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!
American Catholic Studies just published a favorable review of Young Adult American Catholics thoughtfully written by Dr. Patricia Wittberg, a Research Associate at CARA and a Sister of Charity. Her praise and critique were greatly appreciated. Here is a pull quote:
I would strongly recommend this book to be read, studied, and discussed in every parish and every college campus ministry program in the country.
Thank you, Patricia, for this enthusiastic endorsement!
I just got back from Crawfordsville, Indiana for the first of my three sessions with the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. The Center really knows how to create a space that is generative for reflection on our pedagogies; I already have lots of ideas for when I get back into the classroom this Spring! I’m looking forward to reuniting with the leaders and my cohort at our January session in Corpus Christi, Texas.
A big thanks to all the staff for all their organizing and hospitality!
En route home from a really enriching time at Villanova University’s Center for Church Management. We gathered to hear the findings from our (the ten fellows’) year-long investigations on clergy financial literacy. We were graced by the expertise of eight senior scholars (an arguable “who’s who” of the field) to help us hone our final drafts for publication. All this was beautifully orchestrated by the most hospitable and generous staff of the Center. Not only did they provide us with an opportunity for academic engagement, but for human joy and creativity, as the picture of us enjoying a Phillies’ skybox attests to! What a fantastic inaugural launch and well-done fellowship. Highly recommend to early- and mid-career scholars interested in church management.
Huge thanks to Chuck Zech, Matthew Manion, Jim Gallo and Megan Lowes for all their hard work!
With great gratitude for the semester (congratulations to all our graduates!) and grades in, I’m now looking ahead to my summer research agenda.
Currently, the research team for the American Abortion Attitudes project–based at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society–is knee-deep in interviews. The team includes the principal investigator in Tennessee, myself here in north San Diego county, and three other researchers in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They’re a great team and I’m really excited to be a part of this project.
In less than two weeks I’ll be taking off to Villanova University’s Center for Church Management to join the eleven other fellows and twelve senior scholars for our final meeting. I’ll be presenting on Latino Catholic financial stewardship. I’m really excited to hear the findings from everyone’s projects. I’ll also start teaching my five-week online summer course–Theology of Marriage–at Santa Clara University, which always combines an interesting topic with dedicated students.
In July I’ll be heading to Wabash for the first of three sessions of professional development for early-career theology faculty. It will be fun to be on the learners’ side of the desk for a bit and find ways to improve and better integrate my teaching, research and service. I’ll also be working on my paper comparing the ways Chinese and American Catholics each navigate their respective social contexts as a conclusion to my China immersion experience in January.
In August I’ll head out to Washington, DC to spend the first of three weeks with the social scientists at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. My background is qualitative research so I’m really excited to join these experts in quantitative studies of Catholics and learn from them. From there, I’ll take the train to NYC where I’ll be leading a session on Catholicism and Status as well as another on studying the ways groups and organizations foster emotions and character traits.
Lots of great projects to be thankful for!