Forty seminarians travelled to the University of Pittsburgh over Fall Break for the New Evangelization Mission Trip. The goal of this trip was to meet college students where they are at and invite them into a real and lasting relationship with Christ. The seminarians, headed by Eric Silva (S’ 16, Bridgeport), worked with the Pittsburgh Oratory of St. Philip Neri, who is charged with the campus ministry of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University, to facilitate and organize the trip.
College is easily the largest battleground of the New Evangelization. Students, for the first time away from their parents and on their own, make decisions in college that affect the rest of their life. Quickly, these students find that the typical college experience fails to satisfy, but too often, they do not know where to look to find answers to their hearts’ deepest longing. The seminarians hoped to break through their normal routine to invite them to encounter Christ, who alone can satisfy and give them real authentic hope.
The trip lasted from Monday, October 13 to Wednesday, October 15. The seminarians began their stay in Pittsburgh in St. Anthony’s Chapel, which houses the largest collection of relics of the saints outside the Vatican. Supported by the prayers of the saints, all forty seminarians were led on a tour of the University of Pittsburgh by Reed Frey, a junior Philosophy major at Pitt. After Mass at the Oratory and dinner at St. Paul Cathedral, the seminarians presented the heart of their mission to the FOCUS missionaries and student leaders who will be aiding in the task of evangelization.
On Tuesday, after Mass, breakfast, and holy hour, the seminarians engaged the task of bringing the gospel directly to the students of Pitt. Wearing their characteristic black with roman collars, the seminarians stood as a visible sign of contradiction to the college worldview and a witness to the hope that we have in Christ. The seminarians, themselves sustained by prayer, went out in pairs and engaged students in free and open discussions throughout the university campus. Many were drawn to think deeper about the meaning of their lives in the light of the gospel, and some returned to the sacrament of confession or found solace in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Tuesday ended with a Eucharistic Procession held at St. Paul Cathedral.
On Wednesday, the seminarians renewed their efforts in engaging students on campus. Students were invited to participate in the event that evening entitled “The Relevancy of Faith.” Fr. Joe Freedy, vocations director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, kicked off the event by sharing his story; Ben Dunkelberger (S’ 18, Harrisburg) presented the core of the Gospel message; and Sean Tomko, a senior Mechanical Engineering student at Pitt, shared his testimony about how God led him through his experiences at Pitt into a deep relationship with Christ.
The seminarians were aided in their efforts by three Mundelein Seminarians, three seminarians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, ten Mount St. Mary’s University students and FOCUS missionaries, and a number of Pitt and CMU students and FOCUS missionaries. In addition to flooding the University of Pittsburgh with clerical collars, two pairs of seminarians were sent to the neighboring campus of Carnegie-Mellon University to assist in their evangelization efforts.
The seminarians hope that their efforts have a lasting impact on the lives of the students that they encountered. They learned much from this experience themselves, often having to go outside of their comfort zone to spread Christ’s love to people that so desperately need Him.