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Heart & Soul: Gateway Seminar for First-Year Students Teaches Norbertine History and Values

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 7)

By Gina Sanders Larsen and Judy Turba

Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem. (left), and Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem., visit with students who learn about the history and mission of St. Norbert of Xanten and St. Norbert College through the Gateway Seminar.

Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem. (left), and Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem., visit with students who learn about the history and mission of St. Norbert of Xanten and St. Norbert College through the Gateway Seminar.

The inaugural Gateway Seminar for all incoming first-year St. Norbert College (SNC) students is in full swing. The seminar is a recently established graduation requirement; the new students gather once or twice a week during the fall semester in 22 small groups, each led by a three-person teaching team, typically comprised of two staff members and an upperclass student. The diverse teaching teams are charged with introducing the young adults to the history and mission of St. Norbert of Xanten and St. Norbert College. They also help new SNC students acclimate to college life and become familiar with one another and with faculty, staff, and Norbertines on campus who can assist them with their questions or concerns.

“St. Norbert College has had a first-year experience program for a long time, but it’s only this year when it became mandatory, which allows us to increase the number of sessions, deepen the content, and specifically educate our students on our history and mission,” said Fr. Jay Fostner, O. Praem., Ph.D., vice president for mission and student affairs at SNC. “Research demonstrates that first-year experience courses increase retention, help students bond with the institution, and create positive and deeper relationships between students, faculty, and staff.”

Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem., Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem., Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem., and Norbertine Associate Ellen Mommaerts, director of the Norbertine Volunteer Community, are each members of Gateway teaching teams. As young men in formation for the priesthood, Frater Turba and Frater Tran are often on campus. Fr. Brennan, SNC vocation coordinator, is also active in the College of Chaplains at SNC (see “Heart & Soul: College of Chaplains Returns to Campus, St. Norbert College Parish”).

“It’s become my new normal to have people approach me and ask questions about the priesthood,” Frater Turba said, especially considering that he is always wearing his white Norbertine habit. “If that’s the one thing that comes of our participation in Gateway— students engaging us in conversation—I think it’s wonderful. We are proof that St. Norbert is not just a man who lived 900 years ago, but through his ‘sons’ is still a living, breathing presence on our campus today.”

Frater Tran first came to the United States from Vietnam as a high school foreign exchange student. His American grandfather is an SNC graduate, and that connection led Frater Tran to attend and graduate from SNC with a business degree before joining the order. “It really does take a village to live and grow,” he said. “I rely on many others to help guide me, and now I help new students make connections that will help them discover new
people and ideas.”

The 2017-2018 SNC first-year class is comprised of 542 students from 13 states and eight countries. “We have abbeys around the world, and Norbertines are an international order. Here we strive to create a campus community that is diverse and welcoming,” said Fr. Fostner. “The Gateway Seminar helps us nurture a community where learning happens within the context of our rich Catholic, Norbertine, and liberal arts traditions.”

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Heart & Soul: College of Chaplains Returns to Campus, St. Norbert College Parish

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 6)

By Gina Sanders Larsen and Judy Turba

(L-R) Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem., Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem., and Fr. Jay Fostner, O. Praem., are part of the College of Chaplains at St. Norbert College.

(L-R) Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem., Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem., and Fr. Jay Fostner, O. Praem., are part of the College of Chaplains at St. Norbert College.

The College of Chaplains at St. Norbert College (SNC) was reestablished in late 2016 after several years of relying on one or two ordained Norbertines to lead the campus parish, St. Norbert College Parish. According to Fr. Jay Fostner, O. Praem., Ph.D., vice president for mission and student affairs at SNC, the College of Chaplains affords many more ordained Norbertines the opportunity to participate in the liturgical life of campus while they simultaneously fulfill their regular full-time duties as teachers, students, professors, priest celebrants, administrators, chaplains, and parish priests. “Years ago, students saw a lot more white robes on campus than in recent times. In a sense, the reintroduction of the College of Chaplains is a revival of that tradition.”

To reinstitute the College of Chaplains, permanent Deacon Kevin DeCleene was named full-time pastoral leader of St. Norbert College Parish last fall. He reports to Fr. Fostner, priest moderator. The two men coordinate the participation of several ordained Norbertines in the lives of yearround and student parish members. Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem., and Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem., will be most active in the College of Chaplains, and are assisted by other Norbertine priests. Together with the five-member staff of the SNC Emmaus Center for Spiritual Life and Vocation, “we’ve already begun to experience renewed energy from Kevin’s enthusiastic leadership. Between the many Norbertines on campus and our talented 70-member staff in the entire division of mission and student affairs, there is such diversity of voices and personalities,” Fr. Fostner said.

St. Norbert College Parish exists to serve the spiritual and liturgical needs of the college’s 2700 students, faculty, and staff, the majority of whom are Catholic. In addition, the parish boasts approximately 415 households in year-round membership. “Our goal is to ensure the college feeds the parish and the parish feeds the college,” Fr. Fostner said. “The plan is working.”

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Fall/Winter 2017 Issue of “Abbey Magazine” Now Available

From an ancient necrology of the Norbertine saints to digital podcasts, the Norbertines of St. Norbert Abbey embrace modes of communication that engage people and glorify God.

From an ancient necrology of the Norbertine saints to digital podcasts, the Norbertines of St. Norbert Abbey embrace modes of communication that engage people and glorify God.

Abbey Magazine is a biannual publication of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey that illumines life at the abbey and welcomes readers into our life, mind, and spirit.

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