Inaugural intercollegiate Catholic Student Summit at Victoria Park in Irving, Texas, Oct. 8, 2021. / Zack Weiss
Washington D.C., Oct 27, 2021 / 16:20 pm (CNA).
Catholic students from multiple Texas universities recently gathered for an evening of prayer and worship that, organizers say, is the start of something new.
“We reserved a park for a couple of hours, just told everyone, ‘Bring a dinner, bring your friends, show up,” said Zack Weiss, a junior pastoral ministry major at the University of Dallas and co-organizer of the event, to CNA.
An estimated 100 young adults attended the first-ever intercollegiate Catholic Student Summit at Victoria Park in Irving, Texas, Weiss said, with roughly 60 of them from the University of Dallas.
Students from eight other universities also participated in the Oct. 8 event: Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of North Texas, Baylor University, the Baylor University School of Nursing, Texas Woman’s University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
On a Friday night, they met in a public park for fellowship, games, a talk by UD chaplain Fr. Joseph Paul Albin, and prayer.
“It was just beautiful to see so many young Catholics who were on fire for their faith show up,” Weiss said. “It just showed that there are so many other young Catholics like me who want something more and who just want to grow in faith as a large community.”
Weiss organized the event, together with UD senior pastoral ministry major John Paul O’Brien, after a club meeting of Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. The club, created by the university’s pastoral ministry students, encourages spiritual conversations on campus. At the meeting, Weiss suggested inviting friends from another university to attend their events. His idea quickly expanded to include other universities.
Now, Weiss and O’Brien are planning for the future. After meeting with leaders from Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas last week, Weiss said that they want to organize monthly summits beginning next semester. They also plan to host a special intercollegiate event this winter.
“We are hopefully going to be doing a winter supply drive and putting together bags for the homeless or meals or something along those lines – coming together as a community to make these things, and then bringing these things back to our respective communities,” Weiss said.
Right now, Weiss said, he’s placing the summit in God’s hands.
“We just kind of see this as God can take this anywhere that he wants to, and we are going to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit tells us that he wants us to do with the summit,” Weiss said.
Other students agreed that the first summit was a success. Collin Bass, a sophomore at Baylor University and a professional selling (sales) major, remembered the “evening full of fun, fellowship, and worship.”
“For a first-time event, it was super impressive as well as encouraging to see over 100 students show out just to bond over the love of Jesus!” he exclaimed. His favorite moment, he told CNA, was watching several Dominican priests and brothers walking up and capturing the attention of everyone at the park.
According to Madison Williams, a senior pastoral ministry major with concentrations in theology and Spanish at UD, the event turned out better than she could have imagined.
“I was blown away by the number of students that came out, even students from my school that I didn’t expect to be there,” she told CNA. “I had a wonderful time chatting with other Catholic college students from the DFW metroplex, but my favorite moment was witnessing the nascence of a beautiful faith community.”
The summit also impacted her faith, she said.
“This event was affirming for my faith and gave me hope for the future of our Church,” she stressed. “It is easy to become distressed about the status of young Catholics when you look at social media and modern perceptions of religion. However, this event and the faith that I witnessed assured me that young Catholics are everywhere and they are seeking to build the Church.”
While Weiss says that he and organizers want to focus on the Dallas-Fort Worth Catholic community for now, they are open to expanding their reach.
“We would love to have bigger colleges from the state join us because a lot of us here at UD have mutual friends at these big state schools,” Weiss said. “And of course, if God wants to make this something national, we think that that would be incredible.”
Founded in 1956, the University of Dallas is located in Irving, Texas. The Cardinal Newman Society, dedicated to defending and promoting faithful Catholic education, recognizes the private Catholic college for its “national reputation for excellence in both its fidelity to Catholicism and its academics.”