Holistic Appeal: How Family Traditions, Career-Focused Academics and Campus Ministry Led Bella O’Rourke to Immaculata
Having attended Catholic schools her entire life, faith is important to Isabella (Bella) O’Rourke ’24. When it came time for the Boca Raton, Florida, native to decide upon a college, she knew she wanted to go to a smaller Catholic university to major in nursing. Her aunt graduated from Immaculata University with a master’s degree in special education and invited O’Rourke to come to Pennsylvania to check out her alma mater while she was touring other colleges in the area.
“I didn’t look at any other schools after Immaculata. I stopped looking the moment I stepped on campus,” she said. “I love the community feel.” With a student-faculty ratio at 9:1, O’Rourke appreciates the small class sizes that allow her to make a connection with all her professors. I’m not just “another face or number in the class,” she points out.
“I didn’t look at any other schools after Immaculata. I stopped looking the moment I stepped on campus.”
“I know all my professors by name, and they know me by name,” O’Rourke said. “If I see them in the hallway, maybe we’ll have a conversation, and they’ll ask me how I’m doing, how are classes going and offer any extra help,” she stated.
O’Rourke always wanted a career where she could help others. When she volunteered at a hospital near her home in Florida, she knew she found her profession. And when she initially toured Immaculata and talked with current students who touted Immaculata’s high pass-rate for NCLEX, the national exam for nurses, her decision was confirmed.
Immaculata’s nursing faculty emphasize how to take care of people holistically, and O’Rourke wants to maintain that focus no matter what specialty she pursues within healthcare. Because she is an active student, both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities, she has embraced Immaculata’s mission to develop the whole person.
When O’Rourke first arrived on campus, she was surprised at the number of clubs and organizations available to students. Currently she is a resident assistant and a student admissions ambassador, but it is her involvement in campus ministry that has had the greatest impact on her college experience. She is heavily engaged as a peer minister and minister for retreats and is a member of the newly formed student leadership board for campus ministry.
When the student-led leadership board was founded, O’Rourke became the lead for their retreats—helping with their coordination and day-to-day planning. This academic year, the board is planning several retreats, with the first being Kairos. Last year was the first time Immaculata offered Kairos, which is a Christian retreat program geared toward deepening one’s faith, identity, relationships, and connection to God’s role in their lives. Throughout the year, there are several other retreat opportunities, including a Habitat for Humanity trip to North Carolina and a spring retreat to West Virginia.
For her positions as peer minister, she serves as an assistant to Sister Laura Downing, IHM, director of campus ministry. Her duties include promoting events and increasing general awareness of campus ministry offerings. O’Rourke efforts have been successful as the number of students involved in campus ministry has increased by tenfold over the past year. Events include weekly community nights that bring students together for meals and to listen to guest speakers and social events like student/IHM sister kickball games and movie nights.
“My freshman year, we maybe went from 5-10 students attending Sunday Mass, and now, we’re getting upwards of 50-75,” O’Rourke states. She attributes the renewed interest in campus ministry with the fact that students begin to hear about the activities and retreats when they arrive as first-year students. She emphasizes that they gear their events and activities to all students for broad appeal.