Silence allows the space for us to follow the Lord and to discover His presence in our lives.
It’s also what permeated a eucharistic procession held April 10 on the campus of Saint Louis University. A collaborative effort of SLU’s Catholic Studies Center and the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult Ministry, the procession began from the end of Mass at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church to the Catholic Studies Center and included several hundred university students, young families and others.
SLU’s Catholic Studies Center typically holds eucharistic processions on campus twice a year. Two years ago, several students had died by suicide; one student in particular died shortly before the next scheduled procession.
“It was traumatic for the whole campus, and we went into a discernment about what to do. Would it seem inappropriate to carry on with our plans?” said center director Father Matthew Baugh, SJ. After much thought and prayer, they decided to hold the procession in complete silence, without singing or reciting prayers. The gesture was well-received, and it gave students the space to quietly reflect on God’s presence in the midst of tragedy. Since then, students have made it a tradition to hold the processions in silence.
“Silence invites people in, and they can see a space for themselves,” Father Baugh said. “It changed things for us. If you think about the environment these students inhabit — in their dorms, in their homes and out in the world — it’s constant activity and constant sound.”
The April procession also was an occasion to observe the Eucharistic Revival happening in dioceses across the United States to nurture belief and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
At SLU, the Catholic Studies Center offers eucharistic adoration, including a 12-hour period during the day on Wednesdays, and a full 24 hours from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon, concluding with Mass.
“This is the one spot in their week when they have space opening up,” said Father Baugh, who said he expects adoration times to expand in the future. “And if you don’t have that space, it’s hard to let yourself to have an encounter with God at a deep level.”
Catholic community on campus
The Catholic Studies Center opened in 2016 and has become an on-campus hub that provides a place to explore how Catholic spirituality and academics connect. The center offers both a major and minor in Catholic studies.
Beyond academics, the center also hosts the Edmund Campion Society, which draws nearly 150 students every Monday for a home-cooked meal, a talk and Mass. The focus is on creating a sense of community, with the programming almost secondary, said Father Baugh.
SLU junior Mady Thompson said she’s gained a community, along with the resources to help her toward sainthood, including the sacraments and spiritual formation. “It’s changed my college experience and the first chance for good, authentic community in my life,” she said. With a major in theology and minor in Catholic studies, Thompson said the academics also have challenged her to engage with the lessons and the way in which she encounters the world through the lens of her Catholic faith.
Angie Doerr, a longtime friend of the Catholic Studies Center who helps coordinate meals for the Monday Campion Society nights, said she is energized by the faith of the students that she meets. “I see their dedication to the faith and the way they pray and come together in community,” she said. “It is so beautiful that I leave a better Catholic, and I love being part of the Church with them.”
Father Baugh noted that sense of community is a prime example of being a eucharistic people. Years ago he learned this lesson from a Jesuit missionary in Central America: “He said what the Church does is it opens up space for the Lord to be fruitful, and then good things happen.”
>> Village Lights receives Campion Award
Catholic music group Village Lights was honored with the Edmund Campion Award April 10 by SLU’s Catholic Studies Center.
The award is named after Campion, the 16th century English Jesuit martyr who was a distinguished scholar of Classics at Oxford University. The award recognizes individuals who have fostered fruitful dialogue between Christianity and culture in new and creative ways.
The band includes Catholic artists Sarah Kroger, Ike Ndolo and Ricky Vazquez. The three, who have led worship together at youth conferences, discovered a shared desire to create more modern worship music for liturgical church spaces.
Village Lights performed a concert on SLU’s campus at the conclusion of the eucharistic procession.