University of Georgia Friar Welcomes New Semester

Thomas Vigliotta, OFM Features

“If we can fill the air at the Catholic Center with the Spirit of God, then we will have a very demanding and blessed year,” said Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, director of the Catholic Center at University of Georgia. Below, Thomas offers a report on the plans and challenges for the year ahead.

ATHENS, Ga. — The Catholic Center at UGA is about to begin its 2009 to 2010 school year. Before long, the campus will be buzzing with the arrival of new and returning students. With more than 33,000 students on campus, one cannot help but feel the presence of their energy. Streets, restaurants and stores all take on new life.

The mission of the Catholic Center is to take all of that energy and steer it through the prism of our Catholic faith in the spirit of St. Francis. In a world where computers, video games and TV seem to fill every minute, we hope to make our liturgies avenues into sacred space. 

Jean Vanier was once heard telling a young person to get in touch with her deepest desires. For, he explained, it is through our deepest desires that God calls us. This year, we will again hope to help students hear the call of God through good liturgies and meaningful retreats, both on campus and away.

Once the call is heard, students will need a place to discuss their faith and experience of God. Bible studies, “Thursday Night Theology,” “Just Faith 6” and Tuesday night dialogue Mass are just some places where we hope dialogue will take place. 

Like the early Apostles, I like to think that the Spirit will send out our young people to places in our world that need hope and healing. Oasis Catolica is a mobile home camp directed by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart. Here, the sisters, with many college students, serve poor migrant families. This is Athen’s third world and it has made deep impressions on our first-world students.

There are many other opportunities for our students to serve. We have already registered our students to attend Glenmary Farms in Appalachia for spring break 2010. New this year is an opportunity for our faith community to do some hands-on work with conflict resolution. Dave Hyman’s friend Liz Loescher offered a wonderful workshop that helped attendees to see conflict not just in our world but in ourselves. We hope to learn more of her techniques and methods for conflict resolution and bring it to nearby schools. It is seed that seems to be taking good root, and we feel it will bear much fruit. 

Life at UGA is best symbolized with 93,000 fans enthusiastically cheering at Bulldogs’ football games in the fall. It is hard not to be infected with the spirit of the fall days that fill the air. 

We hope that the Catholic Center will fill the air with the Spirit of God, where one’s desires for God are found and where young people manifest their desire of God in the works of compassion, justice and peace. If we can fill the air at the Catholic Center with the Spirit of God, then we will have a very demanding and blessed year. 

— Fr. Tom, a native of Long Island, N.Y., works with David Hyman, OFM, at the Catholic Center.