As found in: Crossroads, A Publication of the Catholic Campus Ministry
“What’s in a name?” the poet asks. Quite a lot, actually, when you consider that your name represents who you are and what you are about. Campus ministry, it seemed to us at St. Mary’s University of Texas, had come to imply service on behalf of our students–period. We see our mission as serving our students, certainly, but also our faculty, professional and support staff, administration, Board of Trustees, alumnae/i, and the civic neighborhood that surrounds us and in which our university is immersed. We determined that University ministry better captures that more expansive vision.
“Ah, now, you can’t get there from here!” That was a humorous response one of us received while touring in Ireland when asking for directions to a particular village. The line raises an important question for us: so, how do we get there (to an expanded vision) from where we are, here and now? Some steps along the way for St. Mary’s included: establishing a chaplain/ liaison from within each of the university’s five schools; meeting with the vice-presidents’ leadership teams to share, listen and learn – and hopefully, better cooperate; meeting with the staff of the counseling center to support the proven link between personal spirituality and good mental health; and starting a leadership development program by networking with the personnel resources of our 21st Century Leadership Center in order to initiate an effective peer ministry training/leadership development program.
St. Mary’s is currently considering a two-part project that combines both quantitative, as well as qualitative research. The quantitative phase will involve a single survey instrument, or questionnaire, on pastoral care assessment at our university. It will involve random sampling of all the constitutive dimensions of the university community. The criteria for the formulation of questions will come from two sources: the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future; and the university’s sponsoring congregational document, The Characteristics of Marianist Universities. We are hoping and planning to consult the expertise of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in gathering this research.
The qualitative research will be phase two of the project. It involves gathering five focus groups, representing potentially disenfranchised elements of our university community. The selection of these five areas is based upon Fr. Terry’s experience of two years as the director of university ministry. The five groups are: 1) Hispanic/Mexican young adults, because a chasm exists between their traditional Catholic spirituality and that of our professional pastoral team; 2) Recently bereaved, grieving persons, because there are always people enduring the isolation of mourning within the university; 3) Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, because they are entirely invisible here and responsible pastoral care must include them; 4) Persons of various religious traditions, because interfaith dialogue will celebrate the diversity that exists here; and 5) The University Park Neighborhood Association, because we have a responsibility and obligation to partner and become good neighbors. Our ultimate dream is for all of this research to lead to information that will sketch a clear vision for the work of our ministry office for its foreseeable future.
Having worked at St. Mary’s University for 21 years in ministry with undergraduates and currently with the Law School, Sr. Grace finds it refreshing to see how the territory for ministry is ever expanding, even as impacted by a name change. A rule she has in ministry is to never do anything alone, so she values the opportunity to network with various departments on cooperative ventures. It can be advertising programs of mutual benefit to departments, serving on university committees or leading a St. Joseph the Worker prayer, providing a social to thank our physical plant department for all the assistance they give in setting up ministry programs.
There are a number of creative ways to get others involved in marketing, getting involved and getting the word out about our ministry. During law exams our campus chief of police gave up his parking spot for a fund raiser to benefit our police toy drive. Thanks to the help of an administrative assistant at St. Mary’s, a fund raiser that began with a few people selling arts and crafts has now turned into a 30-vendor Christmas Bazaar with various departments assisting. A percentage of the sales from the Bazaar is directed to a .fund established by our law students in 1997 to benefit the law ministry’s philanthropic efforts.
Law ministry has an extensive involvement with our alumni, students and San Antonio legal organizations in collaborating to provide legal services to the poor. We were recognized for these efforts with the 2004 State Bar Pro Bono Service Award.
Another outreach effort that brings the community to our campus is a Halloween party that the law students and Student Bar Association host for the children from area homeless shelters. Additionally, neighboring agencies contribute to a food pantry for our needy clients at our Center for Legal and Social Justice.
How you get to a vision that actively involves all the constituencies of university life takes time and patience – realizing how a community can share their gifts, talents and resources is priceless.
CATHOLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY ASSOCIATION
The Catholic Campus Ministry Association provides visionary leadership, formation and resources that empower Catholic campus ministers and the broader Church to become transforming instruments of Christ for the academic community and the world.
CCMA aspires to excellence in leadership, programs and resources for Catholic campus ministers and the Church so that: