The Importance of Opening Your Doors

This is a guest post by Jonathan Schott, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY.

We are in a unique position at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. A new, state of the art chapel is nearing completion, a wholly new staff is nearly in place, and our school is set to welcome its largest class of incoming Freshmen ever in our nearly 70 year history of our institution. Added to this is the almost humorous reality that both myself, as the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry, and our incoming Chaplain/Director of Campus Ministry, while having years of experience in ministerial work at the parish, Catholic school, and diocesan levels—have never had any experience in Catholic Campus Ministry. We very much, as one of our mutual priest friends eloquently put it: "have no idea what we're doing."

This is a really good thing. Our ministry at St. John Fisher College has undergone massive transitions in the past 2 years. Always staffed by the Congregation of St. Basil, the order who founded Fisher, the previous Director died suddenly in early 2016. The previous Director of Worship and Music elected to retire. The Office Manager elected to retire. The appointment process and selection process with the Basilian Fathers for the new Director took months, and the search, hiring, and onboarding of yours truly took months as well and took up work at the College this previous semester.

I was charged, simply, with "get some life happening." As a result of the death of the previous director and retirements, the Campus Ministry was effectively in “hibernation”. This reality wasn’t reaching the vast majority of our nearly 4,000 students—who are ever connected and thrive on active engagement. Mass attendance dwindled. We are grateful for a very small, faithful, and vocal group of students who limped things along until Spring 2017, when I arrived.

The most visible image of this interim period was that the doors to the Campus Ministry Center—large, heavy, oak (the center used to be a daily Mass Chapel) remained closed. When there literally was no staff for almost two semesters, those doors were locked and students, faculty and staff that utilized the center now had nothing. The ministry, for a few months, was reflective of the mourning the campus felt after the loss of the beloved Fr. Joe—darkened and shuttered.

The beauty of having no idea what I'm doing means that there is nothing you can't try and nothing you can do wrong. So, when I arrived on day one, those doors were opened wide, the lights on as bright as can be, and we set out on our way renewing and reviving our ministry. Immediately new faces began to stop in, to ask questions, to learn more, and to inquire about getting involved. After a few short months, because of this open, welcoming, energetic approach—coupled with executing some intentional programming designed to cultivate a culture of discipleship—we've developed a student advisory board and interviewed and selected 5 Peer Ministers to work alongside us in this upcoming first full year of a renewed ministry. On July 1st our new Director officially began work and the staff is almost fully complete. Myself, the Director and staff, as well as these student leaders now get the great opportunity to renew the vision and witness to Christ on Campus in a fresh way with new ardor and vigor.

At my end of semester meeting and review with the Vice President of Student Affairs, he remarked: the best thing you did all semester was to open those doors. Practical Campus Ministry Lesson #1: Open the Door. Let them in. Meet your audience where they’re at. Let them explore, let them question, and let them self-cultivate into the leaders we want them to become. I suppose it

sounds rather silly and basic. Yet through a simple openness and welcoming "Hi, I'm Jon", you begin the development of ministerial relationship with those around you.

What's Step Two? I have no idea. Stay tuned to find out.

(Some photos of our ministry location below)

Debriefing the Convocation of Catholic Leaders

Over July 4th weekend, the US Bishops hosted the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America."  As 3,500 participants traveled to Orlando, FL for this historic event, a central question was asked, "how ought the Church respond to Pope Francis' invitation to missionary discipleship?"

I asked myself this same question, applying what I knew of the Holy Father's document, Evangelii Gaudium, to the space of campus ministry.  By the time I had left the convocation, at least a part of the question had been answered.

The Convocation gave 155 bishops the opportunity to talk but also to listen. I sat in on several workshops and was impressed with the presence of many bishops who simple wanted to hear the perspective of the laity.  Bishops were everywhere during the Convocation and seemed to enjoy being participants as well as leaders. 

Several observations are particularly important to me:

  1. The event was inspiring; whether the Matt Maher concert, the mile-long Eucharistic procession or the sheer volume of participants, one could not leave with a sense that the American Catholic church is dead.
  2. The event was honest; Dr. Hosffman Ospino told it like it is in the first plenary session as the first second half of the 20th century brought traumatic change for the Church in America. For the Church to succeed, it must adapt and respond with humility and bravery.  Difficult topics were addressed such as immigration, racism and same-sex attraction.  
  3. The event depends on the local commitments of participants 'in the field'; too many topics were covered for the Bishops to create a response.  Rather, the most effective follow up of the Convocation will  depend on the commitments of dioceses and organizations.  The event gave participants a chance to dialogue at the end of the Convocation as to how they would follow up.
  4. The Convocation featured several prominent campus ministers and CCMA champions; whether Katie Diller, Kerry Robinson, Rosie Shawver or Patrick Lencioni, CCMA members had much to smile about throughout the event.  You can watch Patrick's keynote here:

The Catholic Standard from the Archdiocese of Washington has this summary of the event.

Some other photos of the event are below:

St. John's Catholic Scholars Program Equips Students to Serve

“Here they come!”

This is the thought we have when that bus pulls up to our campus Church, dropping off over 50 8th graders from St. Mel Parish, in Flushing, Queens, who are only weeks away from their reception of the sacrament of Confirmation. They will call St. John’s University home for the day as they retreat and prepare for their sacraments.


This is one of the retreats offered by the sophomore Catholic Scholars at St. John’s University, as a part of the larger year of service to the local church, that we call Evangelization Teams. The Catholic Scholars are college students who commit to growing in their Catholic faith, leadership and in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, both in and out of the classroom. The sophomores facilitate leadership retreats for local parishes and schools, and they provide a number of Confirmation retreats in collaboration with the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Getting on Campus

While not always possible, it is a special opportunity to bring the students to campus so they are exposed to a Catholic university. They often join our campus community for daily Mass. You could see the curiosity in their eyes as they see our beautiful Church alive in the young men and women who study and pray at St. John’s. As they participate in leadership activities and pray with the Catholic Scholars, we pray that these young people can see themselves in the future as college students who love and are growing in their Catholic faith.

Our Students Serve and Grow as a Result

For the Catholic Scholars, they grow in their leadership as they walk with those on retreat. They share their own faith journey, and they are reminded of the importance of their leadership in the Church. We pray that as alumni, they will return to their parishes to continue to lead and support others in their relationship with Christ, and with one another.

Jimmy Walters, Ed.D. is the Director of the Catholic Scholars and Residence Ministry at St. John’s University. You can contact him at Also, visit his blog on Appreciation and Gratitude at 

For more information on the Catholic Scholars, visit

Podcast #38 with Rick Erisman of Redivive Coaching

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Campus ministry can be a lonely work and we're happy to talk with Rick Erisman of Redivive Coaching who connects professionals so that they can avoid burnout.  Rick has extensive experience with what are commonly known as "mastermind groups".  It's a fact- mastermind groups work and decrease isolation.  They leverage accountability and provide tremendous encouragement to those in ministry.  

For more info on Rick's company, visit his website. A free PDF download is available here to learn how to implement powerful conversations.

For more info about our sponsor, Vera Cruz Advisory, visit their website.  

Enjoy the cast!



Podcast 37 with Emily Hitchens of Butler University

This week we sat down with Emily Hitchens of Butler University Catholic campus ministry center.  Emily, besides being a sub on her local dodgeball team, does a great job in leading students from Butler to Christ.  

Enjoy the podcast!






7 Clever Things You Can do Over the Summer

Summer is finally here!  It's the time of year for both educators and campus ministers to take stock of the year gone by and do some clever things in order to recharge.  

There's just one catch- with over a month of summer weeks, it can be easy to not use the time wisely.  The best of intentions can slide away and then Fall arrives and we're left with some level of regret.

Here are seven things you can do this summer that might yield significant results:

  1. Clean your office.  Clutter can pile up during the year.  Take a morning, dress casually and go to it.
  2. Go on a personal retreat.  This can be a formal retreat that you pay for or a day at the beach.  
  3. Change your work schedule.  Can you work longer from Monday-Thursday and then take off Fridays?  Can you come in later one day as a means of "changing things up" over the summer?
  4. Revisit your strategic plan.  Be honest- how often did you touch the plan during the year?  Why not use summer to reconnect and recommit to its objectives and goals?
  5. Decide on one thing in your ministry that you can stop doing.  We all want to be doing more and reaching more students.  Summer is the right time to cross one activity off your list.  If it didn't work that well, drop it.
  6. Read two great spiritual books.  Which book have you been wanting to read?  Head over to Amazon and pick up a copy.  Enjoy it.  Savor the moments of quiet reading.  As Merton once said, "Reading is an act of humility."
  7. Go on a vacation, even if it's a brief one.  Even short vacations have value.  Where can you go?  What can you do to recharge your batteries?

I bet you could add another seven actions you could take to unplug and be renewed this summer.  For me, I hope to begin bird watching (cue the teasing) and also get some time away with my wife and kids.  

Podcast 36 with Matt Faley of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Wonder what dioceses and archdioceses do to support campus ministry?  In this episode of the CCMA Leadership Podcast, we talk with Matt Faley of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  Matt is one of the leading voices when it comes to the alignment of a diocese with its campuses.  

Matt and I chat about work-life balance, how he prays with his team and how Indiana is such a special place to minister and serve.

For more about Matt and his work, visit his website.

This week's cast is sponsored by Vera Cruz Advisory, for which we are extremely grateful.

Would You Like to Guest Blog for CCMA?

If you are an author or aspiring blogger, CCMA would love your help!  As of July 1, we will be publishing guest blog posts from campus ministers around the country.  

Guest posting has several benefits:

  • A way to flex your writing muscle
  • A way to connect with other campus ministers
  • A way to add to your resume
  • A way to clarify your thoughts

If you are interested, email Mike St. Pierre and begin the conversation:


A Clever Way to Engage Students in Discussions of Faith


I visited this past week with campus ministers from the Chicago area.  With deep gratitude to Mark Laboe of DePaul University who coordinated the trip, we enjoyed talking about what's happening on campuses around the country.  

DePaul has found a very unique way to engage students in discussions of faith and vocational discernment.  By using the "discussion wheel" and giving out some sweet t-shirts, their team has found a simple way to start discussions.  They put the wheel in a public place and simply invite students to take a spin and then chat for a few minutes.  Some free stickers help to sweeten the deal and the conversation gets rolling.

According to Mark, this clever tool (the wheel and accompanying conversations) has provided some of the richest conversations of the year.  Best yet, the chats are often quite deep, proving interior motivations and future aspirations as they connect with the faith.

Podcast 35 with Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. from the Catholic Apostolate Center

How do you expand your team?

How do you use technology to enhance your relationships?

How do you promote civil discourse online?

These questions and more were discussed in Episode 35 of the CCMA Leadership Podcast with Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C.  Fr. Frank is the Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center. Fr. Frank's team is leading the way when it comes to utilizing technology for the purposes of evangelization, communication and teamwork.

For more information about Fr. Frank,

For the many resources and tools offered by the CAC:

Reaching Catholic High School Students

St. John's University in New York City has figured out a way to reach out to Catholic high schoolers such that they end up enrolling at St. John's.

I had the pleasure of visiting with the ministry team from St. John's at their Queens campus this past week.  In addition to finding out about their approach to campus ministry through a Vincentian lens, I discovered what they call the Catholic Scholars Program.

The Catholic Scholars Program was designed to build "Catholic student density" on campus among its other objectives.  This is always a balancing act as universities welcome students from all walks of life.  With that said, Catholic colleges also desire to recruit enough practicing Catholic students such that the Catholic identity of the institution is maintained.

Director Jimmy Walters, Ed.D., described the program as a four-year experience for a select group of undergrads who demonstrate a strong faith, a desire to serve and an intention to become leaders.  Each is selected by the college, receives a partial scholarship, and lives and learns among a cohort of like-minded students.  There is a theology component, a service element and even a pastoral assignment in their junior year.  The Program is one example of how to transition students from high school to your campus. 

You may want to emulate parts or even all of the Scholars Program as it has been designed at St. John's.  Or, you may want to create one of your own, connecting Catholic high school students to life on your campus.

What are some qualities of effective transition steps from high school to college?  They may include:

  • Building relationships with 10-15 key Catholic schools in your area, encouraging them to consider your school
  • Getting high school students on campus for retreats
  • Inviting Catholic high school students for faith-related speakers
  • Inviting Catholic high school students for a "meet and greet" with a Catholic coach and her/his captains
  • Bringing college students into Catholic high schools for unique programs, mentoring opportunities or retreats
  • Hosting an annual gathering of local Catholic youth ministries for a rally or special Mass
  • Working with your local Diocesan Catholic youth ministry coordinator for opportunities to get local Catholic students onto campus
  • Identifying one person on your staff who is focused on Catholic students and their journey from high school to college
  • Creating a full-fledged program as St. John's has done 

Increasing enrollment will never go out of style for colleges.  As campus ministers, we can help our institutions be more thoughtful about how to attract more Catholic students.  


Podcast 34 with Friar Mario Serrano, OFM, Conv.

In Episode 34 we talk with Friar Mario Serrano, OFM, Conv., Pastoral Associate for University Ministry at Indiana State University. Friar Mario discusses the role that transition plays in campus ministry and what he hopes his students learn about St. Francis.

Friar Mario is the kind of person that you really want to talk to for hours- his students are fortunate to have him and to learn of St. Francis through him.

Visit the St. Joseph homepage to learn more about Friar Mario's team.

Your Next Ministry Position Can Benefit from a Beautiful Resume

I was listening to Thom Ranier's Leadership Podcast this past week and he spoke of the do's and don'ts of ministry resumes.  You can listen to it here.

This got me thinking about CCMA and why our Job Bank is the 2nd most popular page on our website.  Folks are either seriously looking for new positions or just keeping an eye on the market. 

Whatever the case, it's a good time to polish up your resume.  Is it up to date?  Are your references prepared in the event of a call?  Do you need to update your title?  These questions and many more are worth an afternoon of your time, whether you're looking for a new position or you love where you are.

Visit the CCMA Job Bank Today

Podcast 33 with Matt Zerrusen of the Newman Connection

Each campus knows how difficult it is to find incoming students and then invite them, in a systematic manner, into Catholic campus ministry.  

In Episode 33 of the CCMA Leadership Podcast, I chat with Matt Zerrusen of the Newman Connection.  Note that Matt's organization is different from the Cardinal Newman Society which has a different mission and focus.

The Newman Connection and their thorough website provides the single best database for students to find either Catholic Centers or Newman Centers around the country.  Additionally, Matt and his team provide countless colleges with the contact information for incoming freshmen.  That's a very valuable resource!

Matt also announced a new project of the Newman Connection called The Upper Room, an operating system for Catholic campus ministries.  I can't wait to see how campuses use The Upper Room to organize and then grow their ministries.

Enjoy the podcast!

Join Us for the Rest & Renew Retreat This Summer!

Each year is full of students, retreats, 1x1's, staff meetings, service events, Masses, crises and everything in between!  The question is this: how do you rest and renew after a busy year in campus ministry?

This summer, join campus ministers from around the country for Rest & Renew: Campus Ministers Retreat at Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston, TX.  

We'd love to see you for 24 hours of prayer, dialogue, reflection, fellowship and yes, REST.  Fr. Ray Cook, OMI (Chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at Rice University) will be our guide as we look back on the year and be renewed by the Lord.  

Download the April Edition of PULSE Magazine!

Our April edition of PULSE is ready for you to enjoy and share with your colleagues in campus ministry.  Our feature story on Crystal Sullivan from the University of Dayton is especially helpful in terms of keeping fresh in campus ministry ... and being successful for the long haul.

Click here to read PULSE.

Looking for your Next Campus Ministry Speaker?

Today CCMA introduces another resource as part of our Pyramid.  The CCMA Speaker Bureau is a "one stop shop" for finding an excellent speaker at a price range that you can afford.

Click here for the list of speakers.

Topics range from fundraising to evangelization to leadership.  We hope you enjoy this new resource from CCMA.