ILLINOIS - The first Catholic Servants Unity and Empowerment Conference, hosted by registered student organization Catholic Campus Ministries, was held January 24-25, in the Illini Union halls at University of Illinois at Chicago, including students from various campuses.
About 35 to 40 members of the student organization from Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Southern Illinois University and the University of Maryland gathered on Urbana’s campus.
The conference was a way to bring everyone interested in the faith together, said Jeff Tackes, the organization's president.
"We invited everyone and opened it up to everyone else at U of I and even the country," he said.
John Michael Sy, a graduate student, started the organization's local chapter his freshman year with his sister Jhoanne Sy. Sy said the national organization, which originated in New Jersey, appealed to him because of its creative evangelical techniques designed for college students.
"We take secular events and make them Christ-centered," he said.
For example, the group has hosted "Praisestock," an event similar to Woodstock, but Christ-centered, Sy said.
Johnny Tenegra, junior in LAS, shares his wonderful experience at the conference.
"There are a lot of students here deep in faith. It shows in their faces, in their singing, everything they do," he said. "When we are united, it makes our prayers to Jesus that much stronger."
"I have not cried in a very long time and this organization made me," he continued. "There are a lot of people who do because everyone feels so touched when we share and come together."
Father Tom Holloway of St. John's Catholic Chapel in Champaign who is a staff representative to the organization said the conference was a leadership renewal conference.
"(The event) is a series of talks and a renewal of their ministry on college campuses," he said. "It's also a friendly, enjoyable introduction to the Christian life."
Another even called "Catholic-fest" is waiting to be presented in late spring, which would focus on one creative evangelical event for each day of one week.