– By Sam Hendrian –
As a Newman Guide Recommended school, John Paul the Great Catholic University strives to provide an authentically Catholic environment in which students can both prepare for their careers and grow in their spiritual lives. One of the many resources on campus for students to develop their faith is a program called “households”.
Having originated at Franciscan University of Steubenville as a sort of Catholic version of fraternities and sororities, households are essentially spiritual clubs in which students of similar interests come together and strive to grow in their faith by living out unique charisms and commitments. Despite the name, not all of the members of a household necessarily live in the same apartment on campus, and commuter students are also welcome to join.
Households were brought to JPCatholic in 2013 by Chris Plance, who was Director of Evangelization at the time; he had seen the positive effects that they had on students while he was studying at Franciscan University. Currently, about 15-20% of the students at JPCatholic are involved with households, and this percentage will likely grow in the years to come. Current Campus Ministry leader Chase Crouse stated, “[Households] provide an opportunity for students to encounter Christ through community in a very intentional way.” JPCatholic is home to six unique households, three for men and three for women. The three households for men are the END House, the Men of the Fiat, and the Neri House. The three households for women are the Daughters of Divine Mercy, Rosa Mystica, and Theta Chi Rho.
The END House was established for male students who are particularly interested in how every form of media has the power to reflect the good, the true, and the beautiful. Student Phillip Gregg explained, “In END House, we take a critical look at media in an attempt to find the good, or failing that, how to avoid the bad.” The men of this household host quarterly movie nights for all students and also hold weekly household media nights for anyone interested in what END is all about. “END” is an acronym for Equites Nostri Dominae, which means “Knights of Our Lady.” As Phillip said, “We are devoted to the Virgin Mary, which is reflected even in our name.”
The Daughters of Divine Mercy is a household for women that is dedicated to personifying the love and joy of Christ’s Divine Mercy. It is one of the oldest households on campus and particularly attracts those who like a tightly-knit community of faith. As member Megan Geier said, “Daughters of Divine Mercy has always had a small community, which is very close and comfortable for me.” Putting their name into action, the women of this household pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together and perform various works of mercy in the community, including visiting the elderly in nursing homes and making blankets for the homeless. They also pray something together called “Prayer in Agreement,” which Megan said “not only helps each one of us to overcome our fears and anxieties, but strengthens the bond between the women in the household.”
The Men of the Fiat is a male household that is committed to two important aspects of a healthy life: prayer and working out. By combining prayer with exercise, they hope to grow in faith and masculinity. Household member Derek Knoeferl said, “What attracted me to Men of the Fiat was the commitment to becoming a better man through prayer and brotherhood.” Some events that they hold are mid-term breakfast sessions, where Derek said they “provide food for hungry students during mid-quarter when mid-terms happen.” They also are planning to host a frisbee tournament in the future. As they combine spiritual and physical exercise, the Men of the Fiat continue to grow in their Catholic faith and be a strong force of good on campus.
Rosa Mystica is a female household that focuses on joyful and redemptive suffering. Member Tian Kok said, “Everyone undergoes suffering, and it’s impossible to ignore its place in our lives. Rosa Mystica tries to focus on how we can be joyful during these times of suffering because it is part of a plan God has for each of us to grow.” Every week, the members go through the “thorns and roses” of their past week. Tian explained, “These are the high and low points of our week and provide an opportunity for members to release any built-up frustration about the past week and ask for help in anything they might be struggling with.” In addition to joyful suffering, Rosa Mystica has the charism of authentic femininity, which Tian describes as “focus[ing] on what it means to be a woman and our inherent strength as women.” Every Advent season, the women of Rosa Mystica put up a “Giving Tree” in the school so that students can donate gifts for refugees. They also host feed-the-homeless events and offer a Rosary in the chapel for all students during finals week.
Neri House is another male household that focuses on the charism of Joy for Christ. It is built on the four pillars of brotherhood, accountability, prayer, and joyful missionary hearts. Member Kyle Lavin said, “It is through our vulnerability as Brothers in Christ that we find the opportunity to hold each other accountable in becoming men of virtue and of prayer.” Their most famous event is the Neri BBQ, which they hold at least once a quarter for their fellow JPCatholic students. They also coordinate service activities throughout the Escondido community and have Ultimate Frisbee competitions with the other households. Kyle proudly said, “Through our relationship with Christ and the brothers around us, we are able to find great joy and a special zeal to share that joy with the community.”
Theta Chi Ro is a women’s household that co-founder Shannon DiSalle said was created to “provide an environment that encourages spiritual growth through sisterhood.” It has four pillars: joy, purity, fortitude, and service. Saints Philomena and Agnes serve as the members’ patron saints and help them remain brave as they “strive to be a light in a world full of lies through our joy.” They work to follow Christ’s example by becoming suffering servants, and they conduct several service projects throughout the year for both their fellow students and Escondido community members. Their main event is Lord’s Day, which they host every Saturday at 4:00 PM for all women at the school. Shannon explained, “This is an old Christian tradition where households would gather for a meal of bread and wine (don’t worry, we use grape juice), meditate on Sunday’s gospel, and share our gratitude and prayer intentions from the past week. It’s a beautiful tradition, and all women are invited to join us!”
Households continue to thrive at JPCatholic and provide a plethora of opportunities for each student to grow in virtue and perform acts of service. As campus minister Chase Crouse stressed, “Through this branch of campus ministry, we can offer the chance for students to encounter Christ in and through each other.”
About the Author
Sam Hendrian is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University (Class of 2019) pursuing a double emphasis in Screenwriting and Directing.