ATHENS, Ga. — Just over two months into the new academic year, the friars of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia report that the semester has brought forth challenges and rewards. One of the most exciting of these rewards is the near completion of renovations to its chapel.
In March 2010, the center launched its capital improvement fundraiser. This half-million dollar campaign has been “an overwhelming success,” according to staff member Linda DiPietro. Much of the progress can be viewed in photographs on the center’s website.
Fred Dilger, OFM, who worked as an interior designer before joining the Franciscans in 2004, played an integral role in the redesign. Fred has also used his talents to design the Provincial Office and St. Francis Friary in New York and the worship space at St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J.
“It is hard to estimate the amount of good advice and goodwill that he brought to our faith community,” DiPietro said. “His ministry has helped to enrich our sacred space, and we are most grateful to him.”
With only minor adjustments yet to be completed, the chapel will be rededicated Dec. 11 at a Mass presided by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM.
Welcoming New Students
On Aug. 28, director Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, and David Hyman, OFM, welcomed students to the chapel for the first Sunday night Mass of the school year. Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory was principal celebrant at the well-attended service.
Following the Mass, the archbishop continued his visit with the students as they enjoyed dinner in the center hall. The Catholic Center serves an average 300 students on any given Sunday evening. “Beyond the benefits of consuming nutritious food, the students linger to interact with one another and to build relationships and support systems,” DiPietro said.
More students than ever are participating in religious services, fellowship events and outreach activities, largely thanks to the work of David Briones, coordinator of collegiate activities, during summer orientation sessions. “During those sessions,” DiPietro said, “he introduced some 400 new Catholic students to the center.”
An added bonus has been the positive feedback from parents and guardians who learned that their college students have a safe, supportive environment while they are away from home, DiPietro noted.
The more than 400 students who attend Mass at UGA have been preparing for Nov. 27, when the new translation of the Roman Missal takes effect. “Students and members have been using pew cards to begin the process of learning the revisions to the Mass,” DiPietro said.
In addition to retreats during Advent and Lent and other times of the year to foster the spirituality of the center’s communal faith, a variety of opportunities for students to grow in their faith is offered.
Students can join a small group; attend Thursday Night Theology, led weekly by Thomas, which explores the basic tenets and foundations of Catholicism and Spirituality; participate in Footsteps, a running group that fosters improving fitness through faith; join JustFaith; study and make their confirmation through RCIA; or become a Secular Franciscan.
Justice and Peace Efforts
The center also offers efforts focused on justice, peace and integrity of creation. Among them was a presentation in October by Michael Calabria, OFM, a specialist in Muslim/Christian relations. DiPietro said Michael, a professor at St. Bonaventure University, “made a compelling and compassionate argument for what we as Catholics can do to help promote the reconciliation between our two faiths.”
Other efforts include the Georgia Conflict Center — temporarily housed in and financially supported by the Catholic Center — which fosters reconciliation within the community, and Oasis Catolica, coordinated by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, which is bolstered by volunteer tutors from the center and financial assistance for its food bank purchases.
In the spring, two alternative spring break groups will be serving with the Romero Center in Camden, N.J., and at Holy Redeemer Ministry Corps, managed by the Sisters of Holy Redeemer, in Philadelphia. The Catholic Center is working on programs at Holy Name Province ministries for the following spring.
The rear photo shows many HNP friars who serve in the South. Tom and David are third and fifth from left, respectively.
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.