St. Ambrose University adapts to remote ministry

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Lauren Bollweg, left, and Sarah Adams provide music ministry during a live streamed Mass at Christ the King Chapel in Davenport earlier this month.

By Lindsay Steele

The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Just as classes at St. Ambrose University have moved to distance delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, so has campus ministry.

“Our goal is for the students to know they are not alone,” said Tammy Norcross-Reitzler, the university’s director of faith formation. “We are still here caring for them and praying for them,” she said of the campus ministry team comprised of herself, Chaplain Father Thom Hennen and Lauren Bollweg, director of music and liturgy.

Norcross-Reitzler said the campus ministry team focuses on helping students feel connected to God, staff and each other during this challenging time. Many students are struggling with an increased workload and distractions from other family members at home, she said. Students also are experiencing a sense of loss, missing out on activities, time with friends, milestones and other things that are “part of the college experience… they are really grieving those things that ended so abruptly for them. There really wasn’t a chance to say goodbye, no closure to the end of the semester.”

Students have done a good job of reaching out to each other, she said. Fortunately, many of the major fellowship-building activities of this semester occurred before the university closed to students, including two retreats and a service trip. “Relationships were started and that makes me feel good. The students are continuing to find support in those relationships.” Peer campus ministers are reaching out to their student groups and offering them opportunities for remote interaction.

Students continue to participate in “Mass & More,” eucharistic adoration, praying the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Stations of the Cross through live-streams and video, via Facebook and Instagram. To give students a “glimpse” of the campus, campus ministers pray the rosary in a different spot each week. “(Last) week we went to the grotto, which is a favorite place for students,” Norcross-Reitzler said.

Campus ministers have added events to help students and community members cope with this challenging time. Father Hennen offers a “Radio Mass” on Sundays at noon on the campus radio station KALA 88.5 FM, and campus ministers take prayer requests from students through an online form. Students who wrote reflections on Stations of the Cross have uploaded recordings of themselves reading their reflections from home.

Father Hennen said remote delivery of these services and events is not ideal but necessary. In some cases, participation in Mass and prayer services has increased. “Many students are longing for a sense of community and communion, even if it is digital,” he said. He also misses in-person interaction with his students and the opportunity to offer them the Eucharist.

While these activities don’t “replace what we would normally be doing,” Father Hennen said the campus ministry team has learned new ways to reach out. After the pandemic is over, he believes video delivery of homilies and select ministry events could be helpful for students who are curious about the faith but not comfortable participating in person. Some of the new ways of ministering to students “we will have to keep up with and carry forward.”

 


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5 thoughts on “St. Ambrose University adapts to remote ministry

  1. Tammy, great write up, keep up the good job for your students. I watch a daily mass and the rosary. During lent I did the daily station. I am glad that we can do this at this time. Uncle Merlin

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