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Catholic community grows at Northern Virginia Community College

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Lisbeth Valladares attends Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, but she had to go to George Mason University in Fairfax to be part of a Catholic campus ministry. “There was nothing here, but I found a family there,” she said. 

She wasn’t alone. A good amount of NOVA students attend Mason’s Thursday supper seminars, said Peter Haislmaier, a NOVA student. “If they’re going to Mason, there's gotta be something we can offer here at NOVA as well,” he said.  


Lisbeth Valladares (left) and Peter Haislmaier speak in front of the new Catholic Club at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF WRITER

So this spring, they organized an Ash Wednesday Mass on campus. Valladares and Haislmaier hosted a kickoff pizza lunch Sept. 28 for the fledgling Catholic Club to brainstorm activities they’d like to do. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge came to encourage the dozen students and offer them the support of the Office for Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministries.

“I was really so excited when I heard about this great initiative. Wherever two or three are gathered in the Lord’s name, we know Christ is present,” said Bishop Burbidge. “You’re here to address the intellectual part of your life, but we all know that the spiritual part of our lives is the most important. I’m so glad you’re taking that aspect seriously.”

Though some 23,000 students attend the NOVA Annandale campus, the transience of the students can make it difficult to keep a club alive and growing, said Haislmaier. “Because there’s no on-campus living, people are always commuting,” he said. “The majority of students also work part time. I mean, I came from work just to get here. I would say it’s a huge challenge — the balance between work and school.”

Both Valladares and Haislmaier hope to transfer to a four-year university next year, so they want to establish a firm foundation before they leave. “I have cousins (who) have gone to different universities and I’m constantly hearing about how they really got involved with the Catholic community down there and how it helped them get through school,” he said. “You can learn by having those deeper conversations with somebody, as opposed to on most campuses really trying to defend yourself.”

“As young adults I think it's super important that we find community to be able to grow,” said Valladares. “We’re challenged left and right and you can’t do it alone.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018