Students inspired by John Paul II to revitalize college town

(L-R) Marc Barnes, Joseph Antoniello, Emilio Marquez, Samantha McCoy, Patrick Walters and Matthew Seal of the Harmonium Project. Courtesy of The Harmonium Project/Matthew Seal.

A group of college classmates have set out on a mission to revamp their university town in Ohio after learning more about Saint John Paul II and Catholic social teaching.

“(We) were all just taking summer classes and reading a lot about Pope John Paul II and about Catholic social teaching and just realized that Steubenville is such a great place,” Patrick Walters told CNA.

Now finishing up his senior year at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Walters said that the school has been a place where he has been able to grow in holiness and develop as a person, but that there has always seemed to be a “disconnect” between the school and the town where it resides.

Last summer when he and his friends, Joseph Antoniello and Marc Barnes, discussed the writings of Karol Wojtyla, the more they realized the need to engage in revitalizing their “hometown” of Steubenville, Ohio.

Out of these discussions, an initiative called The Harmonium Project was born – a “daring recognition that we already are together and need to start acting like it,” Barnes said on his Patheos blog, “Bad Catholic.”

“Just driving down there you can tell there’s drugs, there’s crime,” Walters explained. However, along with that, “there’s so many good people,” he added.

“And that's what one of our missions is: just to be there and to find the good and show what's good about it and then build upon what’s good,” Walters said.

For years, downtown Steubenville has been falling into an economic slump and has gained a reputation among university students as being a place to avoid not only due to crime and poverty, but also because it was assumed that there were no businesses worth visiting.

Although many devoted volunteers and missionaries have been in the area for years serving the poor and marginalized, many people – especially university students – go elsewhere when it comes to entertainment.

The Harmonium Project has set out to renovate the ballroom of a downtown building where they plan to offer free music lessons to inner-city youth and host concerts in hopes of bringing more traffic and business to the area.

“Music has done a lot in our lives, music has given us a lot of hope,” Walters said. “This is a great way to bring life to something because of how much life it’s brought us as individuals.”

While the group is taking care of the legal work required to become a childcare provider, they have been promoting their project through a series of concerts and open-mic nights at local bars.

“They’re the greatest people to work with,” Walters said of the business-owners. “We care about them and they care about us; it’s a real relationship that’s forming between us students at the school and the members of the town.”

Along with bringing more business to local establishments through concerts, the group provides free marketing by creating promotional videos and spreading the word about local businesses on campus.

Business owners have told the group that profits are up and they’re doing more business with university students – especially in the form of food deliveries.

Students at University of Notre Dame are following the lead of the Franciscan students with their own approach to revive the ailing city of South Bend, Ind. in an initiative called, “The Bridge Project.”

“They’re actually looking at what we’re doing and are in contact with us,” Walters said. “We’re hoping more universities will be interested in doing more things like this.”

Antoniello, Barnes, and Walters are joined by fellow students, Samantha McCoy and Matt Seal, to make up the core team of The Harmonium Project, although many students have volunteered their time and skills to the project this year.


Voices

Jean Beliveau, RIP

REV. RONALD ROLHEISER, OMI

Jean Beliveau was more than an athlete, though certainly he was a one-in-a-million athlete. The record of his achievements almost defies belief. He played in the National Hockey League for 20 seasons and retired with 10 championship rings. 

 

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December 20, 2014

  • Saturday, December 20

    St. Margaret's Center Christmas Program, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Morningside High School (Cafeteria), 10500 S. Yukon Ave, Inglewood. St. Margaret's Center, Inglewood School District, Doorking, Inc., and Centinela Hospital Medical Staff invite you to join them as they create a holiday wonderland with Christmas surprises for more than 1,000 poverty-level children and their parents. (310) 672-2208. Click here for more information.

    Christmas Shop at Holy Grounds, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., St. Monica Catholic Community, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 566-1500.

    Dancing Festival of Lessons and Carols, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Holy Spirit Retreat House, 4316 Lanai Rd., Encino. A concert by Valyermo Dancers & Co., choreographed by John West. $15. Contact Sr. Deborah for more info, (818) 784-4515.

    Christmas Dinner Dance, 6 p.m., Knights of Columbus Hall, 21433 Strathern St, Canoga Park. Tickets, $28. (818) 371-0473.

    Las Posadas, 7 p.m., Parish Hall, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 600 W Mariposa St, Altadena. Posadas means “the inns” or “the shelters” in Spanish. A religious and social celebration, Las Posadas commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for shelter prior to the birth of Christ. We invite you to join us in a one-day celebration of this tradition. (626) 794-2046.

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