When Alyssa Vinz needs a moment to reflect, find peace, offer a prayer or give thanks, she knows just where to go.
“I love the chapel,” says the Mathematics and Secondary Education major. “No matter what time of day it is, I can go always go there.”
Not only is the Chapel of Mary Immaculate always open to meet students’ individual needs, but it also serves as a sacred space for the Alverno community to unite in times solemn and joyful. It is a visible representation of the Catholic, Franciscan identity that serves as the bedrock of Alverno’s mission, a mission the College will reinforce through the ongoing expansion of its Campus Ministry program.
“We want Alverno College to strengthen our identity as a Catholic, Franciscan college and to be recognized for deep engagement in our mission to offer our students a rich education that addresses mind, body and soul,” says Sister Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD. “This is among my most important responsibilities as president.”
To this end, Alverno has taken such steps as providing students, faculty, staff and the broader community with more opportunities to worship together at liturgies, including a Mass to celebrate the new school year and a Baccalaureate Mass to commemorate graduation. The coming year will be filled with prayer, discussion and service, all with a focus on inclusion.
Working with Sister Andrea to lead these initiatives is Lisa Cathelyn, Alverno’s new director of Campus Ministry, who has experience ministering in English and Spanish.
“The question I’ll be asking is: what are students’ needs, hopes and desires for their spiritual well-being?” Cathelyn says. “It’s going to require thought, conversation, scholarship and prayer.”
All Are Welcome
The very definition of “Catholic” is universal and all-embracing. And Franciscan values emphasize respect for all God’s creation, out of which flows an abiding desire for peace and a mission of inclusion.
These ideals have guided Alverno since the College’s founding in 1887, becoming an essential part of our mission and identity. And they will continue to guide the work that is done here.
“There’s a real commitment to the Gospel and ensuring that women who traditionally haven’t had access to higher education can earn a degree that works for and serves them,” says Cathelyn. “Our welcoming, hospitable environment won’t go away. In fact, it will be enriched by a new energy.”
In the coming year, there will be new opportunities for students of all faiths to worship, such as a weekly communion service.
“All are invited to the liturgy. Jesus always invited everyone,” says Patrick Gillick, a minister who is working with Cathelyn. “People of all faiths can walk with each other and find common ground.”
Campus Ministry will sponsor more informal gatherings where students, faculty, staff and alumni can make new friendships and perhaps even explore life’s mysteries.
“People are asking the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why is there suffering? What does it mean to be human? We’ll face those questions together with a cohesive approach,” says Cathelyn.
Giving Heart to Spirituality
In the coming months, Alverno will be working to offer more ways for students to serve their community. Campus Ministry will continue bringing students, faculty and staff to serve at St. Ben’s Meal Program in Milwaukee and will seek additional volunteer opportunities.
Another goal is to better serve the spiritual needs of Alverno alumnae, through the offering of retreats and meaningful liturgical experiences. And there will be an ongoing effort to deepen and renew our ties with the School Sisters of St. Francis, our founders and sponsors.
Taken together, these efforts are a continuation of the work that Alverno has done for the past 131 years. They reflect our essential mission to provide a robust education for our students. And they are a product of our calling to serve all those who call Alverno home.
“Campus Ministry provides a safe place to guide students, to listen to them and to encourage them,” says Gillick. “‘Encourage’ means to give heart to, and that’s what we do — give heart to students’ spirituality.”