Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Mar
  • 13

Finding faith on campus

Posted By March 13, 2014 | 12:40 pm | Lead Story #1

By William T. Clew

When Emily Cambrola came to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, it was to study biomedical engineering with a goal of going on to medical school.
She is in her junior year, so she’s still working on that.
But she has achieved something else that isn’t the first thing most people think of when they think about WPI, one of the best technical colleges in the country.
She has found her faith. And on March 2, at Mass in Alden Hall on the WPI campus, she became a Catholic.
Father Juan D. Echavarria, WPI Newman Club chaplain, of which Emily is a very active member, baptized and confirmed her and gave her her first Communion.
As he began the celebration of Mass, Father Echavarria welcomed Emily and said, “We know that she is a great witness of Christ.”
In his homily he said: “We receive her into our family. … The Holy Spirit is going to be upon her. … She will give witness to her faith, that she trusts in God. … We are called to trust in God. … When we trust in him we are on our way to heaven.”
Emily is from Warren, R.I. She said her mother is Protestant, her father Catholic. They couldn’t agree on a church for her, she said, so she was not baptized.
She said that sometimes her grandmother took her to services at a Baptist church. She said she was religious, but without a faith community. In Rhode Island, a state that is heavily Catholic, she felt out of place.
When she came to WPI she was aware that there was a Newman Club on campus. It was the next year, at the invitation of a friend, that she began to attend Newman Club meetings.
That friend was Beth Miloscia, a junior from Dupont, N.J., who was her godmother when she was received into the Church. They often talked about their faith, Emily said, and found they had similar views. So Beth, who also is a member of the choir, invited her to Mass on campus.
“I fell in love with it,” Emily said. “It was so welcoming.”
To say that she joined the club is a major understatement. She also joined the leadership team. And she joined the choir. She was a regular at Mass, and when Father Tomasz J. Borkowski, then the part-time Catholic chaplain at WPI, saw that she didn’t receive Communion, he asked why.
“I told him I was never baptized,” she said.
She and Father Borkowski began to talk about the Catholic faith regularly. She said she asked him questions about the Scriptures and the homilies she heard at Mass.
“It was more like an open conversation than formal instruction,” she said.
Then Father Borkowski  was transferred and was succeeded by Father Echavarria. She said she was worried at first that she might have to start all over again. But she said Father Echavarria continued her instruction. And that was more structured.
She said she studied, read books on Catholicism, continued her discussions on the faith with Father Echavarria and continued to build a strong foundation in the faith.
“It was like taking another class. I really worked for it,” she said. “It has transformed my life.”
“It was beautiful,” she said of the March 2 Mass on campus. The Newman Club members were there, as were her mother Karen Daigle, her father, Anthony Cambrola, her sister Hayley and her grandmother, Sherrill Estes. Emily said her family was thrilled to be there. Her grandmother said she wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Emily said she will continue to study with Father Echavarria, with emphasis on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


WPI Newman Club doubles Mass attendance

By William T. Clew

Three years ago the only activity the Newman Club at Worcester Polytechnic Institute had was a Mass celebrated at 11:30 a.m. every Sunday on campus.
Things have changed since then. Now the Newman Club, an organization for Catholic students, gives its members and anyone else interested a chance to practice their faith almost every day.
As the Newman Club has blossomed, the growing list of activities gives it the look of a small parish.
Aimee St. Germain, a junior from Manchester, N.H., Newman Club president, has been there for many of the changes, and helped make them happen.
She was elected president when she was a freshman and headed up a leadership team to help plan more activities. Three years ago, the  Mass on campus usually was attended by about 40 or 50 students. Last year, she said, club members began reaching out to friends and the numbers at Mass increased to about 80 or 90. This year Mass attendance is about 120 each week, she said.
Mass still is at 11:30 a.m. in a building on campus. The time reflects the fact that the Newman Club members are students at a highly regarded, intellectually demanding  college who generally don’t leap out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Sunday when they have a chance to sleep in.
Father Juan D. Echavarria is Newman Club chaplain. He also is head of the Hispanic ministry at St. Peter Parish and St Andrew Mission. He has helped  build an active Catholic community at WPI, Miss St. Germain said.
He is on campus often and obviously has a good relationship with the students.
WPI is an engineering school that draws top-notch students. It demands a lot of work from them. But many still find time, or make time, to be involved with their Catholic faith.
In addition to the Sunday Mass, there is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Rubin Campus Center’s Mid-Century Room, a glassed-in room on the second floor, from 9 to 10 p.m. Mondays.
“We are seen by people,” Father Echavarria said. So, along with the adoration, there is a chance for some evangelization. There are pamphlets outside the door that tell what’s going on inside.
There is a Bible study Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Collegiate Religious Center (CRC) at 19 Schussler Road.  Usually 10 to 12 students take part, depending on their schedules, Father Echavarria said.
He said they read the Gospel for the following Sunday two or three times and the students are asked to tell the group what gets their attention. The students share their thoughts and prayers.
Recently a Mass from 12:10 to 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the CRC was added to the Newman Club schedule.
The rosary is prayed at 2 p.m. Thursdays in the CRC. The number of students who take part varies depending on their schedules, Father Echavarria said.
Students  set up an altar in one of two halls on campus for  Mass each Sunday. Students make up the choir. Three years ago the choir had two members. Now it numbers about 15, including a pianist and a guitar player.
One of those choir members is Emily Cambrola, who was not a member of any church, she said. At the invitation of a friend, she came to Mass and joined the Newman Club. She joined the choir, helped set up for Mass each Sunday, became a member of the club’s leadership team and, on March 2, was baptized, confirmed and received Communion as a new member of the Catholic Church, with her family and Newman Club members in attendance.
That friend who invited her to Mass is Beth Miloscia from Dupont, N.J. She said that she is a regular church-goer and, when she was looking for colleges to attend, she wanted a college with a Newman Club. She got her wish and then some. She not only found a top-notch college, she brought a friend with her into the Newman Club and was that friend’s godmother at her baptism.
Paul Esteve, a sophomore mechanical engineering student from Colchester, Conn., joined the club as a freshman. He said his interest in the Newman Club was a carryover from high school, when he was a member of a  national organization called Life Teen. Life Teen is a  ministry described in its mission statement as a Eucharist-centered movement within the Roman Catholic Church, which leads teenagers and their families into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
“The Newman Club is like that and I wanted to continue that in college,” he said. He is the club treasurer.
Miss St. Germain said that, while many of the WPI student body are agnostic, as might be expected in a college, especially one strong in science, she has seen no hostility toward the Newman Club or its members. And one former member, Alfredo Porras, who graduated last year, is in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD, studying for the priesthood, she said.
The club gets funds from WPI, as other student clubs and organizations. It also receives support from the diocese, which covers expenses for the wine and hosts for Mass and other liturgical expenses. Some of that support comes from the annual Partners in Charity appeal.