Catechizing on Campus: The Cross Is the Center of Reality – Kyle Turner

Libby MahowaldBlog, Catechetical Leader, Featured

What is your mission? What drives you to do what you do within your ministry? For many of us involved in college campus ministry, I assume that we are driven by some common motivations. We strive to share the Gospel message with a new generation of college students. We work to engage students in works of mercy and justice. We encourage students to seek truth and lead lives that have meaning and purpose. We endeavor to draw young people into relationship with the Triune Living God.

I’ve spent a lot of time throughout this past academic year reflecting upon what drives me to companion young adults on our campus in seeking God’s call in their lives. Within this reflection, I have attempted to focus on how our mission as a university ministry team dovetails with the mission statement of the institution where we minister.

Forming a ministry mission statement

At Regis, our mission office rolled out a new mission statement for the university in 2019. This came as a result of a couple years of discernment that led us to realize that the previous mission statement was overly lengthy and needed refreshing. The resulting mission statement reads, “As a Jesuit Catholic university, Regis seeks to build a more just and humane world through transformative education at the frontiers of faith, reason and culture.”

The introduction of this revised mission statement has led our university ministry office to revisit our own identity as a campus ministry presence within the university. Of course, our identity as a campus ministry presence will differ from those of other campus ministries, such as those who minister on public or secular university and college campuses, but I feel that it is worth sharing a bit of our experience because of the common ground we share.

When thinking about this identity with regard to a broader view of campus ministry in general, I reflected upon what the role of a university or a college is in today’s society. In the Regis mission statement, three identifiable elements describe the institution: Jesuit, Catholic, and university. In the formation that our mission team used in rolling out this new statement, these three elements have been focal points in expanding the overarching vision of the mission statement. (To see how these elements are expanded, please visit www.regis.edu/mission.)

The last of these elements—university—is the most general one related to an institution of higher education. So, in a way, it is applicable for any campus ministry in viewing its role within a campus community. What does a university (or a college) do? It is a place for study, certainly, but it is also a place for holistic growth. It is a place where not only minds can be engaged but lives can be formed. It is a locus within society for tremendous transformation during what, at least for traditional undergraduate students, are often formative years. Campus ministry can play a viably positive role within this holistic growth for students.

Your mission will point to your goal

Father Dean Brackley, SJ, in reflecting upon the state of higher education in the 21st century, wrote:

Wisdom, not mere information, is the goal of education. Again, let us study obscure insects and obscure authors and master the periodic table of the elements. But let that study be part of a quest to understand what life means, how life and well-being are threatened, and how they can flourish. Let the most important questions structure learning—questions about the drama of life and death, about injustice and liberation, good and evil, grace and sin.

In the language of faith, the Cross is the center of reality—Jesus’ cross and all the other crosses. At the foot of the cross, reality comes into focus. Lacking that perspective, wisdom turns to folly. (“Higher Standards,” America, February 6, 2006)

At the center of our work as catechists working in campus ministry lies the opportunity to invite and accompany college students in going deeper in their lives and to help frame the big questions centered on understanding the meaning of life. Reflecting upon our team’s mission and efforts, we have come to realize that all of our work must, at some level, have this connection present.

We are in a unique position to accompany students, who face enormous challenges in a world with numerous uncertainties, through these transformative years. With this in mind, how might you revisit your own mission in your catechetical ministry with college students? And how might you connect this with the Cross at the center of reality and the wisdom of life?