b Fr. Ruskamp Enjoys Chaplaincy at Christendom -b

FRONT ROYAL — When Father Robert Ruskamp walks into the Chapel of Christ the King at Christendom College in Front Royal he is reminded of his first assignment as a young priest in 1985 when he was parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester. Father Ruskamp served at Sacred Heart before the new church was built. The old church had a Tridentine high altar, beautiful stained-glass windows, organ pipes and marble holy water fonts. These articles, no longer needed when the Winchester parish moved into its new church, now grace the quiet chapel at Christendom and bring back memories every time Father Ruskamp enters the chapel, which is also modeled after the old Winchester church in its architecture. Father Ruskamp is the new chaplain of Christendom College, filling the void left by Father Anthony Mastroeni, who now heads the college’s Rome program. The third of 14 children of Henry (now deceased) and Mary Ruskamp, Father Ruskamp was raised in Omaha, Neb. He said he is extremely grateful to his parents for their openness to God’s plan for their family, for cooperating with God in bringing him and his seven brothers and six sisters into existence. His parents, he said, planted the seed of his vocation at a young age by encouraging him and his siblings to be open to their vocations, and especially encouraging religious vocations. After high school, Father Ruskamp accepted his vocation during what he calls a "moment of grace" at a friend’s ordination to the priesthood. The calling was clear, and Father Ruskamp answered it. He applied to the Arlington Diocese and was accepted by then-Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh. Father Ruskamp began his studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Penn. He also studied at University of Dallas in Texas and at St. Thomas (the Angelicum) in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 11, 1985, by Bishop John R. Keating. After his first assignment at Sacred Heart, Father Ruskamp served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Lawrence in Alexandria, St. Patrick in Fredericksburg, St. Philip in Falls Church and St. Elizabeth in Colonial Beach; and as pastor of St. John Bosco in Woodstock and St. Agnes in Arlington. Father Ruskamp said he is excited about the opportunity to devote himself to one group, and is looking forward to leading and praying the Divine Office with the students in the morning and evenings. He will have office hours, during which he will be available to the students for spiritual direction, to give pointers in living the Faith or simply to lend an ear. Father Ruskamp said he is happy about being at a college where "the Faith isn’t something separate, it is a part of the life." Father Ruskamp, who rides a motorcycle when it is cool enough out to wear leather, also plays the harp. His large, magnificent instrument stands by his desk in his office, always ready to be played. He hopes to be able to give the harp more dedication and regular practice this coming year. The size of Christendom College (less than 500 students) is attractive to Father Ruskamp, who says that "it is important that students and faculty know each other." After serving at large parishes where many parishioners were strangers, Father Ruskamp is looking forward to getting to know Christendom’s students and staff on a personal level. At this close-knit school, where students within the first week had invited him to their riverside gatherings, it will not be much of a problem, he said. Father Ruskamp said that what he enjoys most about his chaplaincy at Christendom is "the joy of being around young people. There is a special happiness, love of life and love of the Faith that is evident here. The students are so happy to be able to love the Lord and live their Faith. It’s inspiring to me."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2002