Lauren Foster ’15, Staff Writer
When a returning student steps into Campus Ministry for the first time this year, they will quickly notice the differences in the office.
As anticipated, there is a new Augustinian Volunteer, Amy Roland, and Graduate Fellow, Devon Corbett, to the office. Campus Ministry also has two new faces, Jeff Wallace and Cara Annese, joining their staff to fill the shoes of Brian Suehs-Vassel and Fr. Bill Waters who each departed Merrimack’s campus last semester.
Annie McDonnell ’16 has been a student assistant in the office for over two years now. McDonnell recognizes that this summer Campus Ministry added more new staff than usual, but that has not stopped the progress there.
“Everyone has been able to get together and we are on the ball getting ready for everything this year. There is definitely a different vibe. Everyone is still fun and friendly and it is definitely a lively office.”
In his short time here, Jeff Wallace already feels the sense of community at Merrimack. “Even though I’ve only been here around three months, staff, students, and faculty have welcomed me here with open arms and open hearts.”
“It is encouraging to see this kind of welcome because it shows that a genuine care for others is part of the campus culture here at Merrimack,” Wallace continued.
Wallace comes to Campus Ministry after receiving his undergrad at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia and his masters at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He also has experience in various service and volunteer opportunities, including working with youth as well as spending a year of service in Ecuador.
Jeff Wallace has already jumped into the Merrimack community, getting involved in the famous M.O.R.E. Retreat this month as well as the First-Year Experience program.
“Even during Orientation and RA Training you could tell he was taking an interest in students,” McDonnell noted.
Cara Annese, who is taking over for Fr. Bill, comes to Merrimack after completing her undergrad at Assumption and receiving her Masters at Boston College in the School of Theology. Annese ran the Kairos program at BC, where she developed her passion in working with college students and coordinating retreats. She also brings experience of leading a confirmation program as well as service retreats for high school students.
This year Annese will be coordinating the Sacramental preparation program as well as RENEW, a student-led weekly scripture discussion. One of the important aspects of her job depends on the ever-changing campus here.
“My job is based on the needs of the students at the time. When they need to be here, I need to be here as well. I love being here so I gladly come in every day and it doesn’t feel like work to me.”
As in the past, Campus Ministry offers service opportunities such as MerrimAction and alternative fall, winter, and spring break.
There are also various retreats available to students such as the Freshman Retreat, M.O.R.E. (Merrimack Out Reach Experience), and the Boston Urban Retreat.
This upcoming summer will be the second time Campus Ministry offers an immersion trip to Ecuador, which applications are due for on October 9th.
This fall is the fourth semester that Campus Ministry has partnered with Hamel Health & Counseling Services to sponsor TALL: Talking About Life and Loss, a bereavement group that meets weekly.
So what is the staff of Campus Ministry looking forward to most this year?
“Journeying with students,” Annese explained. “Being available and being open and just kind of going where the needs are and just being the best guide and helper I can be.”
For McDonnell, it’s Alternative Spring Break, or ASB. “We are trying to grow the program more this year with more sites and more students. I hope more people will continue to go on it and make it a great program.”
“Also having a new atmosphere and seeing how we can develop the office and make it a place that students want to get involved in and participate in.”
To get involved in Campus Ministry or for more information, contact Fr. Keith Hollis at HollisK@Merrimack.edu