“This is their time to see how they can do on their own,” said Gwen Falk, who along with her husband, Dr. Jim Falk, and Tom and Eileen Mader, all of Green Bay, are spearheading the project locally. “This is a whole group of Catholics who need a boost when they arrive at college. Hopefully we can help them find some friends, find out the Mass times and help them maintain their faith life. We also just want them to know that we care about them.”
The student’s name, address and college or university is entered online with permission. NET sends out the packets. The Serra Clubs are covering administrative costs involved with the program.
The local program is part of a five-year plan, said Dr. Falk. The Serra Clubs received the permission of Bishop David Ricken to move forward with the project. The goal is to grow the number of student connections through networking with campus ministers. Seven or eight parishes and/or schools are currently involved.
In addition to meeting with Bishop Ricken, the Falks and Maders also consulted with Dr. Joe Bound, director of education for the Diocese of Green Bay. The program is growing nationally, said Gwen.
Dr. Falk said that studies support the importance of making the connection as soon as possible when the students step foot on campus.
“Eighty-five percent lose their faith at college,” he said. “A study by Georgetown University indicates that in the first six to eight weeks all the relationships are set. If a student is going to UW-Madison, for example, we want that young person to visit the St. Paul (University Catholic) Center in the early stages.”
The Falks speak from experience. They sent their 15 children to college.
“There are a number of Serrans who have said, ‘I wish we would have had this’ and a number of parents who shared that they met at their Newman Center,” said Gwen.
St. John the Baptist Parish in Howard is among the leaders from the diocese in gathering information for its college students, said Gwen. The ministry is expanding beyond getting packets in the students’ hands. Jody Engebos, youth minister at St. John, is planning a care package project for the students during exam week.
College classes begin soon, but if families would like to get a packet to a student, contact a Serra Club member, said Gwen. The Serrans are also hoping to connect with the parents of high school juniors to continue to build the program. For more information about the program go to www.collegeconnectionforcatholics.org.