Ohio Uses Free Plants to Meet New Students First Week of School

SPO students hand out plants during the involvement fair

SPO students hand out plants during the involvement fair

By Nina Dluzynski, Senior at The Ohio State University

I look down at my fingers and smile at the dirt peeking through my nails. Saint Paul’s Outreach and the Newman Center at Ohio State annually hand out hundreds of small potted plants to students at the popular back-to-school Involvement Fair, and here I was digging my hands into the moist soil to pluck a plant out for a fellow visitor at our table. Students, regardless if they are Catholic or not, come in flocks to the Newman Center and SPO tables for a free plant. I find this to be ironic because subconsciously I know they do not just want a plant. True, they want something that is beautiful and alive; however, they want Jesus, who is the epitome of beauty and life. My job is simply to get my hands dirty for the sake of Jesus. For the sake of bringing restless souls to rest. If I am able to converse with a student after handing them a plant, they might sign up for a Newman Center Bible study or attend a “CRUSH” week event, also known as “Catholic Rush Week.” 

For those that do not know what CRUSH week is, it is a series of activities and events put on by the Newman Center and Saint Paul’s Outreach during the first week of fall semester. The focus is to outreach to as many Ohio State students as possible in order to invite them into our Catholic community. We strive to develop authentic relationships centered on Jesus so we can transform lives stuck in a broken “post-Christian” culture. The newly canonized saint, Saint Mother Theresa, once said, “when you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.” This quote is simply why we do it. Others are thirsting for this love and we want to bring them to Him.

When I look back on these past four years at Ohio State, I recall how CRUSH week connected me with one of the biggest blessings this university has given me—my Catholic community. Just like the other students, I was searching for a way to get involved and to feel valued. I was looking for a community to make friends in and make a difference. That is why CRUSH week is so important. We actively seek out those eager students and invite them to have a glimpse of their true home, to a place where authentic friendships are formed, and where they can feel valued by making a difference. The strategy for doing this is to meet the students in a comfortable situation for them and then bring them to our “turf”. For example, on Monday we have Capture the Flag, Tuesday we have an Opening Mass and Cookout at the Newman Center, Thursday we have Men’s and Women’s Night, and Saturday we have the infamous Hog Roast. Hundreds of flyers advertising for these events are scattered across campus and personal invitations are made because it is so crucial to get students involved early. We exchange contact information at these events so we can further follow up and wastefully love them.

nina dluzynski (left) and other spo women at the annual hog roast

nina dluzynski (left) and other spo women at the annual hog roast

To close, I have a question: Is it worth it to get your nails grimy, purchase large quantities of food for activities, grab coffee with the woman you met at Women’s Night instead of study, wake up at 3 am to start cooking a hog for the evening Hog Roast, or get sun poisoning while handing out freezy pops on the Oval? In my opinion, I would not be a woman madly in love with Jesus Christ if it weren’t for getting connected to this community through CRUSH week—so yes, it is worth it. Jesus is worth it and He has radically changed my life. After the Involvement Fair, the Newman Center has almost a thousand students signed up for Bible studies and God-willing, they will soon be in agreement with me about that question.