and can only do so much during their work hours.
The vision, Norcross-Reitzler said, was to have one campus ministry student in each residence hall. Applications were circulated and a number of students applied to be peer campus ministers. Eleven students were selected following interviews and receive a stipend. Two students were chosen for Tiedemann Hall, which hosts juniors, because of a split decision. Students Colleen Persaud and Madison Schramer were given the option to choose between themselves. “We both wanted it, so we decided to split it,” Schramer said.
Persaud said her goal as a peer minister is to be an example for the residents. “I want to show them that campus ministry is not lame. It has lots of programs to be involved in.” She said the university sends emails to its students informing them of a variety of activities. As a peer campus minister, she is able to go throughout the dorms to talk to and meet with students and encourage them to get involved in activities.
Sophomore Katie Galuska lives in the freshman dorm Bechtel Hall. She said many students didn’t want to go alone to events for the first time or two, so she was glad to accompany them. “This is a very accepting campus,” Galuska said. The three peer campus ministers interviewed for this story say campus ministry offers a variety of different options, with something for everyone. “We’re not just (about going to) Mass,” Schramer said.
Norcross-Reitzler said the peer ministers and campus ministers meet every other week to brainstorm, share, and grow together. The peer ministers say they believe the new ministry is working well, especially with the freshmen. “They are so involved,” Galuska said. “You can see the fruits of the peer ministers’ work with the freshmen class,” Norcross-Reitzler said. All class levels have seen an increase in students at least checking out what campus ministry has to offer.
One project peer ministers undertook was signing and passing out prayer cards in each dorm. The card features a prayer that can be said before any kind of a test. “I find it comforting to say before an exam,” Schramer said. The townhouses on campus hosted a cookout to get those residents together. “It’s about awareness,” Norcross-Reitzler said.
Next semester the peer mentor group hopes to offer a hot chocolate event in some of the residences to gather students together to learn about campus ministry. A goal for the future is offering faith-sharing groups for each dorm.