Bishop Burbidge dedicates St. John Bosco Center at University of Mary Washington

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More than 100 students, religious and community members gathered at the newly renamed St. John Bosco Center at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg for the start of the annual Eucharistic procession and all-night adoration Sept. 7.

 

"There are thousands of people who for various reasons may be unable to come to Him, so we will bring God to campus.” Father Christopher T. Vaccaro

St. John Bosco was a natural fit as the patron of the ministry thanks in part to the chapel bearing his name. The 19th century priest made it his life’s mission to minister to the young people in Turin, Italy through education and kindness.

 

Before Father Christopher T. Vaccaro became chaplain of the ministry four years ago, he already had a strong connection to the saint and had started a nonprofit called the associates of St. John Bosco.

 

“I wanted to consecrate what we do to his methods and ways,” said Father Vaccaro.

 

Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge dedicated the center and led the procession, which started at the university’s Anderson Center and ended in the heart of campus on Ball Circle. Students signed up for every hour of the Eucharistic adoration until benediction at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 8. 

 

 

Many students were excited to have Bishop Burbidge attend, and said that it showed the community just how much their ministry means to the diocese as a whole. Before the procession, Bishop Burbidge encouraged the students to let the Lord lead them during the silence of adoration and thanked them for their dedication and leadership on campus.

 

The three-year-old tradition of Eucharistic adoration and the procession, begun by Father Vaccaro, is now led and organized by the students. UMW senior Maddie Smith has served on the liturgy committee for the Catholic campus ministry for the past two years and took the lead in organizing this year’s procession.

 

“It definitely brings the community together,” said Smith. “We all have the same goal of bringing Jesus to campus.” According to Father Vaccaro, the procession has become a huge outreach event for the ministry and has led to student conversions.

 

 

“St. John Vianney said before he died, ‘How good a God we have that when we are unable to go to Him that He comes to us,’” Father Vaccaro said. “Since I started this a couple years ago, that is always the quote that stays with me. There are thousands of people who for various reasons may be unable to come to Him, so we will bring God to campus.”

 

Kaylee Tye experienced a change of heart when she encountered the first procession in 2015. She was a freshman at the time and came across the procession on Campus Walk. 

 

“I wasn’t aware of what it was because I wasn’t a practicing Catholic back then,” said Tye. “I just hopped on the bandwagon and went with the procession.” After the procession, she went back to her dorm, but returned a couple hours later for the midnight adoration time slot.

 

“I remember I was sitting there and I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Everyone else was praying so I just got on my knees so I would look like I knew what I was doing. I was like wow this is actually kind of beautiful. I began thinking back to high school and middle school, and how I had lived my life previously. I remember thinking this is not how I should be living my life. I need to change because I am not worthy to kneel before Jesus.”

Tye immediately left adoration and went to the St. John Bosco Center for confession with Father Vaccaro. “I cried my eyes out and opened my heart,” said Tye. “That night I was able to receive Jesus’ mercy.”

 

Two years later the junior is the Catholic campus ministry outreach and service leader, and she said she enjoys attending daily Mass.

 

“I have a purpose now,” said Tye. “God reached out to me when I didn’t have a relationship with Him at the time. Now that I have filled myself with His love, I’m at a point where I can start to give it back.”

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017