Young people are hungry for the Truth. When I first came to St. Paul's and IU, a good friend asked me if I was bored. His rationale: The overwhelming majority of young people don't have or want God in their lives. My response was the exact opposite of what he expected. We preach and teach the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, a message roundly mocked, ignored, or rejected by many, yet we are overwhelmed with more and more students in our Small Groups and retreats. Moreover, these students aren't interested in picking-and-choosing the tenets of the Faith they hold. They hold themselves to the highest standard and they are set free in this pursuit.
The Lost and Lonely Souls Must be Our Priority. One lost soul is one too many. For every student in our Small Groups and/or at Mass on Sundays, there are at least 10 we are not reaching. This is a daunting task, but this challenge drives our mission and provides us with constant opportunities for furthering this vital mission. Consequently, we are doubling our investment in Campus Ministry next year; we are bringing FOCUS missionaries to campus; and we are hiring a full-time intern to work in our office. Our Campus Ministry staff will grow from 2 to 6 or 7 next year and we are committed to finding more of those lost and lonely souls on campus.
Young People Love the Eucharist. When I arrived in Bloomington, I was thrilled to learn the other parish in town has a nearly perpetual Eucharistic Adoration chapel. It's just off campus so I figured our students had ample opportunity to adore Our Blessed Lord. Then, a student asked me about Adoration at St. Paul's. Then another and another. We started small. By the Spring semester, we had 15 hours each week of Adoration here with at least 2 student Adorers per hour and sometimes as many as 15 silently praying in adoration of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord. What a blessing!
Campus Ministry is Total Spiritual Warfare. I was a middle school teacher before I entered the Dominican novitiate. Working with 12-14-year-olds is a wild business. It doesn't hold a candle to working with college students. Most college students are still developing in spiritual and emotional maturity, but life on a college campus throws every challenge, problem, temptation their way and, frankly, it's nigh near impossible not to get caught up in the fray. We must, therefore, use every spiritual weapon at our disposal to combat sin and the wiles of the Devil. The Sacraments (especially Eucharist and Confession), devotions, extemporaneous and intercessory prayer, spiritual reading, Scripture, we must wield them all.
Friendship is Imperative. I love when an upperclassmen I don't know asks to meet. In most cases, they have pursued happiness on earthly terms for a few years only to find emptiness. After they get plugged into a small group or start coming to our events, they develop, perhaps for the first time, friendships based on virtue. They have a community and friends who care more about building them up than serving their own needs. In the onslaught of sin, vice, and temptation that a college campus is, we need a friend or a group of friends to help us.
It's the Work of the Holy Spirit. At the end of my first year, I'm more convinced of the power and work of the Holy Spirit. If this were my work, the ministry would be in shambles because, let's face it, I am a great sinner and completely inadequate for this job. Yet, every day the Holy Spirit does great things through me and the students on campus. The Good News of Jesus Christ is preached. Souls, once lost, come back to the Church, back to Confession and the Eucharist, back to building a life of grace and virtue. This is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is Essential. Jesus tells us, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." (Luke 10:2) With so many souls adrift and so few resources, it is easy to prioritize the work of ministry over the work of prayer. However, the work I do with students is hindered when I don't do the work of prayer. The most important thing we can do each day is commune with God. As a priest, this means I pray the Mass each day, but I also must dedicate longer periods of silence and meditation to Our Lord. The more I am fed in the silence of prayer, the more, I have found, my words and actions reflect the Love of God. If any of us hope to enact change and help other souls, we must first be nourished by the Bread of Life and in the silence of His presence.