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The CSU on cultivating a strong Catholic community

April 14, 2023

Courtesy of Auggie Segger.
EAGER FOR EASTER: Father Phil Tracy works with CSU to collaborate over events like bringing students to weekly and Easter mass. The club hosts social events such as brunch and bowling in addition to transporting members to churches in the area.

One of many spaces of belonging and shared interest on Bowdoin’s campus, the Catholic Students Union (CSU), provides a community for students who wish to practice and share their Catholic faith with each other. This past weekend, the CSU joined together in celebration of Easter.

Club leader Ryan Kovarovics ’23 decided to join the CSU when he came to campus for admitted students weekend.

“I found out about [the CSU] at admitted students weekend and met the leaders at the time,” Kovarovics said. “So I got involved with CSU right away my freshman fall and started going to mass and attending events and really enjoyed it, and started helping to lead [my] sophomore year and [I’ve] been doing it ever since.”

CSU members walk to 11 a.m. mass together on Sundays at St. John’s and carpool to St. Charles for 5 p.m. mass.

“That’s kind of the reason CSU exists,” Kovarovics said. “Then to build community, we have brunch after the 11 o’clock mass on Sundays in Thorne; we also have biweekly discussion dinners on Tuesday evenings.”

A central aspect of the club is its celebrations and programming around Catholic holidays, providing students chances to partake in these traditions together. This past weekend from April 6 to April 10, the CSU came together to celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. The club provided carpools to mass and organized bowling nights on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, the club headed to St. John’s for mass at 11 a.m., followed by a brunch and community Easter Egg Hunt, both hosted at Boody-Johnson House.

The CSU works closely with the All Saints Parish in Brunswick. The club has a close relationship with Father Phil Tracy, the lead pastor, to fortify the Catholic spiritual community both on and off campus.

“[Tracy] started last spring, and he was once the chaplain [at Bowdoin] and previously at Colby and really has a thing for getting college students engaged and wanting to be present,” Kovarovics said. “We’ve really enjoyed getting to work with him and I think his idea of how the campus Catholic community should look is very much our idea.”

In addition to the weekly programming, the club used to host a speaker series on the Catholic faith before the Covid-19 pandemic restricted visitors to campus. This year, the club had the opportunity to resume these speaker series in person. On Tuesday, Bowdoin alumni Sarah Walker ’20, returned to campus to give a talk on “Spirituality Beyond Bowdoin” as part of the CSU’s Discussion Dinner series.

“CSU was a really meaningful part of my Bowdoin experience, and the faith communities that I had during Bowdoin and after college have shaped and enriched and provided joy to my life,” Walker said.

For Walker, the CSU provided opportunities to build a deeper connection with the Brunswick community.

“I helped with all the aspects of CSU, especially with the music ministry. I was singing with the high school and middle school choir, and that was a really cool way to become connected to the Brunswick community and briefly interact and mentor some rising seniors in high school who were thinking about college,” Walker said.

Attending BSG-sponsored Thursday bowling nights was a long-standing pre-pandemic tradition at the CSU, which helped the club feel like a social group as well as a religious community. For Kovarovics, the revival of that tradition on Holy Thursday was reminiscent of the consistent social programming they had done previously.

“Before Covid there was more of a social element at CSU, in addition to the masses and religious events.… We had a more consistent group for that,” Kovarovics said. “Bowling closed during Covid, so we haven’t been able to do that and we’ve kind of lost the consistent social activities and the consistent social group together.”

Like many other clubs, Covid made it difficult for the club to attract new members from the Class of 2024 and 2025. However, things are starting to return to normal with the Class of 2026 as more members have been joining the club and engaging with in-person events. Kovarovics has high hopes that social programming will return to pre-pandemic levels soon.


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