Monday, October 29, 2012

Fr McBrien Glad Bishops Staying Out Catholic Campus Ministry ( A Response )

Fr. McBrien of Notre Dame seems happy that  Bishops are not poking their nose in College Campus Ministry it seems. See Fr. McBrien of Notre Dame Says Long Arm of Bishops Can’t Reach Catholic Colleges.

To be exact Fr McBrien did not just limit this to Catholic Colleges. In the NCR article  Showing support for LCWR during these trying times he said:

We cannot overemphasize the fact that a pall of sadness now covers the church. Many have dropped out (the recent Pew poll disclosed that ex-Catholics constitute one-tenth of the U.S. religious landscape); others stay because they have found a worshiping community that meets their spiritual needs (usually on a college or university campus, where the long arms of a bishop cannot reach).

This is a small part of this article but I think it is one of the most important which is why I think it is apt that the Cardinal Newman Society rightly jumped on it.

First it should be noted that the primary purpose of Catholic campus ministry is not to give a place for "progressives" to worship and have reign. It is not a place , at either a Catholic or secular college, to send perhaps theological wise some of the more " interesting " priest and nuns.

The primary purpose is preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ which includes the teachings of his Bride The Church to people at one of the most critical parts of their lives

Catholic colleges that largely have the field to themselves should be producing numerous vocations to the Catholic Faith. While vocations to the clerical and religious state is not the only end all of a healthy Catholicism it is a huge sign of it. The main religious orders that control ( such as the Jesuits) these Catholic places of learning and the religious sisters that often staff it at time ( see the LCWR folks) have contact with tens of thousands of young adults each year. Yet these orders are often dwindling. Compare this to a Catholic or Methodist operated school and how many vocations to the clerical state they get. One might object well they don't have to be celibate. However as we see at secular colleges that does not quite add up.

As I noted Father McBrien did not limit his remarks to Catholic Colleges. While it's true local Bishops seem to have a frustrating lack of input on Catholic colleges in their Dioceses the situation in the past has not been that much different as to the secular campus where MOST CATHOLICS attend. For decades the secular campus ( whether private or state) has largely been a place where the most progressive and some  would same dissenting priests and religious go. At least that was my experience state wide in Louisiana when I was involved in Catholic campus ministry some years back.

The results have been sadly predictable. First there are the untold victims that many wish to ignore. In many places the Faith was so watered down that many Catholics spiritual needs were met by the Wesley Foundation, the Baptist Student Center, or the Campus Crusade for Christ. Those Catholics never returned in large part and those people are sadly numerous. They vastly outnumber the progressives that might find refuge in these communities.

Thankfully where the "long arms of the Bishop " did happen we have seen some wonderful results. Case in point is the Catholic Campus ministry at Texas A & M a state supported school . In the article Aggie Catholic Renaissance we see these amazing stats:

Daily Mass attendance averages 175

Sunday Masses draw between four and five thousand worshippers

1,250 students make or staff a retreat sponsored by St. Mary’s. “Aggie Awakening,” an adaptation of Cursillo

2,000 A&M students, not all of them Catholics, have participated in introductory sessions exploring the Theology of the Body

Since 2000, the campus ministry has averaged some nine students per year entering the seminary or religious novitiates

132 Catholic Aggies have been ordained priests or made final religious vows in the past two decades

175 new Catholics have entered the Church the past two years through St. Mary’s RCIA program.

Imagine if this was duplicated at Catholic colleges and more secular colleges nationwide. The vocation problem we have would pretty much disappear to start with.

Texas A & M is not the only place where this is happening. Let us look at the University of Nebraska. One Catholic now living in the Diocese of Shreveport recounts his experience recently at 8 Keys to Campus Ministry. Looking at the University of Nebraska Catholic web site it appears he is not just whistling Dixie.

To meet demand they are engaging in a huge ten million dollar Catholic campus expansion  because they have to meet his large demand.  You will note also that now a  Catholic fraternity house is even being built and a Catholic sorority house is on the way too. There is no doubt that the efforts of Nebraska Head Football Coach and the "long arm of the Bishop"  plays some role in this success. For an overview of the Catholic explosion at Nebraska see this very good article.

These things happen when we appreciate what demo Catholic campus ministry is for.

Nebraska like many many Catholic campus programs that are experiencing great success is associated with the  Fellowship of Catholic University Students ( FOCUS) that is on  74 campuses in 30 states . I am happy to say this includes in my home state of Louisiana the University of Louisiana - Lafayette where great results are being seen,  ( also see this National Catholic Register article )  and now at Tulane where the Archbishop is making a massive investment in campus ministry.

The impact of FOCUS when the Bishop brings them in is nothing short of amazing. Inclduing that since 1998 336 religious vocations have been  fostered . FOCUS was recently highlighted in an article by this very imprtant Evangelical magazine here.

These are just a few examples I could mention that contrary to Fr McBrien's viewpoint when we focus on whom Catholic Campus ministry is for we can very happy results.

In a year where the most famous Catholic College produced  "Social Justice" advocate is Sandra Fluke I suggest a course correction is call for at many places.

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