As promised in the last post, you can now read the final version of the national qualitative study of Catholic campus ministers. This study emerged from conversations around the 2017 survey (that report can be found here); we had lots of questions come up at the Notre Dame symposium. Thanks to the research team (I took the role of PI, Dr. Linda Kawentel is co-author and co-PI, and Dr. Brian Starks was also on the team) and the 45 campus ministers we interviewed, we were able to discern some answers as well as suggest some better practices. Our deep thanks to these ministers as well as the USCCB and the Religious Research Association for providing the funding that made this work possible.
While we await the first copies of the campus ministry study to return from layout and design, the National Qualitative Study of Campus Ministry was covered by Heidi Schlumph of NCR today. Stay tuned for the full report (officially released today, on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of educators).
The University of San Diego graciously invited me to contribute to their annual Advent Calendar and Reflection Series. It has been a personal joy to enter into these reflections for the liturgical season. I will paste my Fourth Sunday reflection below:
For those in the northern hemisphere, yesterday marked the darkest day of the year. And today we enter the fourth Sunday of Advent, when our wreath shines at its brightest.
Light changes things. It allows us to see things we were not able to previously, giving us a fuller picture of our reality.
Looking briefly at our previous Sunday readings, in the first week, we are exhorted to realize the immediacy of Christ’s coming. In the second Sunday, we hear themes of repentance, right relationship and social justice. Last Sunday focused on signs, reversal, and the restoration of what is broken. These are big.
Today’s Gospel presents a bit of a contrast. For nothing is too small for God.
Instead of great social reforms, healing miracles and anticipations of signs, we have a humbler situation. Joseph – like all of us – trying to do the right thing in a complicated situation.
And with – like all of us – incomplete information.
Based upon what he knew, the good, right and merciful thing to do was to quietly divorce Mary. But that evening, under the darkness of night, Joseph’s world was illuminated. In a beautiful contrast to other Sundays’ miraculous healings and great signs, Joseph’s reality did not change. The world he woke up to was exactly the same as the one he went to bed with. Instead, he saw the fullness of his situation, changing the way he understood reality and his place in it.
Which invites us to contemplate in these last days of Advent: What of God’s love, glory and goodness am I failing to see? Where does God already dwell in my world? I am the last to tell you that God is not in the shiny ribbons, family traditions and favorite recipes you might be scrambling to ready. In fact, in the generosity, kindness, love and belonging you’re extending, I know God is there. Let’s take the time to see God’s active presence in all things so that we, like Joseph, might understand our reality in a whole new way.
I offer three main insights. The first is on “being,” that both Franciscans and young adults are characterized by “expressive authenticity that seeks belonging.” The second is on “doing,” specifically that both of these groups realize the importance of storytelling as a meaning-making activity. Finally, the heart of young adult ministry should not be guided by a commitment to minister “to” or even “with,” but to joyfully encounter.
You can read more on this here.
Excited to give you a sneak peek of my forthcoming book, Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice. This book, like all books, is the fruit of many years of research, analysis and writing. and provides the reader with a clear sense of what animates Catholic civic engagement today.
In brief, I argue that American Catholic engagement was previously done through Catholic groups or organizations typically organized at the parish level. Today, Catholics who seek to be civically engaged as Catholics do so through what I call “discipleship groups,” in which they are gathered for spiritual formation and then engage a wide variety of issues as individuals. There are five core values that animate discipleship groups: transformation, Christ-centeredness, community, outreach, and compassion. You can learn more about it on the NYU website.
Hope you find it a fun read in June 2020!
Acronyms abound this week as I write this from Washington, DC! I am spending a few days at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate working on a variety of projects here. I also had a meeting with Barbara McCrabb of the USCCB to talk about the final draft of the national qualitative study of Catholic campus ministry (look for that soon!).
On Thursday I’ll be flying to St. Louis for the joint meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association. There I will present the findings from two projects: 1) Latino Catholic stewardship (funded by Villanova University’s Center for Church Management) and 2) Catholic campus ministers (funded by the USCCB and the RRA).
It is so great to be able to conduct research that will be useful for so many scholars as well as practitioners. Thank you to all those funding sources that make this financially possible!
I am looking forward to seeing leaders in young adult ministry when I give a keynote address at the Young Adult Symposium this Saturday in Scottsdale, Arizona. Excited to meet everyone and help bring the latest research to this ministry. Join us!