“I’d never even met a Sister until going to Rutgers University …” Not exactly the words you’d expect to hear from a young woman who recently professed her vows in religious life at St. Peter the Apostle University and Parish Church.
Rutgers is a lot of things, but Catholic isn’t one of them.
As one of the nation’s oldest higher learning institutions, it’s progressed from being a small school above a tavern in 1771 to boasting a 40,000-strong student body on a sprawling 2,200-acre campus that competes in the rarefied air of the Big Ten Conference.
But within the campus’ hundreds of clubs and organizations, a powerful Catholic presence can be found. The Catholic Student Association [CSA] at Rutgers provides a robust campus ministry program to support students’ faith lives as they navigate the stormy college years.
Br. Patrick Reilly BH, director of the Association, explains, “Our team is out there … to bring someone to a lifelong relationship with Jesus and with that, to the Church.” And beyond working day in and day out with students, “We have two seminarians now, one studying for the Oratory the other for the Diocese … and we have one other girl who joined the TRR Sisters who also made her first vows … there’s a number of vocations that have come through.”
The story of Sister Anna Palka SJH
In 2012 Anna Palka arrived as a freshman Business major at Rutgers. She was raised in a Catholic home, with two older brothers, and survived 12 years of public education. Faith had always played an essential role in life, and she participated in her parish choir and youth group. But now, in this alien environment, she would have to find a way to live her faith away from her family, parish, and home.
As the chaos of college life began to mount, she literally made a resolution, “I had heard about CSA [Catholic Students Association]. And the only New Year’s Resolution I ever kept in my life was my resolution for 2012. I said, ‘I’m going to go to a meeting.’”
And with that, she discovered a new Catholic home away from home. “I went to one Bible Study my spring semester, and I met people my age who knew Scripture, and I was like, ‘People do this who are my age? People are into this?’ So I came around more and more, really my sophomore year, and I dove headfirst into everything that CSA had to offer.” And it was there that she encountered a religious Sister for the first time in her life.
Read more at Aleteia