Alumni of all vocations returned to Christendom campus for the first annual Alumni Day of Reflection and Discussion on July 10. Featuring discussions, meditations, and talks from alumni, college president Timothy O’Donnell, and Mass with Francis Cardinal Arinze, the all-day event drew forty alumni from across the country for the opportunity to receive encouragement as they continue to rebuild a domestic church in today’s world.
Focusing on the topic of “Living the Call to Missionary Discipleship: The Domestic Church in the Modern World,” the event was structured around a series of presentations throughout the day, each followed by a meditation from former Christendom chaplain Fr. John Riley and alumnus Fr. Tom Vander Woude (’88). Each presentation concluded with an open discussion amongst the alumni, facilitated by alumnus Mark Rohlena (’00), director of social development for the USCCB, and fellow alumnus Vince Criste (’98), who serves as Christendom’s assistant director of alumni and donor relations.
“The event combined the practical with the intellectual and the spiritual in a dynamic, interactive way that appealed to all of the alumni present,” said Criste. “This was an alumni initiated and alumni driven event. Mark Rohlena approached me about it, and it all came together nicely. We were able to hold it in St. Thomas Aquinas Hall, which was once the Christendom chapel for many of the alumni who were present, giving the event an intimate, historic feel.”
Rohlena agreed with Criste, saying that the event helped him, and other alumni, refocus in their attempts to combat a modern world that has become increasingly secularized and hostile toward the traditional family.
“The day of recollection on the family as domestic church was an oasis for our family. We felt nourished by the sacraments, emboldened by those who led us in prayer and meditation, and then supported by the wisdom and insight of alumni singles and couples who are striving to live their vocations in difficult times. It was really wonderful,” said Rohlena.
“The event was an excellent opportunity for Catholics of all vocations, particularly those with families, to be able to get together, share tips, and be guided by an alumnus priest and former chaplain who were just electrifying. I felt encouraged in what we were already accomplishing in our lives, while also being gently pushed to reach for even more,” said Walter Janaro (’83), who is also the registrar at Christendom.
At Mass, Cardinal Arinze praised the alumni for coming together in such a way, calling on families to have courage in the world and to be active agents in evangelization, with spouses having firm faith and a life of prayer being encouraged in the family.
“It is excellent that on this Christendom College Alumni Day of Reflection you focus on the family, as the domestic church and as evangelizers in the world today, for the family has a vital role to play,” said Cardinal Arinze. “Family is where religion begins….for parents are the first real educators of their children. They see you practice prayer, and they will imitate it.”
With babysitting provided throughout the day, along with meals, at a low cost, alumni of all vocations were able to come to Christendom’s Front Royal, Va. campus to share advice and encouragement with one another — an opportunity that alumna Danielle (Dalley) Rohlena (’01) felt fed the alumni both spiritually and socially.
“I really loved the opportunity to come together, surrounded by the sacraments and old friends, to talk about how to live our faith as families. We all walked away with a list of key things we can do in our daily lives to deepen our faith and be what Gods asks us to be. I hope this will be the first of many opportunities like this, because we all need the Church and one another to be leaven in the world,” said Rohlena.
Criste plans on expanding these events to give alumni across the country these same opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. If interested in organizing a Christendom Alumni Day of Reflection and Discussion, or if looking for further resources or information from this event, please contact Vince Criste at firstname.lastname@example.org.