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GMU Catholic Patriots hosts back-to-school luau

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A mass exodus of George Mason University freshman and new students headed toward the St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel Friday afternoon for the GMU Catholic Patriots’ annual back-to-school luau. 

According to the Catholic campus ministry chaplain, Father James R. Searby, the event has become so popular that it made it on the university’s move-in events calendar. This year, a record-breaking 1,700 students enjoyed barbecue, music, ice cream and games on the chapel lawn — 400 more than last year. 

“Everyone on campus was talking about it,” said freshman Kendal Angeloff, who won her most expensive textbook at the luau raffle. 

Sophomore Jack Schierling, who helped welcome students, remembers attending the luau as a freshman last year.

“It’s the first major introduction to the chapel and a great opportunity to meet people,” said Schierling. “It’s like the opening act to a circus performance.”

Father Searby said he enjoyed the opportunity to introduce the students to the campus ministry. 

“The luau kicks off the first 168 hours of school,” he said. "During the first week, students will encounter the closest friends they will have in college." Father Searby hopes the luau encourages students to return for the many fun and formative events he has planned, including P3 — prayer, penance and pub; Thursday night supper and speaker; and the new Thomistic institute. The campus ministry is putting the finishing touches on the renovated chapel and a recently purchased the house next to the rectory. The “Manor house,” which will open in mid-September, will host Bible st­udies, student activities and build on the ministry’s mission to help students encounter Christ during college.

“The idea of campus ministry is to form the whole person,” said Father Searby. “We work with the university and with the education they have already received from their parents.” 

While the luau focused on new students, the Catholic Patriots also have big plans to start an alumni association, according to Father Searby.

“We hope to kick that off this semester around alumni weekend (in October) to bring the Catholics out, get them to see the chapel and see what is going on,” he said. 

Buy photos from the GMU luau at catholicherald.smugmug.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017