By Elizabeth Starr
In early 2017, a group of Catholic students at the University of Iowa set out to create an organization that would spread a message of charity, hope and faith. They started a new Catholic service fraternity, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
Tau Omega, as a co-ed fraternity, is open to all students seeking to devote time to service and faith. It was established by current President Justin Lenczycki and Vice President Steven Landa.
“The roots of Tau Omega are unique since we are not part of a national organization,” Landa said. “This can be a challenge since we have no national governing board to help us or support us with extra funding. The benefit is that we really get the opportunity to create something unique. The next few years will be very big for the fraternity. We plan to become registered as a national fraternity and expand to other campuses.”
When asked why they started Tau Omega, Lenczycki said, “We really saw a need in the Iowa City community to show and live out Catholicism among college students and to create a better image for Greek life in general.”
Landa added, “There are a lot of student organizations and fraternities on campus. We wanted to add one that not only helped give back to the community but also was grounded in Catholic moral teaching. Our hope is that when you leave this fraternity you’ve accomplished at least these three things: Grown in your faith, spread the light of Christ to those you served, and discovered a family within Tau Omega and the Catholic Church.”
The founding members felt a passion for service along with a desire to provide students a place to connect with their faith and to serve the community, a place entirely run by students. The fraternity’s philanthropy is Mary’s Meals, but it also serves several local organizations, such as Johnson County Right to Life, Catholic Worker House and collaborates with the Newman Catholic Student Center at the university.
“We had experience already in working with those organizations, or knew them, so it was easy to work with them because we support what they do,” Lenczycki said. Landa added, “So we decided to include them in the initial organizations we would help. Moving forward we are hoping to continue to add more organizations in the Iowa City area.”
Currently, 21 students are a part of this organization which hopefully will grow in the coming academic year and as the fraternity expands to other campuses. Each member must accomplish at least 20 hours of service per semester and participate in faith formation for 10 hours, which emphasize education and growth in faith. These activities are the main focus of Tau Omega meetings, but the fraternity also enjoys creating fun events for members such as movie nights and socials. Chapters are held weekly on Wednesday nights and executive board meetings on Sunday nights. During these meetings, members discuss new opportunities for service in the community, participate in faith formation and social events and explore the means for growth.
Becoming a part of Tau Omega was an integral part of my college experience. In high school, I was required to do service hours each semester as part of the curriculum. However, after entering college, I felt that my giving back had been lacking and I was not sure where I could fill this need. I knew from the start that Tau Omega was a special organization. It has allowed me to meet wonderful people, do what I love, serve the community and be a part of something greater than myself.
To get involved, help support, or learn more about Tau Omega, send an email to tauomega.members@ gmail.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @tauomegaui.
(Elizabeth Starr, 19, is a freshman at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communications. Her home parish is Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf.)