Members find faith, friendship at Catholic houses

Elizabeth Baker

From Clybourn Avenue to State Street, every weekend eager students flock to upperclassmen’s off-campus houses and apartments. Like their fraternity and sorority neighbors, the students of the men’s and women’s Catholic living community have been known to welcome hundreds of students into their houses as well.

On any given Saturday night, the students of these Catholic houses can be found moving furniture into the kitchen to make room for a concert, a Halloween party or even a beer-brewing session in their living room, the place where they also gather every day at 7 a.m. to pray.

The men’s house holds seven students and the women’s house holds five. Both houses are located on State Street.

“These houses were originally formed here at Marquette about ten to 12 years ago by a group of men and women that wanted to foster Catholic community, but Marquette was not offering an opportunity for juniors and seniors off-campus to do such a thing,” says Trevor Gundlach, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences who has lived in the men’s house for two years. “Of course, there were fraternities and sororities, but there wasn’t this solid sense of community for people who desired a strong Catholic identity.”

The official names of these two houses honor St. Margaret Mary and her spiritual director, St. Claude de la Columbiere, but are more commonly known among student as “the Catholic houses” or the Catholic living communities.

“Our lack of a strict title kind of shows the informal and relaxed feel of the community,” said Gundlach, “A really neat thing is that it’s student-run and disconnected from anything campus ministry or anything run by Marquette. We simply rent from a landlord like any other group or house of friends, but we have this deep set community.”

The men and women living in each house wake up every morning at 7 a.m. to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a daily prayer for many priests, nuns and lay people. They also have a weekly house dinner with each other and join together every Friday morning to pray a rosary.

In conjunction with their prayer and welcoming Catholic identity, the students living in these houses invite other students over to bake pretzels, brew beer or just to play video games such as Super Smash Brothers.

“We try not only to foster a really solid Catholic identity, but also recognize that we’re real college students, and we can’t distance ourselves,” Gundlach says. “We aim to set this atmosphere for faithful conversation, but at the same time, we’re just going to hang out and spend time together in a community. I guess we’re just trying to be very realistic.”

He explains that when he developed an interest in living with the group his junior and senior years, the men of the house were welcoming and invited him to pray and share a meal so he could experience their daily life.

Because the group of people living in the houses changes every two years, the identity of the community develops based on who is in the house. Obviously, they always maintain their Christ-centered foundations, but the ways in which they choose to create this Catholic atmosphere within the larger community varies.

“I’m really excited for the community as it continues to grow and develop,” Gundlach says. “I know the men living there next year are a really energetic and lively bunch looking to build this Catholic identity on campus.”

Through campus involvement and word of mouth, the students have welcomed anywhere from 20 to 200 students into their living rooms for mass with the Jesuits, concerts, DJ parties, and other themed gatherings. They nurture this community and then they invite other students to come and pray with them and ask them to spread the word to their friends.

“Different from this distanced Catholic identity that oftentimes college students view it as, what we want to foster is a realistic view of ‘How can I break bread with you? How can I drink beer with you? How can I have a normal and faithful conversation with you?’,” Gundlach says.