Saturday, January 12, 2013

Archbishop Chaput To Catholic Campus Ministers Status Quo Unacceptable- Cites FOCUS Ministry As Example of New Thinking

The Catholic Campus Ministry Association had their  national convention in Florida this past week . Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia was one of the Keynote speakers and gave quite a speech. The full text is here at Young adults and ‘secrets of the heart’ .

In this speech he also gave out shout out to the exciting FOCUS campus ministry movement .

The whole address is a very good read but let me excerpt one part of it below.

..We only fool ourselves if we think that a mere gathering of young people is a sign of good ministry. Religious groups, like any other group, can be cliquish, self-indulgent, lazy and fruitless, heavy on talk and light on real conversion and mission. Healthy Catholic life demands excellence, self-denial, love for the Church and her teachings, a disciplined focus on the needs of others, and an ongoing hunger for knowing and doing God’s will. Our Newman Centers and campus ministries need to be, in effect, boot camps for this kind of vigorous Christianity.

There’s another problem we need to mention too, with its roots not in the young adults who take part in our campus ministries but in those of us who are leaders in Church life. We can see it most clearly through the lens of a third and final example from Scripture.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus wants to feed an enormous crowd that’s followed him. Philip is skeptical. He answers, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit” (6:7). Andrew adds that “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” But as soon as he says this, he dismisses it. “What good are these for so many?” (6:9).

Philip and Andrew sound sensible. They probably spoke for most of the Apostles. The boy’s loaves and fish seem wildly out of proportion to the need. And of course, they are.

But Jesus accepts the boy’s small offering and immediately transforms it to meet the need at hand. “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed them” (6:11). The Lord honored and multiplied the boy’s gift of food, no matter how meager, because it showed the kind of selflessness that God could use for great deeds.

Of course, Jesus had the power to work miracles. We need to rely on our wits and practical resources. But God can use us exactly as he used those loaves and fish; the same way he used Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola and Edith Stein — in unimaginable and abundant ways. God will multiply every gift we bring unselfishly to his service, no matter how meager our abilities. But we need to let God do his miracle by letting go of ourselves, our vanities, our plans and our assumptions.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Too often in the Church we expect young adults to simply fill the empty slots of existing structures and ministries, even when some of the programs are obviously dead shells. Old methods of pastoral outreach predetermine the ways in which we employ new disciples. Then we’re surprised that nothing seems to change.

We’re often too quick to dismiss new initiatives and ideas because “It’s not the way we do things here.” It’s “too liberal” or it’s “too conservative.” In my own experience as a bishop, I’ve been astonished at the number of campus ministers over the years who’ve rejected the obviously fruitful and very effective work of FOCUS – the Fellowship of Catholic University Students – for ideological reasons.

“Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but not understand

you shall indeed look but never see.

Gross is the heart of this people,

they will hardly hear with their ears,

they have closed their eyes, lest they

see with their eyes

and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart and be


and I heal them.’”

(Mt. 13:14-15)

I’m always a little uneasy in giving remarks like these today, because I wish I could offer some magic blueprint that would revivify campus ministry across the country and turn around our Church and culture in the next five years. I can’t. I’m just not that smart. I wonder if anyone is.

But I do know that we don’t need and can’t afford maintainers of the status quo. I do know that we need visionaries; missionaries; leaders who will burn up every atom of themselves in the furnace of God’s service, so that nothing remains but the light and warmth of Jesus Christ blazing out to touch the lives of others. We Catholics – you, me, all of us — need to be and to make a fire on the earth that consumes human hearts with God’s love. We can’t “teach” that. It doesn’t come from books or programs. We need to embody it, witness it, live it...


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