UCAT STAFFER AIMS TO HELP STUDENTS STRENGTHEN THEIR FAITH

Nick Aguirre talks with Vanderbilt seniors Jennifer Knerr of Virginia, left, and Christopher Pistrang of Cleveland, Tennessee at the Frassati House, University Catholic’s headquarters, on Friday, November 22.

Nick Aguirre has taken the position of Director of Campus Ministry at University Catholic in his second stint in Nashville.

In his new position, Aguirre, who earned an undergraduate degree in vocal performance and economics from Vanderbilt University, will oversee a host of campus activities and outreach programs for University Catholic, which serves local college students, primarily from Belmont and Vanderbilt universities.

“I wanted to serve the students at University Catholic and motivate them to practice their faith on a daily basis,” said Aguirre, who graduated in 2010 from McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Alabama, before heading off to Vanderbilt.

While at Vanderbilt, Aguirre played one season for the university’s football team as a kicker and defensive back.

“The crazy thing about football, especially in my case, was that I didn’t know a lot about it going in, but was in fact, encouraged to go out for it by my fraternity brothers,” said Aguirre, a high school soccer player.

After one season of football, Aguirre decided to concentrate on his studies. He later earned a master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Alabama, where he also taught college voice and served as an assistant in the school’s Opera Theatre Workshop. He also was the music director for the student Mass at St. Francis of Assisi University Parish.

He sang with professional opera companies in Utah and Mississippi. “Later, I taught fifth and sixth grade music in Jackson, Mississippi, followed by choir and drama at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School from 2016 to 2018,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre returned to Nashville, where he served as a cantor at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, where he was involved in the Men’s Bible Study, and worked in various positions at an independent publishing house.

“However, having been at Vanderbilt (and involved with University Catholic) I was familiar with the school, and also involved with a number of youth ministries at the Cathedral,” Aguirre said.

Eventually, Aguirre saw the posting for the job of director of campus ministry. He interviewed with University Catholic chaplain Father Gervan Menezes, Administrative Assistant Kathleen Cordell and Brian Cooper, chief administrative officer and vice chancellor of the Diocese of Nashville, as well as interacting with the students.

“I already knew Nick from his work at the Cathedral and his choir membership, so when he applied for the job, I knew he was the guy,” Father Menezes said.

“We received around 40 resumes, then brought in maybe six, seven people for interviews, but Nick impressed us as the best person to perform our mission, which is to propose Jesus and develop more faith discussion,” Father Menezes said.

Father Menezes is confident about Aguirre’s potential for success in his new job.

“I think that Nick is going to be that link between University Catholic, Belmont and Vanderbilt, because he was a part of (University Catholic) during college and therefore brings that early understanding to our ministry,” Father Menezes said.

Now that he has been officially hired, Aguirre’s daily tasks are many and widely varied.

He is responsible for directing any and all activities that happen at Frassati House (located at 2004 Terrace Place behind the Cathedral), such as the prayer service, and the Monday through Thursday Mass, along with a Sunday supper attended by 75 to 100 people, (prior to a 7:30 p.m. Eucharistic Adoration) and a 9 p.m. Mass, which is held at the Benton Chapel on Vanderbilt’s campus.

University Catholic’s programs “address four ‘dimensions’ of Catholic growth among our youth,” Aguirre said. The pillars are: Apostolic, which includes visits to ministries like Dismas House and Room at the Inn; Human, which includes social activities and fellowship; Intellectual, which includes study groups and discussions; and Spiritual, including morning prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.

The new hire is optimistic about the direction he can take the programs and people. “I think (University Catholic’s) future is incredibly bright, because the students have taken an active role in planning all of these activities, and the diocese has helped as well.”

The goal is, Aguirre said, “that once our students graduate, they will join parishes and live out their faith formation on a daily basis.”

Another goal is for University Catholic’s visibility to grow as part of the strong Catholic community that already exists.

“Neither Belmont or Vanderbilt University are Catholic institutions, but we serve their Catholic students and the Catholic community in the Nashville area,” Aguirre said.