by Jessica Langdon
TOPEKA — “Catching Fire” means one thing to the fervent fans of “The Hunger Games,” but it meant quite another to Catholic college students this month, who gathered despite frigid temps for a weekend of faith and fellowship in the state’s capital.
The 2014 Kansas Catholic College Student Convention brought more than 200 students — and their campus ministers — from across the state together for three days of speakers, workshops and worship, all under the umbrella theme of “Catching Fire for Christ.”
The archdiocese’s own Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University hosted the convention Feb. 7-9 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka.
Caroline Trausch, a junior studying biology and Spanish education at Emporia State, served as chairperson of the convention and hoped for two things for her fellow college student participants.
“The first would be that they have grown closer to God,” she said. “The second would be that they have grown in fellowship with both their own fellow students from their same college and also their fellow students from other colleges.”
Trausch sees faith as something that can both simplify life for college students and prove very freeing, as they enter into a period of time in their life that will be full of new experiences and adjustments.
Although she made friends at the Didde Center her freshman year and was so involved that she was elected the center’s student council president for her sophomore year, she didn’t attend the student convention as a freshman.
She almost missed it in 2013, too. But thanks to a friend’s encouragement and Didde’s plans to host the next one, she headed to Wichita for the weekend.
“I’m so glad I went,” she said. “I really enjoyed it a lot more than I ever imagined.”
Not only did she get to know Catholic college students from across the state, but she learned that they shared many of the same struggles.
She enjoyed learning how others live out their faith during their college years.
Father Ray May, chaplain and director of the Didde Catholic Campus Center and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Hartford, has always enjoyed this opportunity for college students to come together.
“It’s a good sign that the faith is still vibrant,” he said.
He also had goals he wanted this convention — the 42nd — to accomplish in the participating students’ lives: “that they grow in their faith, that they are led to practice it more profoundly, and are willing to share it with others.”
Attendees participated in Masses celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of the Diocese of Salina and Bishop John B. Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City.
Speakers at the event included Archbishop Naumann, who spoke to the students about the new evangelization during their semiformal banquet; Keith Strohm of the Catherine of Siena Institute; and Trent Horn, an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers.
The college students Father May knows have impressed him with their zeal, and he hopes the convention made a lasting impression on these young adults across Kansas.
“What you see with the convention is people taking leadership roles and working to make it happen,” he said.
And that has certainly been the case with students like Trausch, who laughs while acknowledging the event-planning skills she has now developed.
Trausch saw God at work a lot during the planning process and was excited to watch it all come together the weekend of the convention.
It’s a chance — as Trausch discovered during her first convention — to experience faith with old and new friends in different ways.
“My friend and I signed up for [eucharistic] adoration,” said Trausch. “That was pretty neat to see four or five other college students at 2 a.m. in the adoration room.”
© The Leaven, Feb. 14, 2014