By Amanda Austin, Senior, Seton Hall University
Crowds of more than 200 students, many of them freshmen, stand under twinkling string lights awaiting their helping of “the hog.” The food is served to them by a team of joyful upperclassmen who are eager to welcome new faces to SPO New Jersey’s first ever hog roast. Hog roasts hosted at the start of the year are a tradition for many of the SPO campuses but is a first in New Jersey. What a great way to end the first week of classes, otherwise known here at Seton Hall University as “Welcome Week.”
During Welcome Week, new students experience college for the first time and look for ways to get involved. Most of the clubs at Seton Hall are geared towards students with a certain interest, like math or skiing, but the real thing that sets SPO apart is that it is not looking to attract a specific type of person. The Mission Leaders and Student Missionaries want every single student to know the love and joy of Jesus Christ. The best way SPO brings students to know and experience that love and joy is through relationships. So, Mission Leaders and Student Missionaries started meeting and building relationships from the moment Freshmen arrived on move-in day.
All students enter into college searching for something. When I started college at Seton Hall, I was searching for support in my faith, so I sought out campus ministry. However, most college students are not actively searching for ways to grow in their faith; what they are seeking are friends, parties, and belonging. What many college students don’t realize is that what they really want is to experience an unconditional love that can only come from God. College can be a lonely and confusing time, and the mission of Saint Paul’s Outreach is that students would gain a deeper understanding of a lived faith, build authentic friendships, and encounter the love of Jesus Christ.
Welcome Week is the time to start building relationship with new students. At Seton Hall, SPO and Campus Ministry teamed up to put on events almost every day, including our Casino Royale: Black Tie Affair, cornhole tournament, and Lord’s Day dinner. The most popular event was the first ever hog roast attended by over 200 students. The Men’s Household hosted, taking shifts the whole night before the event to roast the 150 pound pig. Mission Leaders and Student Missionaries began decorating and making food early in the day. Once 6pm came around, students old and new began to fill the yard of the men’s house and the festivities began.
As I looked around that night at every table where students ate, at every game being played, and at every circle of people having a conversation, I saw old and new faces. It reminded me of my first SPO events as a Freshman. What set these events apart is the fact that I never saw anyone standing by themselves or waiting for someone to talk to. It would be a successful event if each new student left feeling like they made a friend that night.
The relationships that were built at the hog roast and at our other Welcome Week events will continue to grow and be part of God’s plan for Campus Ministry to bring students closer to Himself. Welcome Week was only the beginning of God using us to transform Seton Hall’s campus from a lost and lonely group of college students to a Christ-centered and renewed community.