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Campus center dedicated to encountering Christ

Father Nicholas Ashmore, right, director and chaplain of the Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University, and Matthew Howe, an associate professor at Emporia State, kick off a short program as part of the center’s first gala held April 6 at the Lyon County History Center and Museum in downtown Emporia. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KENNY RODRIGUEZ

by Marc and Julie Anderson

EMPORIA — Form the Swarm.

That was the theme of the first true gala of the Didde Catholic Campus Center held April 6 at the Lyon County History Center and Museum here.

The theme was a nod to the reason for the campus center’s existence in the first place — that of forming young Catholics to live for Christ — as well as a play on  the university’s mascot, the hornet.

Dedicated on April 1, 1990, by Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker, the Didde Catholic Campus Center is the spiritual home to Catholic students enrolled at Emporia State University, as well as university faculty, staff and many in the wider Emporia community.

The evening, funded in part by a grant from the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas, began with evening Mass celebrated in St. Theresa’s Chapel by Father Nicholas Ashmore, director and chaplain of the campus center. Mass was followed by a social hour, dinner and a short program emceed by Matthew Howe, an associate professor at the university. Howe started his association with the campus as a student at the university and is now a parishioner, along with his wife and children.

“Tonight, we want to share with you how the Didde Center is serving Emporia State students, and we invite you in this mission,” Howe said. 

In his homily, Father Ashmore reflected on the Gospel reading recounting St. Thomas the Apostle’s doubt of the resurrection to his encounter with the risen Jesus.

“It’s a blessed chance that the readings for today are so perfect for this gathering because that’s the same thing we try to do here at Didde for all our students. We try to help them have an encounter with Christ and then lead them to that question: ‘Do you believe, or do you not believe?’ This is a question that they have to ponder in their hearts,” Father Ashmore said.

Father Nicholas Ashmore celebrates Mass in St. Theresa’s Chapel at the Didde Catholic Campus Center before the start of the gala. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KENNY RODRIGUEZ

Later, he added that one of the most beautiful aspects of his ministry is getting to walk alongside the students on their individual journeys of faith.

“What is the essence? What is it that you want to do here for the students?” he asked. “I think it comes back to that fundamental question, to prepare them to be able to say, ‘My Lord and my God’ when God poses the question to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ That’s fundamentally what we do here.”

As part of the program, gala attendees watched a short video about the campus center featuring interviews with students and staff members interspersed with the Gospel account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus by alum Abbey Weber, the center’s development director.

After the video, attendees heard from Jessica Wilson, the center’s current student council president.

A public high school graduate from Rose Hill, Wilson said she had been involved in many activities within her home diocese of Wichita, but starting college can come with a lot of anxiety and fears. Such was the position she was in three years ago.

“I knew that there was a Newman center at Emporia State, and I knew I was going to be a part of it, but I didn’t know what that community looked like or what I could find here,” Wilson said.

“Before our school year even started, that community found me,” she added.

While participating in a eucharistic adoration night the summer before starting ESU, Wilson said a friend introduced her to a student who was active in the Didde Catholic Campus Center. That young woman immediately befriended Wilson and invited her to activities at the campus center. That was three years ago.

These days, the two young women are the best of friends. Another “absolute joy,” for her, said Wilson, is the Bible study for freshmen women that she leads.

“The Didde Center has changed my life — and I can see the way it is changing the lives of my girls in my Bible study,” she said.

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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