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UC Society of St. Paul members ‘on fire’ with Catholic faith

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Members of the UC Society of St. Paul evangelize on campus earlier this year. (Courtesy Photo)
Members of the UC Society of St. Paul evangelize on campus earlier this year. (Courtesy Photo)

By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph 

Every Sunday morning at the 11 a.m. Mass, a group of college students can be found gathered in the front left section of Annunciation Parish in Clifton to celebrate the Eucharist together.

They are members of the Society of Saint Paul (SSP), a community of young Catholics at the University of Cincinnati who come together in the spirit of St. Paul and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (a an Italian Catholic social activist, who was a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic) to support, challenge, and energize one another in the Catholic faith.

Marty Arlinghaus, current program director for the Society of St. Paul and a 2014 UC graduate, said the idea for the group came to him in 2012 as he was preparing to begin his junior year. He was already attending Mass regularly at Annunciation and said, “What it came down to is that the church was entering the New Evangelization and I wanted to be part of that. After reading the Scriptures, I felt inspired to gather a group of strong Catholic friends to meet and pray regularly. I didn’t want the focus to be just theology, or doctrine, or social justice, but our whole Catholic faith and how we can live it out together.”

Arlinghaus named the group, whose goal is to also evangelize non-Catholic students, in honor of Saint Paul, the great evangelizer. A small group of friends began joining him at Sunday Mass, then returning home for brunch and discussion on some faith-related topic. As time went on, other students who yearned for a dynamic faith life began joining them and the SSP’s activities expanded to include Eucharistic Adoration, retreats and a speaker series that has featured Allen Hunt of the Dynamic Catholic Institute, and Father Kyle Schnippel, former director of the archdiocesan Vocations Office. The UC Society of Saint Paul has since become an officially recognized campus organization and has approximately 40 members from all grade levels. In early August, the SSP plans to establish two off-campus residences, and Arlinghaus hopes to strengthen relationships with other Catholic organizations and ministries, as well as build up a network of donors.

While the Society of Saint Paul is student run, they root themselves as a part of a Catholic family of believers and receive much additional support, encouragement, and resources from their home parish.

Father Todd Grogan, Annunciation’s pastor, spoke to the need for the group, saying, “There is a profound hunger on the part of young people to know what the church is proclaiming, to be nurtured in their relationship with Jesus Christ, with His church, and in the sacraments. It really is the responsibility of those of us in positions of leadership in the church to ensure they have that opportunity. There is a tremendous need for college age students to have faith-based living experiences, especially at a secular university, so that they may be supported in living their faith.”

“They are on fire with their faith, they love their faith, they love their church and they love prayer,” he added. “They are very generous and very willing and ready to become involved in parish life in whatever way they approached. Their witness, enthusiasm, and energy inspire others.

A key aspect of the SSP is for members to become involved in some type of apostolate of their choosing, Arlinghaus explained, as a way of giving back to the community, ensuring they remain engaged in their faith outside of regular group meetings and use their gifts for the greater glory of God. Some SSP members have become very active in parish life for their apostolate as altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, lectors and greeters. Others do Communion calls for the sick and shut in, give music lessons to children in homeless shelter, or visit prison inmates.

“Your faith needs to be nurtured in everything you do,” Arlinghaus said. “We’re trying to train people to be spiritually mature Catholics who live in the world and are engaged in the world. We want to help young people establish strong prayer lives that keep them in community with Christ. Our hope is that by helping people to live out their faith while they’re in college, that after they graduate and move on with their lives, they’ll be active in their faith, take ownership of it and participate in the liturgical life of the church.”

For more information, on SSP, click HERE.

This story, part of an eight-page College Section, originally appeared in the August 2014 print edition ofThe Catholic Telegraph.

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