Here is a snip:
Saying 'Howdy' to the Faith
At Texas A&M, Mass and the Sacraments Draw Students
by Anthony Flott, Register correspondent Friday, May 27, 2011 12:11 PM
Even with 46,000 students on campus, Texas A&M has always had a small-town feel.
“It’s a very open and friendly campus,” said Father David Konderla, who grew up in nearby Bryan, Texas, and whose ties to the university date to a part-time job there in high school.
Yet a long-standing and official Aggie tradition — greeting everyone with a “Howdy!” — seems to be dying a slow death.
Students “all have iPod buds in their ears and they’re all texting away as they walk across campus,” Father Konderla said. “People don’t see each other.”
But while one tradition fades, another is thriving down in College Station: Catholicism. That’s mostly due to the efforts of A&M’s St. Mary’s Catholic Center, which Father Konderla directs. Well known in Catholic campus-ministry circles, it’s now drawing attention outside Texas and among laypeople. Most recently, George Weigel sang its praises in his nationally syndicated column.
“Texas A&M is a special place, culturally; in many respects, it seems to have skipped the ’60s, such that its 21st-century life is in palpable continuity with its past,” Weigel wrote in February. “That’s a deeply Catholic cultural instinct, which St. Mary’s has seized to build a program that is a model for the entire country.”
The program ministers to about 15,000 students. Father Konderla oversees a staff of 30, a $2.1 million budget and a 30,000-square-foot campus center that opened in 1998 and includes a 5,000-volume library and 850-seat church.
Big numbers, but they all start with the One.
“The most important aspect of the center, of the whole thing, is bringing these students face-to-face, if you will, with Jesus,” Father Konderla said. “Putting them into a real, integrated, intimate and personal relationship with Jesus, the very center of everything that is: the center of history; the center of every subject they study on campus.”
No wonder how he identifies the center’s most important programs.
“Mass and the sacraments,” Father Konderla said. “Apart from that, everything else we do coming out of the Mass is getting ready to go back into it.”
There are 14 Masses offered weekly at A&M. Weekend Masses attract 4,000 to 5,000 students. Confession is offered six days a week and also draws lines of penitents.
“The students have a hunger for and a love of the teachings of the Church,” said Douglas Jeffers, a 2010 graduate from Sugar Land, Texas. “All of the various activities — educational programs, service programs, evangelization, etc. — are thus able to be sustained by the grace flowing from the sacraments and are able to refer the students back to the worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice.”