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 be- yond – 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

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

Faith, Family and Fraternity

Serving Others Is A Part Of Living Life To The Fullest For Brother Mike Callais

by Jeff Jowdy
University of Georgia, ‘83
Foundation Chairman

Brother Callais alongside his mother, Gloria (left) and wife, Blanche (right).

Service to others is a part of living life to the fullest, says 2018 Man of Achievement Mike Callais (Louisiana State University, ‘84).

“Service is important for anyone – and that goes along with faith. It helps you to know that there’s something more that you can work for,” Mike believes. “Cajuns like to live life to the fullest. That’s one part of just having a happy life.”

A 1984 graduate of Louisiana State University, Brother Callais embodies the term “servant leader” and our fraternity’s motto, “Give, Expecting Nothing Thereof.” Today, the seasoned business leader is chairman of Abdon Callais Offshore, as well as a board member at Community Bancorp. His diverse leadership experience includes influential roles in the real estate, automobile, solid waste and cable industries.

Mike’s late father, Harold, was a faith-filled man who helped lay the foundation for his son’s approach to life.

“He firmly believed in controlling the things you can control and not worrying about the things you can’t,” Mike says.

“He did teach me the importance of sharing our blessings, our time, talent and treasure with others,” he adds. “It’s not for us and not from us – those blessings come from God and we’ve got to return them to God.”

Mike shared that his father’s final words were profound: “God is good!”

His mother, Gloria, instilled faith into her children early on.

“My dad couldn’t go because of his work obligations, so she was the one who brought my brothers and me to church every Sunday,” Mike says. “She was the first one to teach us the importance of a spiritual life. She taught us that God is with you always.”

Mike is a board member of Phi Kappa Theta Foundation. He and his wife, Blanche, have been instrumental in the Foundation’s support, enabling the Fraternity to develop programs that provide a spiritual pillar for collegiate brothers. Mike is actively engaged at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Golden Meadow, LA.

Also involved in many nonprofit organizations ranging from Leadership Lafourche to Nicholls State University, Mike was the recipient of the Diocesan Service Award presented by the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux as well as the Outstanding Rotarian Award from the Rotary Club of Golden Meadow. He is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and has been recognized several times as Knight of the Year.

He is also instrumental in conversations on re-chartering the Phi Kappa Theta chapter at LSU.

2018 Man of Achievement, Brother Mike Callais (Louisiana State University, ‘84) (left), alongside 2018 John F. Kennedy Award recipient, Ali Soufan (Mansfield University, ‘94). Both pictured at IMPACT18 in Orlando, FL this past August.

Like the servant leader he is, Mike accepted the 2018 Man of Achievement award with great reluctance and great humility. We even had to enlist Blanche – our “secret weapon” – to encourage him to accept!

Mike credits his success to those who have guided him throughout his life.

“This organization has helped in the formation of many successful leaders of government and industry over the years,” Mike shared in his acceptance remarks, “so being chosen for this recognition is such an incredible honor for me. I accept it on behalf of my family and friends who over the years have inspired and guided me.”

He also encouraged his fellow brothers to invest in developing servant leaders.

“I urge you all to make a contribution – some contribution – to our Foundation,” Mike said, adding that we are each called to lift up others wherever we can.

We don’t know why we were put into this situation, but other people are put into other, different situations,” Mike explained, “so, we need to try to remember them and help them reach their full potential as well.”

Watch Brother Callais’s speech from IMPACT18 in Orlando, FL: