By Elena Castello
When the big, yellow school bus arrived in the parking lot of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Gainesville, Fla., the five volunteers inside Hurley Hall eagerly awaited the students’ arrival. The volunteers were told that sixth graders from Queen of Peace Catholic Academy would be coming for a few hours to meet some of the Catholic Gators and learn how they live their faith daily on campus.
As the students walked into Hurley Hall and lined up around the room, Erinn Williams, the homeroom teacher, divided the students into groups for activities. Each of the five volunteers was assigned a group of about nine students.
“I wanted to give the students an opportunity to see how college students live out their faith,” Williams said. She noted that the sixth graders look up to the older college students, and that in a few years, they will be in college. And she notes she hopes they see that it is possible for them to be a faithful Catholic on a secular campus.
The student volunteers are all active members of St. Augustine Catholic community. They opened with an icebreaker. The game, “I ‘Moustache’ You a Question,” was a silly question-and-answer interactive game. The students adorned themselves with moustache stickers as part of the game.
After the icebreaker, the conversation became more personal. The volunteers led the group in a series of questions involving dreams, desires and hopes – and how they are intertwined in God’s plan for each of us. There was also discussion of how failure is sometimes part of God’s plan too, though despair and hopelessness are not.
The students participated thoroughly in the discussion and came up with their own dreams for their lives. They wrote these on masks, and on the inside of the mask wrote what stops them from achieving their dreams.
Then, after a round of musical chairs and the “Name Game,” the students participated in the noon Mass. They sat attentively and reverently and paid close attention to Father Tony Eseke’s homily.
“We have a spiritual retreat every year, and we thought it’d be good to bring them to see Catholic Gators at the church and attend Mass. We wanted to give them a taste of what it’s like to be in college and living their faith,” said Blakely Porter, the sixth, seventh and eighth grade Queen of Peace assistant teacher. Porter noted that the most difficult part of conveying the faith to children is that they take it for granted, and that they don’t yet see the significance of it. For that reason, Porter continued, it’s trips like these that really impact the students.
The students had lunch in Hurley Hall with the Catholic Gators, and then returned to school on the big, yellow bus.
Elena Castello is a Catholic Gator and a member of our diocesan communications team covering news of interest in the Gainesville Deanery.