ServingGod

Holy Hour at Hofstra University

Nick Castelli (center) with Hofstra Brothers Justin Usis (left) and Thomas O'Connor (right).

Nick Castelli (center) with Hofstra Brothers Justin Usis (left) and Thomas O'Connor (right).

Bringing Spiritual Development to Campus

by Nick Castelli
Hofstra University, ‘21

“Phi Kappa Theta actively develops men to be effective leaders who passionately serve society, fraternity, and God.” The spiritual pillar has continued to be the corner stone of the Fraternity that gives men the ability to become those passionate leaders.

Without spiritual development, gentlemen of Phi Kappa Theta cannot become men who serve effectively in leadership.

Spiritual development opens the mind in a way that other areas of development cannot. While many college communities lie asleep in indifference, the New York Alpha Omega Chapter at Hofstra University embraces the opportunity to ponder questions and be active in their spiritual development.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The study of truth requires a considerable effort - which is why few are willing to undertake it out of love of knowledge - despite the fact that God has implanted a natural appetite for such knowledge in the minds of men.”

The brothers of Phi Kappa Theta at Hofstra University have taken full advantage of fulfilling that natural appetite with the new spiritual development program, Beyond Belief.

Guest Speaker Father Christopher Sullivan.

Guest Speaker Father Christopher Sullivan.

Before the release of the new program, the chapter was still regularly active in their spiritual development. Former Vice President of Spiritual Development, Thomas O’Connor, regularly organized Spirit Talks. These talks were open discussions that allowed brothers to examine questions while reflecting on their relationship with the world around them.

On December 10, 2018, the chapter hosted a campus wide Holy Hour during the Advent Season, in collaboration with the Hofstra Newman Club.

The event was planned by Thomas O’Connor and Nicolas Castelli, the current Vice President of Spiritual Development. Roughly 60 college students came to pray before the Blessed Sacrament with live music provided by a joint Phi Kappa Theta-Newman Club worship band.

Currently, the chapter is continuing the Spirit Talks with the guidance of the new program. The talks have been divided into two series: Theology Talks and Spiritual Examination Talks.

So far, the chapter has held one of each. The first Theology Talk was about the philosophy of God and universal causes. With help from the school chaplain, Father Joseph Scolaro, the chapter examined excerpts from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.

The brothers discussed who God is and how we can rationally come to believe in God’s existence. Using the philosophy presented in the masterpiece, brothers were able to gain an insight on God that many had not explored before.

The first Spiritual Examination Talk examined the nature of love and discussed how we can define love. This discussion also opened new doors of understanding for the brothers involved. Brothers were able to discuss their experiences with all forms of love freely, while understanding the different thoughts, experiences, and perspectives brothers had on the topic.

Future topics for theology and spiritual discussions include: the importance of scripture and tradition, morality and virtue, meaning, post-death theology and an examination of the Catholic tradition of Phi Kappa Theta.

Currently, spring and fall retreats are being planned by the chapter’s spiritual committee. The New York Alpha Omega chapter at Hofstra University has always been, and continues to, embrace the value of spiritual development.

Synagogue Receives Help From Duquesne University Phi Kaps

From left to right, Jake Nowark of Phi Kappa Theta, Greg Falvo of Sigma Nu and Nick Vottero of Phi Kappa Theta helped sell Pittsburgh Strong bracelets in the Student Union. Taylor Carr/Staff Photographer

From left to right, Jake Nowark of Phi Kappa Theta, Greg Falvo of Sigma Nu and Nick Vottero of Phi Kappa Theta helped sell Pittsburgh Strong bracelets in the Student Union. Taylor Carr/Staff Photographer

Borrowed from THE DUQUESNE DUKE
November 8th, 2018
Kellen Stepler, Staff Writer for The Duquesne Duke

It has been a little over a week since the Tree of Life shooting in Squirrel Hill, but support from the Pittsburgh community – and beyond – has been abundant.

Groups and organizations on Duquesne’s campus are supporting the Tree of Life synagogue after the shooting in any way they can. The Mary Pappert School of Music donated proceeds from a concert to the synagogue, Duquesne sorority Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) donated leftover budget funds and Duquesne fraternities Phi Kappa Theta and Sigma Nu are selling Pittsburgh Strong bracelets to support the synagogue.

On Friday, Nov. 2, ticket sales from the concert, The Music of Billy Stray- horn, were donated to the synagogue. The concert featured the Duquesne Jazz Ensemble, directed by Mike Tomaro; Jazz Workshop, directed by Jeff Bush and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Kelley Krepin DeFade. Jane Cubbison, office manager of the school of music, and Steve Groves, manager of musical events, came up with the idea to make the concert a benefit for the synagogue. Billy Strayhorn, one of “Pitts- burgh’s greatest musical icons” according to Tomaro, was raised in Braddock and then Homewood from the age of five.

Seth Beckman, dean of the Mary Pappert School of Music, thought making the previously-scheduled concert a benefit for the synagogue was “a wonderful idea, especially considering that Billy Strayhorn – an internationally prominent musician who had a tremendous impact on his (and future) generations – was a native Pittsburgher known for bringing people together through his artistry.”

Beckman hoped that the concert could be a place for our community to come together and celebrate life through music.

Music is considered a universal language that, regardless of one’s own background, has the power to convey what words alone cannot do in any language.

“We hope that our musical offerings lift the spirits of those who have been directly or indirectly affected by this tragedy,” Beckman said.

The Duquesne Jazz Ensemble performed during the concert, The Music of Billy Stray- horn, on Friday, Nov. 2, which donated its proceeds to the Tree of Life synagogue. Olivia Higgins/Staff Photographer

The Duquesne Jazz Ensemble performed during the concert, The Music of Billy Stray- horn, on Friday, Nov. 2, which donated its proceeds to the Tree of Life synagogue. Olivia Higgins/Staff Photographer

“It is a proven fact the music has healing powers and so our concert seemed to be a great way to assist in this process,” Tomaro said.

Additionally, Duquesne Greek Life took action to support the Tree of Life synagogue and those affected by the shooting.

AST announced its efforts to help during its annual Miss Duquesne Pageant on Saturday, Nov. 3, which benefits the Make- A-Wish Foundation.

“Even though our philanthropy is Make-A-Wish, we did not feel right ignoring a cause that was so close to home. Many girls thought that we should contribute in some way to the Tree of Life synagogue to help this community,” said Kacie Flannigan, AST director of philanthropy and co-chair of the Miss Duquesne Pageant. “Bringing light to these victims is very important because this is our city, and we wanted to help in any way we could.”

Fraternities Phi Kappa Theta and Sigma Nu began selling black-and- yellow Pittsburgh Strong bracelets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, and will continue to do so through Friday, Nov. 9 on the third floor of the Union. The bracelets cost two dollars.

In addition to these dates, the bracelets will be sold on Nov. 10, during the men’s football and basketball game and on Nov. 12 at the men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader.

Jake Nowark, philanthropy chair of Phi Kappa Theta, and his roommate, Zach Laros of Sigma Nu, came together with the idea to create a joint effort between the two fraternities.

Nicolas Jozefczyk, president of Phi Kappa Theta and A&E writer for The Duke, said, “The idea to raise money after this tragedy seemed only natural.”

Nowark said that the goal of the fundraiser is “to raise money and awareness for this tragedy among Duquesne’s campus, and it has turned into something more than we ever thought it would.”

“We hope to raise over $300 as a tangible goal, but more than that we hope to aid in creating a culture of brother and sisterhood to the point where people know that there is always someone to help them in their time of need,” Alex Burns, president of Sigma Nu, said.

A larger event is in the works for the future. David DeFelice, president of Duquesne’s Jewish Student Organization (JSO), is currently planning an event tentatively set for March 18, 2019, that will tackle the issue of anti-Semitism and the First Amendment.

“We will ask questions like, what is hate speech? What can be censored? And what can we do to stop anti-Semitism, while maintaining free speech?” DeFelice said. “We will have representatives from the ADL, Jewish Federation and a few academics on constitutional law.”

DeFelice adds that while the Jewish community in Pittsburgh is already rather close-knit, he thinks that this event will bring them even closer.

“Our Duquesne community will continue to rely on one another and help the larger community heal in any way we can,” DeFelice said.

The Jewish Law Students Associa- tion and the JSO co-hosted a candle- light vigil in remembrance of the victims on Wednesday, Nov. 7, on A-Walk, followed by a dinner in the campus ministry.

Supporting others through events like this is just another part of Duquesne’s mission.

“Our institution and Spiritan Fathers have always valued community and community engagement. This is as true today as it was when our institution was founded,” Beckman said. “Our new university strategic plan reinforces this fact as well, detailing an imperative that stresses the significance of deepening authentic alliances throughout our community — including other faith-based entities.”

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Download a PDF of the THE DUQUESNE DUKE

The Pillar That Sets Us Apart

Brother Vavek (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ‘19) (left) and Brother Evan Helman (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) at IMPACT18 in Orlando, FL.

by Jeb Vavak
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ’19

Most fraternities will talk up their brotherhood’s social, academic and leadership achievements until your ears fall off. Those are incredibly important, don’t get me wrong. But what distinguishes our fraternity from all the others? I rushed Phi Kappa Theta because it offered something that I didn’t see in any of the other fraternities on campus—the Spiritual Pillar.

This past January I had the privilege to travel to Indianapolis alongside 40 other brothers of the Nebraska Pi Chapter to attend SEEK2019.

SEEK is a biannual conference put on by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, a national collegiate outreach program. Over 17,000 students who attended the conference were able to hear inspiring talks from top Catholic speakers, attend Mass daily, take part in adoration and confession and hear a concert from Matt Maher and NEEDTOBREATHE. We were also able to connect with fellow brothers from four other Phi Kap chapters. Some of these opportunities were made possible by FOCUS Greek—the FOCUS outreach tailored to students in fraternity and sorority life.

That weekend, it seemed like the pieces just fell into place like a puzzle. First of all, we were fortunate that the conference was held in Indianapolis this year, not far from the National Office. Employees of the National Office as well as our National President, Adrian Gonzalez (University of Texas at Austin, ’78), were present at a the Phi Kap vendor booth throughout the entire conference. The fraternity served as a sponsor for the conference, obtaining a booth to gain leads for students and chaplains interested in starting a Phi Kappa Theta colony on their campus. This also allowed Phi Kaps attending SEEK to connect with staff from the National Office and network with other brothers that stopped by the booth. Some brothers even took a break from the conference to visit the National Office in Indianapolis, only 20 minutes away from the convention center.

Members of Nebraska Pi at SEEK 2019.

But it didn’t stop there; the pieces of the puzzle kept falling into place. It also happened that the weekend of SEEK was the same weekend that Dr. Michael Brown and his DMB Coaching team would be in Indianapolis training alumni volunteers on the new spiritual development curriculum.

This resource guide, Beyond Belief, will soon be launched to chapters all over the country to assist in strengthening brothers spiritually and embracing the pillar that makes us unique. This perfect timing allowed the DMB Coaching team to hold a special session for the brothers attending SEEK: a sneak preview of the Beyond Belief material. I was taken aback when I got my hands on a hard copy of the resource guide because of how thick the booklet was!

Dr. Brown then gave us an introduction to some of the resources and activities inside. The wealth of information in those pages couldn’t even be covered in the three hours we had together.

After getting a sneak peak of Beyond Belief, I am convinced that it will be incredibly beneficial to all the chapters that give it a chance. It is inspiring to see the our Fraternity making an investment into the spiritual formation of its members.

As a brother, I am proud to be part of an organization that embraces and values spiritual development. The new Beyond Belief spiritual curriculum is a great example of Phi Kappa Theta’s commitment to developing well-rounded, passionately driven men. Development in all five of our pillars is crucial. As Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity continues to be dedicated to a pillar that many other fraternities neglect, we will begin to truly distinguish ourselves as the premier organization for developing servant leaders. Furthermore, we will begin to live every day more in line with our mission: Phi Kappa Theta actively develops men to be effective leaders who passionately serve society, Fraternity, and God.

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Jeb Vavak is a senior Management major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is from Ashland, Nebraska and graduated in 2015 from Ashland-Greenwood High School. He has served the Nebraska Pi Chapter as President, Philanthropy Chairman and Recruitment Assistant. On campus, he is active at the Newman Center, is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society and served as an Orientation Leader for UNL New Student Enrollment. In his free time he enjoys playing basketball and listening to music.

Main Image: Brothers from all chapters at FOCUS Greek Bid Day event.

SEEK 2019

Phi Kap College Students Develop Spirituality

by Kathy Jonas
Indiana University, ‘78

“It was formative for me because I learned how to pray and have a relationship with God.”

– Aaron Siehr, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thousands of college students, including Phi Kappa Theta brothers, will head to Indianapolis during Christmas break to follow the teachings of Matthew 7:7: Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

SEEK is an every-other-year conference organized by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) to provide outreach to college students looking for answers to life’s big questions.

“It was formative for me because I learned how to pray and have a relationship with God,” says Chapter President, Aaron Siehr (University of Wisconsin-Madison), who attended SEEK 2017 in San Antonio, Texas.

“Everybody gets something different from it,” according to TJ Kessler (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Vice President of Spiritual Development. “It makes you more confident to grow in your faith on campus.” Kessler attended his first SEEK conference in Nashville, Tennessee, as a freshman and went back to San Antonio, Texas, two years ago. He plans to travel to Indianapolis in January.

“My personal opinion is that every good relationship has a spiritual component.” Kessler adds that this philosophy coincides with the Phi Kappa Theta pillar of Spiritual Development. The conference, attended by approximately 17,000 two years ago, provides an opportunity for Phi Kaps in attendance to explore and develop the spirituality aspect of the fraternity’s mission. Kessler says that in 2017 about half of the brothers in the house attended the conference.

This year’s gathering in Indianapolis features well-known speakers and entertainers. It builds in free time for socialization and opportunities for attendees to explore the city’s attractions. Indianapolis, for example, is home to 11 professional sports teams, is the “Racing Capital of the World” and is home to the Executive Office of Phi Kappa Theta. Indianapolis successfully hosted the 2011 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium and is well equipped with hotels rooms, museums and restaurants – all in walking distance.

“Today’s culture tells us we need power, we need to feel good and we need to be happy,” says Siehr. “Those are not always bad things, but they are not an end in themselves. Faith allows us to get outside of ourselves and believe in something bigger. It is not easy. But it is a way to better understand ourselves rather than just blending in and following.”

Main Image: Colorado State University, University of Nebraska and Bridgewater State University Brothers at SLS 2018 in Chicago, IL.


FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) will have three main events for Greek students throughout the conference as listed below. The lunch events will feature a short talk followed by time for fellowship. The FOCUS Greek Bid Day is an opportunity to welcome all Greek students in attendance to the FOCUS Greek community and allow them to meet brothers and sisters from their respective chapters all over the country.

Friday, January 4

FOCUS Greek Lunch #1
“FOCUS Greek Lunch with Fr. Victor”
Hall IJK
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm

Friday, January 4

FOCUS Greek Bid Day
9:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Sunday, January 6

FOCUS Greek Lunch #2
“FOCUS Greek Lunch with Mallory Smyth”
Hall IJK
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm