Today on The Life of a SMC Girl, I wanted to take you on a virtual tour around a place that has been quite important in my life at SMC- the Chapel!! For those of my wonderful readers who don’t know, I have been involved with Campus Ministry since I was a first year. Whether it’s been helping volunteer through MOVE, serving at the 7pm mass, or being a Senior team leader of VITA, campus ministry has helped shape me into who I am today. It also means that I get to spend a lot of time in the lovely Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel and become known as the Princess of it (Hahahaha!! Just kidding- even though if there was one, it would probably be me with the amount of time I spend there 🙂
The Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel was built in 1965, making it the largest Chapel in the state of Vermont. It seats 1000 people and is shaped like a cross, so there is seating in the north, east, and west naves, and another altar space in the back. The Chapel is a place where everyone is welcome, whether you identify with a different religion or don’t choose to practice. I always come here just to de-stress or when my life seems chaotic, gain some quiet time to myself. What most people don’t know, however, is that there is an Upper Room upstairs in the Chapel, which is full of comfy couches, pillows and blankets, a fully stocked kitchen and an alarm clock, in case you want to take a nap up there. It’s where I usually go to study if the Academic Buildings or Library is really packed.
VITA team 2013-14!! From top left: Tim, Maura, Colleen, Emily, Kate. Bottom left: Kelly, Lauren Murphy, me, Po.
Being a part of VITA has honestly changed my life for the better. VITA, meaning way of life in Latin, is the peer ministry group on campus. A lot of the VITA programming meets in the Chapel to help students to relax and reflect. VITA offers a wide variety of programs, such as LINK, our large faith sharing group, Connections, our small faith sharing group, and Dessert and the Divine, our monthly dessert and reflection group. Coming in as a first year, it was VITA which helped me to get involved and my SMC mom and phenomenal campus minister/ VITA mentor, Anna Lester, who helped me to not be so shy and scared about the transition into college. I’ve been so lucky to work with an amazing group of people these past four years to not only help myself, but help others in so many different ways. What’s so wonderful about VITA is that not only is everyone welcome in the Chapel, but to VITA as well. What I also love about VITA is how different everyone who comes in- whether it be various religions, backgrounds, or faith journeys, we are all so interested in learning about each other and seeing different perspectives on so many topics.
Jay blessing an animal in the Sanctuary!!
We also have events for the community, such as our annual Animal Blessing. Typically, this is celebrated on the feast of St. Francis, which falls in October. I’ve been lucky enough to help with this event all of my years at Saint Mike’s, aiding the amazing Jason Moore, our retreat director and wonderful campus minster. My favorite thing, of course, is seeing all of the community members and dogs from the All Bread and the Greyhound shelters right down the road, getting blessed and having the chance to play with them afterwards. If you’re far from home, you can always bring in a picture of your animal to have blessed as well!!
Po and Jerome at the lecturn
If you’re ever interested in getting involved in serving at mass, I would totally recommend it!! One of the first ways I got involved on campus was by serving as a lector and a Eucharistic Minister at the 7pm student mass. There are usually two main masses on Sundays- 11am for the community and 7pm for students. If choosing to serve, you can do a wide variety of things, such as singing or playing in the liturgical choir or serving as a lector (reader) Eucharistic Minister, or Altar Server. There are also daily masses every day at 11:30am (and 4pm on Monday’s) and other ways of worship, such as Adoration, Taize, and morning prayer in the Chapel as well. Typically to serve, you have to go through training, so that you’re prepared for what to do when serving at mass. Of course, that didn’t stop me from messing up one or one hundred times in between, but it’s honestly been one of the best things I’ve done in my four years here. Up above, you can see my best friend, Po being helped by the hysterical Jerome Monachino, our liturgical choir director. Jerome controls the mics and sound system in the Chapel, so he always helps run lector training, giving some great tips when reading into the mic.
Welcome Back Social- perfect way to cool off and eat some delicious ice cream!!
One of my favorite things of all time to do is to get big groups of people together. Luckily, we host a lot of socials in the Upper Room of the Chapel, where we can get together to meet new friends or catch up with old ones. Constantly throughout the semester, we have various ice cream,cookies, pizza, and nachos socials with movies, games, and even sleepovers mixed in between. This picture was from our Welcome Back social this past August, which was filled with so much fun!!
LEAP Fall 2013!! From left: Alex, Amanda, Kerry, Mary, Marci, me, Emily, and Nicole.
Retreats one of the most intrinsic parts of campus ministry and depend heavily on the Chapel to serve as the setting to prepare for each semesters group. Retreats are held one weekend every semester at St. Anne’s Shrine, geared to helping find what students need in their lives at the moment. LEAP, our community based retreat, and Emmaus, our Ignatian spirituality retreat, are our two most popular retreats, in which students give personal talks and experiences, planning for months to make the retreat a reality. Retreats are open to everyone of any faith and are extremely well attended. The connections you make with others on the retreats are priceless and have really helped me to find myself and my faith throughout my retreat weekends.
This year’s Way of the Cross group in the Chapel lobby!! From left: Shawn, Greg, Chris, Maura, Aaron, Allie, Chris, me, Alex, Caitie, Po, Allie, Tyler, Lucia, Kristen, and Lauren Loy.
As I was mentioning before, we have a lot of events both for the community on campus and off. One of these events is Way of the Cross. Way of the Cross is a really awesome way of taking the typical Stations of the Cross during a Friday in Lent and giving it a personal touch, infusing personal narrative into each station. For the past four years, I have played Mary Magdala and it has been an amazing experience. So many students help out each March with this, practicing late at night in the Chapel the night before and we always get such a nice turn out!!
Lit Choir at Catholic Central HS, Albany NY!!
While I’ve been involved in campus ministry all four years at SMC, one thing I had always wanted to do, but never had the courage to, was join the SMC liturgical choir. Led by Jerome Monachino, it is honestly the most talented and coolest group of people. Me being the scardy cat I am, I was too shy to join. However, my best friend, Merrill, was actually the one to give me the courage to finally go and Marci was the one to help solidify that as well. Being able to sing my heart out to some really great tunes each Wednesday for 6:30pm rehearsal and Sunday for mass on the risers in the Chapel is one of the best feelings in the world. The Lit Choir also goes on a tour each year to various churches and schools along the east coast. This year, we went to Albany, NY and I had one of the best times of my life. Even though I was late to the game, I’m so thankful that I was able to still continue trying new things, even in my senior year.
Phew!! I probably exhausted you all from our look around the Chapel- don’t worry, we can take a breather hahaha!! Honestly though, the Chapel is a phenomenal place not only for reflection, but a place where no matter who you are or what you believe in, you can somehow find something special about it. It has really become my home away from my dorm on campus, as it’s the place where I really was able to develop into the person I am today, something I’m extremely thankful for.
Until next time, I send you my very best wishes,
Alex Byrne 🙂