Campus crowd celebrates Christmas - Catholic Courier

Campus crowd celebrates Christmas

A final exam loomed for Elizabeth Leger the next morning. Mary Marisa was in the midst of a crushing week that involved four finals and two papers to submit.

"Oh my goodness, it’s been insane," Leger said.

Even so, both collegians willingly set their studies aside on Dec. 14 to make time for their Catholic faith. They were among approximately 50 people who attended the annual Christmas Mass of the Ithaca College Catholic Community.

The Tuesday-evening liturgy was held in Muller Chapel. Lasting slightly more than an hour, its atmosphere was enhanced by Christmas trees, an Advent wreath, candlelight and Christmas hymns from student musicians.

"I thought it was beautiful, the joy in people’s faces," Leger remarked.

Marisa, 19, a sophomore chemistry major, said she was glad "to focus on the joy of what Christmas really is, even in the midst of our studying like madmen. I knew a lot of us were all stressed out from exams. It was kind of a needing to relax and be with people. It’s nice to interact with people in a way you don’t have to think about school at all."

Father Carsten Martensen, SJ, director of campus ministry, said he was pleased by the turnout since this was not a Mass of obligation.

"I think that the students, those who joined us for Eucharist, find the Eucharist is really significant and important — one of the anchors in their lives, the anchor," he said, adding that Catholic-community students also were spurred by their close connections with each other: "Therefore, to come to the (Christmas) Mass is just an affirmation for their faith life throughout. I think we have a good, vibrant community."

"The community here is so much a part of my life at college. It’s a big celebration, a big party to celebrate the gift of Christmas with all your peers and friends," said Leger, 20, a junior music major from Orange, Conn. "I think it’s definitely worth taking the time out."

"It was definitely like a regular Christmas Day Mass … kind of like sitting with your family on Christmas," added Marisa, an Ithaca native from Immaculate Conception Parish. "I really wanted to go. The Catholic community on campus is like a second family."

Family was a prevalent theme during a portion of Father Martensen’s homily on Dec. 14. While noting the value of Christmas customs and the need to have such rituals in our lives, he asked the congregation to share Christmas memories and at least 10 students responded, many of who mentioned attending midnight Mass with their families in their hometowns.

"It was really nice Father did that. It gave them a chance to talk about Christmas traditions that you don’t necessarily talk about with your peers," Leger observed.

Leger said serving as the pianist and a singer for the musical group helped keep her mind off schoolwork, with a one-hour practice before Mass setting the perfect tone.

"You’re doing Christmas music where you really aren’t thinking about anything else," said Leger, who is codirector of the music ministry and also involved with the Catholic community’s spirituality committee.

Music at the Christmas liturgy included the opening "O Come All Ye Faithful" as well as "Night of Silence," which was sung simultaneously with the better-known "Silent Night."

"To hear these kids sing those Christmas songs, it was beautiful," Father Martensen said.

Leger quipped that the uplifting "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was selected as the closing hymn so students could walk out sufficiently energized "to go knock out the finals."

Speaking of finals, Father Martensen noted that Muller Chapel remained open around the clock for a few days beginning with the regular 9 p.m. Sunday Mass on Dec. 12. He said several dozen young adults dropped in to study and grab such refreshments as tea, hot chocolate, bagels and fruit — and most definitely coffee.

"We wanted them to have a safe and comfortable place to be. We have wi-fi here," Father Martensen said, adding that many students hauled along their laptop computers.

Leger said she dropped in for a bit on Sunday night, whereas Marisa studied at the chapel from 10 p.m. to midnight on Monday and 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. beginning Tuesday night. With the severe loss in sleep that week, it’s no surprise that Marisa — who serves as the Catholic community’s justice-and-service committee chair — was eagerly anticipating her semester break.

"I’m excited not to have to do too much for a couple of weeks," she remarked.

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