UMD Campus Ministry ready to reach out to incoming freshmen this summer

By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor

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NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — Young men and women leaving the relatively secure environment of high school and setting off on a yet unknown college experience will encounter several major changes in their lives. On Catholic campuses, one can easily find assistance, guidance and comfort. On a secular campus young Catholic students are bombarded with sights and sounds from every direction, and can easily miss the Catholic element that is there for them on campus. 

Father David C. Frederici, diocesan director of Campus Ministry and a chaplain at UMass Dartmouth told The Anchor, “Protestant and Catholic studies have shown that 94 percent of high school seniors active in parishes prior to college become inactive in the first year of college.”

It’s this staggering statistic and the desire to help young women and men entering college experience an easier transition that led Father Frederici and Deacon Frank Lucca, also a chaplain at UMD, to establish a new program, Embark, to assist this September’s crop of freshman at the North Dartmouth campus.

As the name suggests, Embark is an effort to gather students and help them on a journey — a journey that is daunting, initially mysterious, yet challenging and exciting. But the men know the journey needs Christ at the helm, and the Embark mission is to let students know that and to make them aware there are others on campus who have been in their shoes and have maintained a relationship with the Lord.

“While many things have changed in the last 20 years,” said Father Frederici, “college students remain pretty much the same. In the first few weeks of college, a student will get a good feel of whether or not it is for them. One of the greatest assets in helping with this major life transition is the presence of peers in their lives. Students who have gone through what they are going through and are willing to lend an ear, a hand, a shoulder. We have 12  young men and women, trained peer minsters, who will assist Frank and I this summer and fall. These fellow classmates can give them the knowledge and experience they won’t necessarily get at freshman orientation.”

The Embark program is a four-step procedure that is already underway. Step one is to reach out to high school campus ministers and administration to let them know the UMD Campus Ministry exists and the many things it has to offer UMD students. “We present them with a brochure and information and get a feel from them who from their school is heading to UMD,” Lucca told The Anchor. “We’ve contacted the five Catholic high schools in the diocese and we’ve reached out to the Worcester Diocese and the Boston Archdiocese as well, and we plan on contacting the Providence, R.I. Diocese.”

From the student information gathered during the step-one process, the second step can begin.

During the summer months Father Frederici and Deacon Lucca make regional visits to each of the deaneries to meet with incoming freshman. “We hope to be able to bring some peer ministers along as well,” said Lucca.

“These evening gatherings are an opportunity for incoming freshman to meet the campus ministry team and other students who will be attending UMass Dartmouth in the fall,” explained Father Frederici. “We invite incoming freshman to join us for pizza, tips on how to survive their freshman year and to meet fellow UMD students.”

All of this preparation work will lead up to Novus 2014.

Novus was just accepted by the UMD administration, and we’re very grateful for their cooperation,” said Lucca. “The Novus aspect will allow incoming freshman who experienced the Embark session and made a commitment to take part in the Freshman 5 program early in the first semester to move into the dorms on Friday and not Sunday. This is important, because it can be a madhouse when all the freshman move into the dorms on the same day. Moving in early will allow them to become acclimated to campus life a little bit more easily.”

The peer ministers will move onto campus on Thursday. There will be a dinner and Mass for the students and their parents on Friday. “From Friday to Saturday evening, the campus ministry and peer ministers will inform the students about the campus, what it has to offer and all the things the campus ministry has to offer,” said Father Frederici. “In the past, I’ve had students come up to me well into the year and say, ‘I just found out there’s a Mass on campus every Sunday.’ By meeting with the freshman, we can let them know there’s Mass and much more for them on campus.”

As part of the agreement with UMD, after the Novus retreat experience, the freshmen who took part will then help the rest of the incoming freshmen move in on Sunday. “That’s another way for the students to get to know each other and make the transition easier,” added Father Frederici.

All of the students will experience freshmen orientation on the first Monday and Tuesday of the semester, and the campus ministry will be present there as well.

The final step of the Embark program is the Freshman 5 program. “This is a five-week faith sharing program for the freshmen,” said Father Frederici. “The students are divided into small groups of five individuals, and they will meet once a week with peer ministers for about a half hour for a spiritual connection,” said Lucca. “It’s like a safe haven for them.”

The sessions begin about a week after classes begin. “After the five weeks are up, the groups can continue to meet if the students choose to do so. Our hope is that the freshmen will find these meetings valuable,” said Father Frederici.

The goal of the Embark program is to make the freshmen feel welcome and comfortable, and then the hope is that they will invite some of their friends and the Catholic presence on campus will continue to grow and assist everyone.

“All are welcome here,” said Father Frederici, “regardless of personal history, background, race, age or orientation. All are welcomed, accepted, loved and respected at the UMD Campus Ministry.”

Besides the proactive approach the campus ministry is taking this summer with the incoming freshmen, there are a plethora of fun activities and spiritual aids for all UMD students.

The Charis Retreat program, which had a very successful launching last semester at UMass Dartmouth will be offered again this year. The Seekers’ Retreat will be offered in the fall, and the “Jesus — Who Do You Say That I Am?” Retreat will be offered in the spring. Both are three-day retreat experiences. In addition to these campus ministry offers one-day retreats twice annually, and a Bible Students’ Retreat.

There are also Bible sharing groups; reVerb, a Catholic young adult ministry for college students who want to experience Christ and the Church through adoration and fellowship; Catholic 101, designed for students who want to enrich their understanding of the fullness and beauty of the Catholic faith, held via a virtual online webinar system; Jeremiah’s Journey, a monthly spiritual direction along with three-four afternoon sessions offered throughout the semester; a Peer Ministry Leadership Institute, a five-session training program (held in the spring and early fall) designed to prepare student leaders to work with their peers; Corsairs Community Outreach, that allows students to get involved with the community in ways such as working with a soup kitchen, My Brother’s Keeper; and campus can and clothing drives.

Other activities include Theology on Tap, the Relay for Life, Alternative Spring Break, and the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Also available from the campus ministry is the Newman House, a near-campus center available for student use from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The house features a chapel, office space, high speed Internet, cable TV, a full kitchen, dining room, living room, and patio.

“We’re here to provide students at UMass Dartmouth the opportunity to be supported, educated and to grow in the Catholic faith,” said Father Frederici. “We aim to live out our call to be true disciples of Christ in our everyday lives.”

For more information about the UMass Dartmouth Campus Ministry and all it has to offer, visit umassdcatholics.com.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts