Father Gregoire Fluet said the best way to fulfill his responsibilities as chaplain at Mount St. Mary College is to go where the students are. That means attending a lot of student athletic contests, as well as getting-to-know-college-life programs run by dorm resident advisers.
“I find my way to them. I’m involved in almost every possible activity…In being present, people start coming to you,” said Father Fluet, who’s entering his sixth year at the Newburgh college, where he teaches history and religious studies.
One thing can lead to another. During a dinner break returning on the bus from a road game of the women’s soccer team, one of the freshmen players posed a question to him. “Father, is it really tough to get baptized?”
He responded, “I don’t know who you are asking for, but if it’s for you, it will not be.”
Today’s mobile society, where people move quickly from activity to activity, makes it possible for important matters like sacramental preparation to be pushed aside, or avoided, by families. “People fall through the cracks,” he said.
That’s where Father Fluet comes in. One of the first things he does each August, on the first or second day after students return, is send out an email to the entire student body inquiring whether they would like to receive confirmation, First Communion and baptism.
The message is simple, he says: “If you’re interested, please get in touch with me. This is a possibility. You can do this.”
Those that do reach out are invited to begin a dialogue that leads to preparation and instruction according to a modified RCIA format, adapted for college life.
During the 2021-2022 academic year, 12 young people completed their preparation for the sacraments, which were administered by Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro at a Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday April 24. Three students entered the Church, while the others were completing their sacraments of initiation.
Meetings with students are often conducted on an individual basis, and take place according to the students’ schedules. At times, if a student isn’t fully ready, the process can carry over to a second year.
Father Fluet said his role doesn’t involve any extraordinary measures, and he is thankful for “1,000 percent” support from the college’s administration. “It’s Jesus Christ that does it all,” he said.
“We’re just trying to provide them with the opportunity to become full members of the Church,” said Father Fluet, a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., for 40 years.
Julia Lorenzo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount St. Mary in May and is now an RN, received confirmation after being prepared by Father Fluet. Last spring, she completed an independent study course in the faith with him. “I have a better foundation and better understanding about the Catholic religion,” she said. “I’m thankful for that. I feel a lot more connected to our faith.”
Josh Laskowski had a busy senior year as student body president while finishing coursework for his bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He also studied with Father Fluet to prepare for confirmation.
He previously had taken two classes with the chaplain and participated in campus ministry projects led by the priest, who also directs that office. Laskowski’s busy class schedule and student government work meant he sometimes couldn’t meet for instruction until after 8 p.m., which Father Fluet could accommodate because he lives on campus.
“Whenever the students were able to meet, that’s when he met with you,” Laskowski said. “He didn’t want to make it an added stress onto your school workload.”
Laskowski said the sacramental preparation was more like “a conversation,” with Father Fluet calling students to share knowledge they had gained in religion courses. He frequently took students into the Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary on campus to discuss a subject such as the Eucharist.
“He gave an extra boost in faith to receive my sacraments,” he said.
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