Campus Ministry Provides Much Needed Assistance to Those in Need

The Joseph A. Kelly, S.J. Office of Campus Ministry is the beating heart of Saint Peter’s University. Not only does campus ministry provide guidance to students during their spiritual journeys in life, the department has also expanded its passion for creating “men and women for others” to the surrounding community through service-oriented programs. Three of these initiatives – the Emmaus Project, Grab-n-Go Clothes and Food Pantry and Campus Kitchen – have spread love to those in need in a pulsing city that sometimes forgets the less fortunate.

“Serving others is the cornerstone of our Jesuit mission,” said Erich Sekel, associate director of campus ministry for community service. “Furthermore, we are called to help the least of our brothers and sisters. Through our Clothes and Food Pantry, our Emmaus Project and our work toward a Campus Kitchen, we fulfill that call for those in need in our community.”

Campus ministry is devoted to the Jesuit principle of Magis – or to do more for the greater glory of God – and recruits students to assist with these much needed projects. Fortunately, students are just as passionate as Sekel when it comes to giving back to the community. Melissa Cappello ’14 participates in both the Emmaus Project and the Grab-N-Go Clothes and Food Pantry. “It makes me feel good to be part of campus ministry’s community service initiatives,” she said. “If you are part of a community, it’s important that you give back. It makes you feel good.”

She added, “Campus ministry creates a family of students. It’s the reason a lot of people get involved in these projects.”

Students meet for the Emmaus Project every Friday afternoon to make and bag sandwiches as part of homeless outreach efforts. Afterward, they distribute these bagged lunches, as well as water, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries, to locations throughout Jersey City where one can find someone in need, such as St. Lucy’s Shelter, the Journal Square area and the Bergen Homeless Self Help Center. The Emmaus Project began last year and has already grown to serve almost twice as many individuals now than it did when the initiative first started.

“One of the clients we encounter on our Emmaus Project recently said that he now looks forward to Fridays because it’s when we come by,” said Sekel.

Launched on December 14, 2013, the Grab-n-Go Clothes and Food Pantry sets up on campus the first and third Thursday and Saturday of each month to distribute coats, clothing and food to the most needy people of the neighborhood. In order to be eligible, a client must have a referral from St. Aedan’s: The Saint Peter’s University Church or St. Lucy’s Shelter.

“An individual who came and received food from the pantry was very appreciative because he said he did not have food that week for his two daughters,” recalled Sekel.

Cappello added, “There’s a lot of ways to give back, but the clothes and food pantry is definitely a good way to help the less fortunate.”

Thanks to the support of student, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University who voted every day, the Office of Campus Ministry at Saint Peter’s University was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from The Campus Kitchen Project, a national leader in community service for students and the future of hunger relief. A Campus Kitchen is a student-run kitchen that will keep food from being wasted and will provide nutritious meals for the less fortunate. The grant, which is sponsored by the Sodexo Foundation, was offered to five out of seven institutions that competed in a video competition.

“Our community service efforts – especially the support we received from The Campus Kitchen Project – show us that as a school we all help out one another,” said Sergio Neiza ’15, who also works in the Emmaus Project and Grab-n-Go Food Pantry.

The $5,000 grant will enable the University to start a Campus Kitchen. While the project is still in the beginning stages, the concept of this initiative is this: students would  acquire trays of unused food from local eateries, bring this food back to the kitchen to convert and repackage into individual meals, and then provide meal deliveries to shut-ins, the working poor and those in need.

In addition to these three efforts, campus ministry engages students in a number of service activities, which benefit the community and beyond. Each year, more than 800 students contribute a total of approximately 16,000 hours of service to local, national and global organizations.

“I am passionate about helping people, so that’s why I do this,” said Neiza. “I believe every person matters in this world and I want to be there for them – no matter who they are.”

The Office of Campus Ministry is currently seeking corporate partners to provide food for the Campus Kitchen program. If you are a local eatery interested in participating in this initiative or are examining the possibility in volunteering in one of these programs, please contact Erich Sekel at or (201) 761-7395.