Catholic News Service article
What started during COVID-19 to uplift spirits and provide something unique to the students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University has now turned into an exciting tradition.
On Feb. 20, for the second year in a row, the weekly 9 p.m. Sunday student Mass was held on the frozen ice of Lake Sagatagan on the Saint John’s campus and was attended by several hundred students from CSB and SJU.
“This is a unique experience, as we are not aware of any other university that holds this type of student Mass,” said Margaret Nuzzolese Conway, executive director of SJU Campus Ministry. “We are lucky to have such a dedicated and dynamic Chaplain in Fr. Nick (Kleespie) who motivates us to do some really creative, fun, and adventurous work for practicing faith.”
SJU Campus Ministry periodically holds Mass outdoors when the weather is nice, but this was just the second time on a frozen lake.
“Beyond COVID, it draws students to a place they love and connects them to creation,” Kleespie said.
“A freshman from just outside Chicago told me that when he saw the news of Ice Mass last year, he was especially inspired to make the decision to come here,” Conway said.
Organizing an outdoor winter event of this magnitude takes a lot of planning, time and energy.
“This is a huge event for our staff and requires intense hours of labor, setup and cleanup,” Conway added. “The downhill to the beach also means that everything must come back up. But when we saw students approaching the space and their faces upon receiving hats and hand-warmers, everything was clearly worth it. Students really seemed to have fun with it.
“The centrality of the Mass is that it brings us together, despite differences, disagreements, whatever we are carrying. It’s a special experience to bring people together on the ice, some who are from Minnesota and ice-fishing pros and others for whom this is an especially novel experience even just walking on the lake. In the Mass, we can put differences aside and celebrate our connection to the Gospel and how it propels us forward. We can level with the fact that we were all freezing! My hope is that all who attended know that wherever they are at in their faith, they are welcome.”