Admittedly this post is more philosophical than prior posts which aimed for practicality. I wrote this after spending a week in dialogue with CCMA members and our Executive Board. As we held the Executive Board meeting on Oct. 9/10, the seeds of this post were conceived by the Board.
Many wonder about the role that CCMA will play in the ever-changing nature of campus ministry in the U.S.
Here are my thoughts:
The St. Louis Executive Board Meeting on March 9th and 10th was an important touchpoint for CCMA. It marked the first time the Board had met in person in nearly four years and allowed us to review CCMA's past, evaluate our present and map a course for the future.
Much has changed since 1985 when the U.S. Bishops wrote "Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future". The core affirmations spoken in the document still hold true today as "progress has clearly been made in integrating campus ministry into the life of the Church". The importance of campus ministry is likewise affirmed today, as it was when the document was first written, "Campus ministry is one of the important ways the Church exercises her mission in higher education."
Related to this, Empowered provides a holistic framework for campus ministry, inviting campus ministers to build systems and moments that enable the following to occur:
- formation of the faith community
- appropriating the faith
- forming the Christian conscience
- educating for justice
- facilitating personal development
- developing leaders for the future
The core of *Empowered* still animates campus ministry today while new realities have emerged. The moral climate is increasingly secular and young adults are leaving the Church at an alarming rate. This is a serious threat to our Church and our world.
Many vibrant campus ministry programs do exist around the country, utilizing creativity and faithfulness to the Gospel. Their campus ministers are highly skilled, brave Catholics who do impressive work with the young people in their care.
Unfortunately, too many campuses have programs that are not performing at a high level. Even worse, it is estimated that over 2,000 campuses have no Catholic campus ministry program at all, endangering the faith of millions of young adults.
Attentive to these movements, the Church has seen the emergence of new ministries and innovative models. Organizations that didn't exist in 1985 today complement the work of campus ministry and at their best, broaden the reach of campus ministers into all corners of a campus. The collaboration between campus ministers and new ministry resources is rarely easy but often fruitful, reaching more students for Christ and equipping young Catholics to transition into adult participation in the life of the Church.
Contemporary popes have urged the Church to see that evangelization and personal discipleship in Christ are foundational to all that we do in ministry. Using relational models and with a zeal for the Gospel, campus ministry is still "one of the important ways the Church exercises her mission in higher education" (Empowered by the Spirit).
To this end, the CCMA Executive Board has identified three areas of focus which we believe will generate transformative impact on campuses around the country:
Leadership, Standards, and Formative Resources
- Leadership: We will lead campus ministry into its next chapter of faithful service to Christ and the Church. Not content with the progress of our past, we will lead with zeal, innovation and professionalism in order to promote the most fruitful and dynamic approaches to campus ministry. We will be unafraid to promote excellence and facilitate moments of collaborative dialogue. We will acknowledge differences of approach and theology while being reminded that this is the work of Christ and not of our own doing. The ultimate judge of ministry fruitfulness will be evangelization on campus and formation of the students reached for mature discipleship and vocational awareness.
- Standards: We will develop standards to drive people to the most fruitful, dynamic Catholic expressions of campus ministry. Some standards are already in place while others will be articulated in the days ahead. The standards will work together to form a common framework for evangelization, formation, and missionary discipleship. In all things, we will envision campus ministry programs that utilize best practices, growth and a commitment to excellence.
- Formative Resources: We will offer formation, resources and training to equip campus ministers to reach this standard wherever they are, no matter the type of campus or university. Whenever possible we will point campus ministries to the finest resources available.
The emphasis on Leadership, Standards and Formative Resources is not a departure from what CCMA has traditionally been about, namely formation, networking and resources. As campus ministry evolves, so too must CCMA in its approach as a professional association.
We believe wholeheartedly that campus ministers and the ministries they lead can change the world. We are involved in a serious, joyful and noble work.
The Church needs the absolute best from its campus ministries and CCMA is here to lead the charge. Our work is vitally important and together, we can witness a new generation of young people who love Christ and are welcomed into the Church.