Posted Online: March 08, 2013, 3:39 am

Lent spent fasting at St. Ambrose University

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Bonnie Krueger, Lindsey Mack and friends eat lunch in St. Ambrose University's Cosgrove Hall cafeteria. Their glasses, which have the Water Project decals on them, are part of a Fast Fest student-led initiative intended to cultivate spiritual discipline by fasting from harmful habits and needless distractions, giving participating students time to refocus on God's presence in their lives. Here's how it breaks down: Feb. 17-23 Social Media Fast: Students fasted from Facebook, Twitter and all social media Feb. 24-March 2 Flavored Beverage Fast: Students are fasting from pop or any flavored beverage (drinking only water), in solidarity with those who do not have access to clean drinking water. Proceeds will be donated to The Water Project Nonprofit. March 3-9 Fast from Violence: Students will "fast" from gossiping, violent video games and all violence. Meal Fast: Students will fast from food beginning at the March 27 9:15 p.m. Mass, and ending at the March 28 4:30 p.m. Mass. Proceeds will benefit Humility of Mary food pantry.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
The Rev. Chuck Adam joins Katie Zorn, Bonnie Krueger, Lindsey Mack and friends as they eat lunch in St. Ambrose University's Cosgrove Hall cafeteria. Their glasses, which have the Water Project decals on them, are part of a Fast Fest student-led initiative intended to cultivate spiritual discipline by fasting from harmful habits and needless distractions, giving participating students time to refocus on God's presence in their lives. Here's how it breaks down: Feb. 17-23 Social Media Fast: Students fasted from Facebook, Twitter and all social media Feb. 24-March 2 Flavored Beverage Fast: Students are fasting from pop or any flavored beverage (drinking only water), in solidarity with those who do not have access to clean drinking water. Proceeds will be donated to The Water Project Nonprofit. March 3-9 Fast from Violence: Students will "fast" from gossiping, violent video games and all violence. Meal Fast: Students will fast from food beginning at the March 27 9:15 p.m. Mass, and ending at the March 28 4:30 p.m. Mass. Proceeds will benefit Humility of Mary food pantry.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Katie Zorn, Bonnie Krueger, Lindsey Mack and friends eat lunch in St. Ambrose University's Cosgrove Hall cafeteria. Their glasses, which have the Water Project decals on them, are part of a Fast Fest student-led initiative intended to cultivate spiritual discipline by fasting from harmful habits and needless distractions, giving participating students time to refocus on God's presence in their lives. Here's how it breaks down: Feb. 17-23 Social Media Fast: Students fasted from Facebook, Twitter and all social media Feb. 24-March 2 Flavored Beverage Fast: Students are fasting from pop or any flavored beverage (drinking only water), in solidarity with those who do not have access to clean drinking water. Proceeds will be donated to The Water Project Nonprofit. March 3-9 Fast from Violence: Students will "fast" from gossiping, violent video games and all violence. Meal Fast: Students will fast from food beginning at the March 27 9:15 p.m. Mass, and ending at the March 28 4:30 p.m. Mass. Proceeds will benefit Humility of Mary food pantry.
DAVENPORT -- Water tumblers were OK. Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter weren't.

About 200 St. Ambrose University students have spent Lent thus far in a "Fast Fest," abstaining not only from food, but from such things as social-media, pop, coffee, gossiping and violent video games.

It started the week of Feb. 17-23 when students agreed to give up all social media for one week, followed by a "Flavored Beverage Fast" from Feb. 24 to March 2.

Students agreed to abstain from drinking pop or any flavored beverage.They drank only water. Money they would have used to buy a fancier beverage was donated to The Water Project, an organization devoted to drilling wells and providing clean water to people in Africa.

Many "fasters" bought a $5 water tumbler featuring The Water Project's logo. More than 170 tumblers were sold, with proceeds benefiting the project.

This week, students participated in a "Fast from Violence," which included no violent video games, movies or shows, no gossiping and no violence of any kind.

The student-led "Ambrosians for Peace and Justice" sold "Complaint-free World" bracelets to be worn all week, ending today. Anytime someone got caught gossiping or playing a violent video game or related "offense," they had to wrestle the tight plastic bracelet off one arm and on to the other.

Fast Fest will end March 20-21 with a more traditional food fast.

"Fast Fest has been done at Ambrose for about 15 years or so now," said the Rev. Chuck Adam, college chaplain and campus ministry director. "It started out as a 30-hour fasting of food."

But Ambrosians for Peace and Justice adviser Kelly Bush, vice president Katie Zorn and others in the student organization brainstormed other fasts to stretch the event out and get more people involved, Rev. Adam said.

It became a test of humility and willpower, Miss Zorn said, adding that it also provided more time to reflect on her faith and "on what I am doing for Christ.

"We suggested people should use their time doing something on their bucket list, meet with their friends in person instead of texting or Facebooking them, or to read a book," she said.

A week without social media was a huge challenge for Miss Zorn, 20, a sophomore, who had grown accustomed to checking her Twitter feeds between classes, and while waiting for friends. "It was how I learned the Pope had resigned," she said.

"It was difficult at first, but got easier by the end of the week," she said. "It helped that we were all doing it together. We were in solidarity."

Miss Zorn said she was happy to get Twitter back, but noticed she's using it less often than she had. "Must have gotten out of the habit, or something," she said.

"The social-media fast did encourage a lot more face-to-face communications," Rev. Adam said.

The Flavored Beverage Fast proved nearly as difficult for Miss Zorn."I love coffee. I have an 8 a.m. class, and it was more difficult without that first morning coffee."

Classmate Lindsey Mack, 19, said she's also a "big coffee drinker. It was almost killing me giving up coffee. I got a huge headache on the very first day."

She said she remembered other people in the world who don't even have clean water to drink, "and started thinking of how good I have it here."

Sophomore Bonnie Krueger, 20, said she thought "if Jesus could go 40 days in the wilderness without food and water, and face Satan's temptations, doing this fast would be no problem for me to handle."

Sacrificing Diet Pepsi was challenging, said Stefanie Obenhaus, 19, another sophomore, "especially at first, when I had to remember not to get one. But we looked out for each other."

Fast Fest showed students the positive nature and the value of giving up things for Lent -- that it isn't only a personal commitment, but it's for someone else, and for the betterment of the world, Rev. Adam said.

"I believe Fast Fest brought the Lenten message home, made it more personal to students and got more of them involved."