The Boston College community tied hundreds of maroon and gold ribbons with their prayers written on them to the fences surrounding Bapst Library last week.
“I love the spirit of the ribbons because it’s an opportunity for conversation,” Karen Kiefer, director of the BC Church in the 21st Century Center (C21), said. “Those [ribbons] are all intentions that represent and reflect the beauty and power and love of our Boston College community.”
The Prayer Ribbon Project is just one part of this year’s Espresso Your Faith Week, an annual celebration of faith sponsored by C21 and Campus Ministry. The week featured various events including an Agape Latte storytelling event, coffee socials, live music, prayers, and masses.
Kiefer noted the community’s openness in sharing stories and engaging with Espresso Your Faith Week.
“This year there has been such a robust spirit that is igniting the campus and students seem so open,” Kiefer said.
After the isolation caused by COVID-19-related cancellations and social distancing, Kiefer said there has been a noticeable change in attitude as students are taking advantage of the open campus.
One way students have been taking advantage is by stopping at event tables across campus and participating in activities like making their own rosaries.
“I cannot keep rosary beads in stock,” Kiefer said. “I ordered hundreds of them, and I’m down to almost my last batch.”
Kiefer said she wants to encourage students to keep opening up to new opportunities.
“Open yourself up,” she said. “Open yourself up to meeting new people. Open yourself up to the possibility of God working in your every day. Be intentional about how you live here.”
Rev. Thomas Stegman, S.J., dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, spoke at Agape Latte on Tuesday night about opening up to God’s call. God’s call, Stegman said, can come to people as a gut feeling.
While he was a math major at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, for example, Stegman said he found himself attending Mass regularly and started thinking about joining a seminary.
Stegman said he drew a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left side he listed reasons to stay at Lincoln, which he said were many, and on the right side he put his reason to leave.
“I put down one reason,” Stegman said. “Two words: gut feeling.”
Against the advice of his loved ones, Stegman left Lincoln and was sent to a seminary in Philadelphia. He never looked back.
After joining the Jesuits, Stegman said he began to experience dizziness and fainting spells, so he was sent home and underwent surgery.
“I remember looking in the mirror everyday wondering … what’s my life going to be?” Stegman said. “But through this all … I had so many people praying for me and I had a real sense that this was going to be okay. God led me this far and I didn’t think he led me this far just to have it end this way.”
Two years ago Stegman’s symptoms resurfaced and he was subsequently diagnosed with a serious health condition. When asked if he felt angry with God, Stegman said he did not.
“I won’t say I’m happy about this, but I’ve felt strangely prepared for this,” Stegman said.
In an interview with The Heights, Stegman said he hopes students will take away two key lessons from his talk.
“One is that people grow in their desire and ability to listen to the true self and to God’s call to serve their life’s vocation,” Stegman said. “Secondly, [that] our faith gives us resources of hope and strength to get through tough times.”
Espresso Your Faith Week is a great opportunity for the community to engage with the Catholic faith and God’s call, Stegman said.
“I think it’s a wonderful outreach to students to reflect upon the riches of our Catholic faith and to have an opportunity to hear stories and deepen their own sense of how we might walk forward, taking our faith very seriously, and be the people God’s calling us to be,” he said.
Caroline Bunt, CSON ’22, said this was her first time attending Agape Latte.
“Talking about having a purpose or having this gut feeling, especially as a senior, starting to think about careers can be a little scary,” Bunt said. “Coming to this speech especially helps you listen to that gut feeling and follow your dreams.”
Bunt said Stegman’s talk underscored the importance of the Jesuit value of being men and women for others.
“I think my biggest takeaway is to love and be kind to others and always be men and women for others,” Bunt said.
Kiefer said it is a blessing to share the gifts of the Jesuit Catholic university with the community through Espresso Your Faith Week.
“I think [the week is] important because it awakens our spirit early in the academic year, so that we can think and reflect on where God is working in our life,” Kiefer said.
Whatever your faith is, Kiefer said, everyone was invited to celebrate the week and meet in conversation.
“I hope that all students feel embraced by this week, that it’s not just Catholic students, I mean that’s not what our faith is about,” Kiefer said. “It’s leading with love, and then really sharing that love, so that other people can realize the light that lives within them.”
Ultimately, Kiefer said she hopes that the spirit of last week—giving in service to others—opens students’ hearts and helps them find the courage to jump at opportunities. She also hopes that students receive a particular gut feeling—God’s love.
“Hopefully, in that spirit of giving during this week we receive the love of God, and we feel that in our gut,” Kiefer said.