The smell of chicken, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, and mashed potatoes drifts through the room. Although pop music is playing over the speakers, the lively chatter of students mostly drowns out the tunes. At a nearby table, Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, greets students who get in line to purchase beer and wine.
Caldwell Auditorium feels more likely a cozy pub than an ordinary event space. This is CUA on Tap, a monthly event sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry that features free food, a bar for those 21 and over, an open mic, and guest speakers who talk about faith.
For more than 10 years, this event has drawn hundreds of students to hear speakers like singer Audrey Assad, former baseball player Jamie Moyer, and America’s Next Top Model contestant Leah Darrow.
On this particular night, the speakers are John and Claire Grabowski. John is an associate professor of moral theology at Catholic University. The couple was appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Family by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Just three days before Valentine’s Day, they address a couple hundred students on holiness and truth in relationships.
“Marriage is a sign of grace,” they tell the students in a light-hearted discussion of the theological background of marriage and the practical aspects of living married life every day.
CUA on Tap is organized by the University’s resident ministers, students who live in residence halls and serve as a resource for the students who live there. The resident ministers select and invite the speakers, choose local restaurants to serve food for the event, and coordinate all logistical issues.
“It’s a production, but it’s fun,” says Matt Albanese, a rising senior business management major. “It gives the resident ministers a chance to bond and a chance to interact with the many on campus who attend.”
CUA on Tap is one of the most popular event series on campus, regularly drawing 200 to 300 students per event.
“The popularity of CUA on Tap shows that our students are trying to find harmony between what they are learning in class with their lived experience of faith,” says Camilla MacKenzie, a resident minister and rising senior theology major. “Students want to be part of a community that challenges them to grow in their faith through learning about issues facing the Church and personal witness on how to live out the Catholic faith in our modern world.”
While the talks mostly focus on faith, there’s something for everyone in these talks, including those who are not Catholic, says Albanese.
“We want people to feel included. A lot of the messages our CUA on Tap speakers preach are universal. I hope students take away that although the people who are speaking might seem like they have it all figured out, at one time, they were right where we sat. They probably had the same confusion and had the struggles we have.”