By Angie Claas
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were facing the challenges that come with move-in weekend! Those with college students were searching for parking spots; let’s face it, we all were! Belongings were being unloaded and that last minute trip to the store was made to ensure everything was in order before heading for home. Our young adult children were poised to begin another, or perhaps their first, year of college. Quite possibly tears were shed as you said your good-bye’s or maybe you high-fived your spouse on the walk back to the car — both actions appropriate!
Fast forward to Family Weekend. There’s been time to adjust to the new routine, for both parents and students. The heavy lifting is done, and we can now spend some time enjoying each other’s company and getting answers to all of our burning questions: Have you made new friends? Where are you spending your time when you’re not in the library? What state are your living conditions in? Hopefully, at the end of the weekend, everyone will return to their routines with a full belly and more importantly a full heart, grateful for the memories made and looking forward to the next opportunity to spend time together.
When Family Weekend is over and parents have returned home, college students in Columbia have an opportunity to find a family here at St. Thomas More Newman Center throughout the year. We are their parish family. I have recently been given the opportunity to witness this from a new perspective.
The first week of August, we moved our son seven hours away to begin his freshman year of college. The days leading up to that move and saying good-bye were a challenge for me. Of course we would miss him, but I also worried whether he’d be safe, happy and whether he’d find a supportive group of friends. I can’t begin to express my relief and excitement when he contacted me just days later and told me, “the group at the Newman Center here is fantastic!” He’d gone to Sunday evening Mass after which the Knights of Columbus were hosting a Welcome BBQ. He’d met the FOCUS missionaries. He’d signed up to attend a Freshman Retreat put on by Campus Ministry the following weekend. It all sounds very familiar and easy to picture, doesn’t it? I’m not ashamed to admit that I frequently check the Campus Ministry Facebook page and I’ve seen him there, smiling, amid a large group of students and it has gladdened my heart!
The youth of our parish have grown up watching the college students interact with us, the resident parishioners, and seeing the energetic support the parish gives to Campus Ministry programs and retreats. They’ve seen those students getting involved, having fun and feeling safe and at home in our Newman building. When our son moved away from Columbia and was looking for his place to belong, it didn’t take him long to figure out that that place was the Newman Center. I feel a debt of gratitude to our St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish for this.
I have always enjoyed getting to know the students involved here at the parish. Now I see it from the point of view of a parent who is far from their child, yet confident and comforted in the knowledge that they’ve chosen to find a parish family at Newman and that, in fact, each weekend is Family Weekend!