by Marc and Julie Anderson
EMPORIA — Faith. Family. Fellowship. Foundation. Friendship.
Those are the five words repeated most often during the rededication and 25th anniversary celebration of the Didde Catholic Campus Center here at Emporia State University held Nov. 14.
The celebration began at 4 p.m. with an evening Mass and rededication of the center celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and concelebrated by Didde chaplain Father Nick Blaha and former chaplains Father Bill Porter, Father Jerry Volz, Father Ray May and Father Curtis Carlson, OFM Cap. Msgr. Gary Applegate served as master of ceremonies for the Mass. In addition to the Mass, the evening featured a reception, a formal program and a dance.
During the program, alumni of the Didde Catholic Campus Center and the former Newman Club shared memories of the center’s role in fostering their Catholic faith at a critical time in their lives.
For Steve and Amy Harmon, two of many of the event’s organizers, the center served as the focal point of their faith life for many years. The couple met at Emporia State in the 1990s. Due to Amy’s involvement in the center, the two married at its St. Theresa Chapel in 1996. In 1997, Steve Harmon joined the Catholic Church through the center’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.
Later, two of the Harmons’ three children were baptized in the same chapel.
“It’s pretty fantastic,” said Steve Harmon.
Amy Scheller, another member of the planning committee, admits to spending a great deal of time at the center during her college and young adult years.
“There were 18 of us young married couples there at the time, and Father Bill [Porter] did so much to encourage us in our vocations and support us as we journeyed into parenthood,” said Scheller.
Father Porter was one of the first priests to really explain to her how marriage was a vocation, said Scheller, and the foundation that she and her husband Dan received at the campus center is priceless.
Providing a solid adult foundation in the faith to young students, particularly in their college years, is what the Didde Catholic Campus Center is all about. In his homily, Father Porter reflected on the importance of providing that foundation.
“I think that solid foundation is why we’re here,” said Father Porter.
Elsewhere, Father Porter said that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains the importance of a solid foundation for everyone.
“The word of God makes us change our concept of realism,” Father Porter said, quoting Pope Benedict. “The realist is the one who recognizes in the word of God the foundation of all things.
“Possessions, pleasure and power show themselves sooner or later incapable of fulfilling the deepest yearnings of the human heart. In building our lives, [Pope Benedict] says, we need solid foundations which will endure when human certainties fail.
“I think that solid foundation is why we’re here,” said Father Porter. “It is the church, the bride of Jesus, that . . . has manifested herself to us here at the Didde Center and through campus ministry.”
Later, he thanked Father Blaha for providing the opportunity to celebrate the past 25 years at Didde and what they have meant to the Catholic students at Emporia State.
“This facility is certainly beautiful, and it’s hard to believe it is 25 years old. Some of us remember the day it was dedicated, the day those doors first opened. Some of us remember campus ministry before this building — this campus center — existed,” Father Porter said.
As beautiful as the building is, it didn’t make campus ministry at Emporia State possible, said Father Porter. Campus ministry at Emporia State is more than 100 years old. But the building sure helps.
“A building like this offers tremendous ease to campus ministry and a tremendous visibility,” he said.
Father Porter also thanked all of the priests through the past 100 years who have served in campus ministry, and especially those at the campus center.
“All of us have fond memories and all of us have stories of our time here at the Didde Center. . . . All of us are better priests and better people because of you — the students, faculty and our administration.”
Finally, Father Porter said, this anniversary brings to mind Carl and Theresa Didde, the major donors to the campus center.
“They were such tremendous people,” he said, saying how grateful he was for their love of the church and of the students in building the center.
“That, to me, is one of the most beautiful expressions of love, in doing something not for self, but you do it for God,” Father Porter said.