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Exam week offers opportunities for prayer, community

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Ashley Steffes, a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, kneels to pray. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)
Ashley Steffes, a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, kneels to pray. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

Students fret as the end of a term means exam week.

“I would never encourage a student don’t worry about studying and you’ll be fine. That’s kind of a ‘God will have mercy on you (attitude). But, use of the powers and gifts God has given you is important. I find so many students are serious about their studies and I think it’s good to remember that your whole self-worth is not wrapped up in how well you do in exams,” said Father Ed Burns, Catholic campus minister at Wright State University for the past 15 years.

“Your whole self-worth is not wrapped up in the exams. A lot of people have trouble taking tests. But, absolutely make use of the resources your school offers. Wright State just put up a new building called the Wright State Success Center. One of the things that will help you is to remove, if you can, the stress in your life. So, go and ask for help sometimes… Go to the new center, or anywhere it works for you; go to your professor.”

“You want to keep up your prayer life and church life up as much as you can to the regular times when life is not too stressful,” Father Burns said. “That’s a way to create a good foundation for everything else that happens in life. Then, when you do get to a stressful time, you don’t want to change things up too much in the way you pray. Go back to the old standbys. Sometimes people appreciate prayers such as the Rosary, things like that, because it’s a little easier mentally in a sense.

“I’m not trying to paint the Rosary in any way, but sometimes it’s nice to have the old standby. You’re comfortable with it. It’s something you don’t have to think about so much. I always encourage people to pray the rosary and meditate on the mysteries; but sometimes just to have the rosary, even if you don’t want to pray it, just having the rosary beads close at hand can be a comfort.

“Also,” Father Burns continued, “early in my life before I had a better appreciation of the Rosary — I used it sometimes as a sacramental. It doesn’t have to be a prayer. It can be the object — the crucifixion or a picture of Mary.

Before an exam, take a quick moment to pray to ask God to be with you during an exam and give you grace and guidance and wisdom. Also, give yourself freedom in your prayers. Simply, pray as you can. If you start a prayer, or you’re going to read some Scripture, it will help. If you don’t finish it, don’t worry about it. Listen to the spirit… God will guide you.”
Father Jon-Paul Bevak, pastor at Old St. Mary Parish, Over-the-Rhine. and Sacred Heart Parish in Camp Washington, taught four years at LaSalle High School before taking on a second church resulted in his move out of the classroom.

“I told (students) to make sure to stay focused and keep priorities straight; make sure they say their prayers and that they do their best — not allowing the distractions of life get in the way… (of keeping on track). If they do that, no matter the outcome, they tried their best and that’s the best thing to offer,” Father Bevak said.

“Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit to ask for help and enlightenment, but the whole thing in some ways is a spiritual preparation — thinking through their schedule; thinking about what they’re supposed to do; keeping a prayer life straight; not to be distracted in addition to asking God for assistance.”This helps keep them be focused. It is a spiritual exercise, I would think.”

“Just getting by with a ‘C” “Is not always the highest road. To grow with virtue, part of it is having to do things we don’t necessarily like,” Father Bevak said. “Trying to be good at things we don’t necessarily like is part of maturing, but it’s also part of the spiritual life. Parts of the faith are difficult. Christ, himself, was not thrilled about going to the cross, but He saw greater good and He saw something good by going through that. Everybody has to ultimately do things they don’t like and you shouldn’t settle for the minimum.

“The last thing is don’t wait to the very end to prepare. Be sure you pay attention during class about taking notes and make sure to recognize the spiritual aspect of all that got us there.”
At Wright State, Father Burns hosts “Exam Cram,” set for the first two nights of exam week. “We just have pizza, snacks, camaraderie, just to take … some of the edge off of the stress of the week. We have it here at the Catholic Campus Ministry. We have our own building.”

“It’s a time to relax and be with others who are going through the same experience that week. It helps if you are not alone, but to be with other people who are doing this. You have each other’s backs. It’s a form of community and community gives us a way to help each other through life.”

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