Hopes for Continued Worship on Campus
Prepared for the 150th Writing Project of the Chaplaincy of Elmhurst University
By Karen Vicary
I became associated with Elmhurst College, now Elmhurst University, when I was hired as the Secretary in the Chaplain’s Office in January 2013. While interviewing for the position, Chaplain Scott Matheney shared some of the history of Catholic life at Elmhurst College with me. I was impressed by the names of people he mentioned that had been invited to speak at the annual Bernardin lecture and by some of the opportunities that were available for Catholic students. I was also surprised when he told me that almost 50% of the students at Elmhurst were Catholic.
I attended five Bernardin Lectures while working in the Chaplain’s Office—Dr. John Garvey, John Allen, Father Scott Donohue, Msgr. Ken Velo and Sister Susan Sanders with Dr. Daniel Geiter. The lectures by Msgr. Ken Velo and Father Scott Donohue were meaningful because they were both personal friends of Cardinal Bernardin and were able to share stories of the Cardinal’s life and work. The most memorable for me was the lecture by Sister Susan Sanders and Dr. Daniel Geiter. The story of their relationship and of Daniel’s journey was truly inspirational.
The Chaplain’s Office worked with Immaculate Conception, Mary Queen of Heaven and Visitation Churches to offer Masses on campus throughout the year. Local priests—Father Tony Taschetta, Father Tom Paul, Father Chris Lankford, Father Michael Kearney and Father Jason Stone—generously gave of their time to celebrate Mass at the beginning of each semester, on Ash Wednesday and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During new Student Orientation, Catholic students were given the opportunity to attend Mass at Immaculate Conception with Chaplain Scott as a way to introduce them to the local church.
There was a lot of turnover in the Catholic Chaplain position during my time at Elmhurst. When I first started, Kevin O’Donnell was the Catholic Chaplain. He was followed by Brother Dominic and Collen Case, who each served for one semester. Sister Mary Therese Giblin held the position next and was followed by Emma Steufen. Each Catholic Chaplain had a different approach to their position. Brother Dominic invited students to pray the Rosary each week in the Interfaith Prayer Room in Hammerschmidt Chapel. Colleen Case invited students to meet with her in Founders Lounge. Sister Mary Therese Giblin offered Lectio Divina weekly for students, faculty and staff, as well as opportunities to gather socially. Emma held a candle lighting service in Hammerschmidt Chapel that included music and an opportunity for reconciliation. She also organized a group of students to attend a Taize service at Immaculate Conception, followed by a visit to a local coffee shop. Emma also was a sponsor for a student who was going through the RCIA program at Immaculate Conception.
Catholic Faculty and Staff were supportive of the Masses and programs of the Chaplain’s Office and were always willing to offer suggestions for Bernardin Lecture speakers. Larry Carroll, Mary Kay Mulvaney, Mary Pabst, Joan Vilim and others regularly attended lectures, Masses and meetings. Elaine Fetyko-Page attended meetings and also served as a musician for Masses, often with Kevin O’Donnell. Many more faculty and staff attended Ash Wednesday Mass each year, as well as the Bernardin lecture.
In the future, I hope that Elmhurst University continues to offer worship opportunities on campus for Catholic students. The Catholic Student Association, which was in early formation when I left Elmhurst, is also a good opportunity for students to meet for Bible study and fellowship. And, of course, I would hope that the Bernardin lecture continues, as that is a wonderful way to engage the community in the life of the University.
Karen Vicary worked in the University’s Office of the Chaplain.