Building bridges between campus ministries

By 
  • December 3, 2009
{mosimage}For the first time ever, 12 Catholic movements and organizations met in Toronto to discuss how to “build the Body of Christ on campus” Nov. 30-Dec.1.

Bishop Fred Colli, representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at the event, said the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry board recognized the importance of talking about a comprehensive ministry that would better serve students.

“In our secular society today, it’s important for young Catholic students who go to university to know their faith is supported there,” he said. “Even though university is always an area of discussion and innovative ideas and sometimes secularism and different ideas creep in to even Catholic universities, campus ministry is there because it becomes for the student their parish environment. They need to know the church is wherever they go.”

Maria Lique, a 21-year-old student at the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg and Canadian Catholic Students Association representative, said she was looking forward to hearing from organizations that aren’t yet on campuses and how they might work together.

“We’re a small campus right now and for us the biggest challenge is a lack of students,” she said.

Lydia Hood, a student at the University of P.E.I. and CCSA representative, said the bigger challenge she sees is bridging the gap between different organizations like CCSA and Catholic Christian Outreach, which has a large presence in Halifax.

“How can we actually work together for the ultimate goal, which is God in the end, not just remain separate and do your own thing, but come together,” was the ultimate question, she said. “I’m just so excited they’re doing it at a national level.”

She added that this might be an opportunity to begin mending broken relationships between certain groups and find out what each other is doing, then learn to respect those differences and discuss ways of working together.

Fr. Len Altilia, vocations director for the Jesuits of English Canada, gave an opening talk on the spiritual hunger of young adults today and the different categories young adults find themselves, from the fully committed church-goers to the disafected, self-absorbed and uncatechized youth.

All of them need campus ministry for different reasons, he said, and all need to be approached differently.

Those who are well-disposed, good people but not fully engaged in their faith, for example, many of them first need a loving respectful community they can turn to.

“For me growing up, the church was the context and the medium through which I discovered God,” he said. “What I’m discovering for these young people is that it’s the other way around. First they discover God in their life and that leads them to want to share that with a community and so through God they discover the church, and it’s a whole different direction.”

But campus ministers need to be aware that fully-engaged Catholics need formation to stay engaged and opportunities to develop their piety through praying the rosary or eucharistic adoration as well as community. Young adults from the entire spectrum of faith levels need opportunities to exercise leadership and channel their energy into service. Campus ministers need to prepare themselves to offer a range of faith growth opportunities.

The event brought together representatives from Catholic Christian Outreach, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Catholic Women’s League, Christian Life Communities, Focolare Movement, Knights of Columbus, L’Arche, National Association of Vocation/Formation Directors, National Campus Life Network, Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, University Chinese Catholic Communities and Youth for Christ.

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