Why We Minister: Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., Coordinator of “Need to Talk?”, Chaplain to Latino Student Ministry

Not long ago someone asked me this question.  “Father, if you had your life to live over again, would you?”  And my first response was, “No way.”  The person was surprised and asked why I wouldn’t want to live my life over.  I said, “There’s absolutely no way that I could be so blessed a second time around.”

Fr. John Dunne, C.S.C. (RIP) used to say this.  “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fail, but that it work, because God’s life plan is always so much bigger and better and deeper than anything that you could have ever thought up for yourself.”  That has certainly been the case in my life.  My life has been fuller and richer and deeper than anything that I could have ever put together for myself. 

My life has been filled with more opportunities and richness than I could ever have imagined.   God has been unspeakably good and generous to me.  God has seen me through ups and downs, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments, and so much more. 

I often ask myself if I love God.  I know, for sure, that I want to love God with all my heart and soul and being.  But I don’t know if I do.  On the one hand I think that I would not want to love God with my whole being if I did not already do so.  I hope that this is true.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. gives the sign of peace at the weekly Spanish Mass

Recall the seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke.  When Jesus goes to dine at Simon’s house, a sinful woman washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and dries them with her hair.  Jesus says of her, “She has loved much because she has been forgiven much.”  Well, if this is true, then it is very true of me.  God has forgiven me so much that I hope that it can be said of me, “Joe has loved much because he has been forgiven much.” 

And so the question for me is not “Why I Minister” but how could I not minister?   God has been so generous, so lavish, abundant in loving me.  God has been so reckless with his mercy and forgiveness towards me that I cannot not minister.  How could I not want to share with others all that God has given to me?  God has given me so much that were I not to share it in ministry, I would be hoarding such great gifts that God has given to me.  And all the gifts that God gives to one are given for the good of the community, not for the individual. 

There is a great story about St. Therese of Lisieux.  She would go to confession often and she would confess the smallest of faults.  And one day her confessor said to her, “But Sister you don’t have to come to confession to confess such small faults.”  She replied, “Yes, Father, but who are you to be stingy with a treasure that is not yours?”   So were I not to minister I would be being stingy with a treasure that is not mine.  Whatever I have, I have been given by God, and for others.

And so I minister, out of deep gratitude for all that God has given to me and always hoping that others might experience how rich and blessed they are by God, how loved and cherished they are by God, how God always has their back, how God is always on their side.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. exchanges a greeting with Pope Francis

And so I gratefully and willingly celebrate the Eucharist in dorm chapels, at the Basilica, at the Milkshake Mass, at Mass in Spanish, in parishes, always looking for opportunities to preach about the mercy and love of God. 

And so I gratefully and willingly hear confessions inasmuch as is possible whenever asked because the sacrament of confession remains a unique opportunity to extend the mercy of God to others. 

And so I gratefully and willingly minister in Campus Ministry trying to accompany students on their journey toward God, walking with them, side by side, helping them to know that they are immensely cherished and loved and redeemed and forgiven by God. 

And so I gratefully and willingly live in Dillon Hall with about 300 undergraduates where I try to share life with them, always trying to be a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

And so I gratefully and willingly do what I can do because God has given me so much and has been so good and generous to me.  In the end, how could I not?  When I was named to be a Missionary of Mercy, I said, “God has shown me a lifetime of mercy.  How could I not share it with others?”

And it’s true, so true.  The question that I have to ask myself is not why I minister, but how could I not. 

Why We Minister: Christian Santa Maria

Christian Santa Maria, Assistant Director of Retreats and Pilgrimages

On the top floor of the then AT&T building in downtown Los Angeles, I grabbed a drink from the bar and looked out the 25-foot floor-to-ceiling windows just like everyone else. I was an intern at Fox Sports West in Los Angeles and the 2009 NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, were parading in a cloud of ticker tape below. The parade viewing party was buzzing with excitement and I, an eager broadcasting student, was in the midst of the celebrations in one of the most historic television markets in the country. However, my eyes were fixed toward the east on the unending landscape of rail road tracks, factories, cement, and metal. Down below, there were workers and Los Angelinos going about their day working or driving across town doing whatever it is they need to be doing.  I gripped my drink pondering how my experience was tied up with theirs; what was it that connected us? Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder, “What are you looking at over there? The parade is on this side!” It was one of my fellow interns. I had not realized I was looking through the wrong windows. My palms were sweaty.  I turned around, followed him, and took a sip of my beverage. My drink was getting warm.

Senior year of college hosting “Sit Down with Christian Santa Maria.” Yes, I’m wearing white socks with my dress shoes. Super trendy.

That afternoon, was a pivotal episode in my discernment. Here I was, in the midst of a great opportunity and there was a deep voice within that knew this life was not for me. Now, television broadcasting is a noble profession, one that I had dreamed about since I was a kid, but an inconvenient truth was brewing inside. This line of work was not something I could see myself doing.

So, here I am. A little short of a decade later sitting in my office as one of the new campus ministers here in Campus Ministry writing about why I have chosen to do this work. Better yet, why in some ways it has chosen me. I often tell this story because it serves as the beginning of my journey toward becoming. Becoming is a place of transition, it’s about gently shedding ourselves of the things we have come to know as untrue so we can gradually live out who we are. It is on this road of becoming that we encounter our need to forgive, to be forgiven, to reconcile, to accept, to listen, to love, to grieve, to heal, to recognize our limitation,  and essentially, to become more human. How tempting it is to run away from our humanity and live as if we have an alternative choice. Yet college, if we choose to recognize it, is a time ripe for becoming. It is time set aside to ask the real questions that lie within the heart while being lovingly accompanied by a God who not only invites us into our own humanity but radically joins us in it.

I minister because, in this crazy experience of life, becoming the person God made us to be is one of the most joyful and challenging things we can choose to do. Often, our becoming is drowned out by the noise of our daily lives. Between all the “likes”, “tweets”, football games, crushes, relationships, friendships, emails, club meetings, familial expectations, and of course, school,  students in college are constantly navigating the game of busy, busy, busy.  I am thankful for the people in my own life who invited me to stop awhile and be still. These ministers helped me hit the pause button and drew my attention towards God’s movement within my own heart.

Pictured on retreat with students at Gonzaga University, my first ministry job. Recalling the gifts of this community gives me great joy.

Retreats and pilgrimages are like these long pauses; a chance for our students to catch their breath, find again what has been lost, and discover what they need to continue on their journey toward becoming. These sacred moments give students the permission to ask the real questions that get ignored amidst the clutter. This is how a Holy Cross education is different from other institutions. In Campus Ministry, we invite students to take some time and pause. Whether students are trying to discover new friendships, discerning life after college, or somewhere in between, our hope is that they take some time away from the busyness and enter back on their journey toward becoming just a bit more whole hearted than before.

So here’s to you fellow companion on the journey towards becoming! It’s the adventure of a life time. But, if it ever gets too bumpy or you just need someone to walk alongside you, let’s get coffee or go for a walk sometime. It would be my pleasure. After all, that’s why I minister.

 

Why We Minister: Kayla August

Kayla August, Assistant Director of Evangelization

As he hobbled toward the obstacle course with certain confidence, I realized “why I minister.”

This camper was a boy about 10 years old.   I had first met him a few days before, as his parents checked-in him, his bags, and his brother at the camp drop off location.  The father carried his son’s crutches, wrapped in army duct tape, as this camper cautiously walked up to the camp check-in location.

“You want us to put these under the bus with his luggage?”  I questioned, as his father handed us the crutches along with his suitcases. It seemed to me that if someone took the time to bring crutches, they must want to use them.

“He shouldn’t need them,” his father responded, “they are here just in case.”

At that point, I noticed this camper’s metal leg complete with tennis shoe as he strode away to join the other kids in the main lobby. His name was Dylan, and I later learned that he had lost his leg only a few months before and was in the transitional period of learning to walk in a new way.

This was not a jarring moment because this encounter is not unusual for the camps I work for in the summer.  Camp Pelican, a camp for kids with pulmonary diseases, and Camp Challenge, a camp for kids with Cancer, Sickle cell, and other blood disorders, have become a regular part of my summers. For these campers, the result of these ailments is not only the loss of health but the loss of other things kids are not prepared for: hair, the ability to walk, and the general security of being a “normal” kid. The awkward innocence that is prevalent in most prepubescent’s is replaced with adult considerations like the reality that life may not only be different from that of their peers, but shorter as well.  

When I first started working these camps 13 years ago, I realized that this week gives these kids what their hearts desire most. Not a cure, but that sense of normalcy that the disease takes away in their day-to-day life. The opportunity to not stand out in the crowd but to just “fit in.”

Kayla August, second from right, pictured after the “Stormtrooper Training” course

After an early morning preparing for a new day of camp, I set up an obstacle course for a Star Wars themed morning of physical activities. This course designed as “stormtrooper training” was compiled of tunnels to crawl through, crates to hop over, chairs to dart around, round tire-like objects to step through, and it ended with a Jenga block minefield that was only complete if you passed through it with all blocks standing unmoved.

The majority of male campers that came to the course that day rushed through the course with glee. In fact, it quickly became an intense competition for each one reaching the end asking, “what was my time,” in an attempt to be the best of the day! As each camper went through, I did my part to keep them pumped and excited using their competitive nature as a way to keep them motivated throughout the hour.

But, in my morning effort of creating a course brimming with kid intensity, I had not considered Dylan. When Dylan approached, we started the time as usual. Then, I quickly realized that this was an endeavor where the lowest time was not the prize but completion was the victory.

Accuracy was Dylan’s goal. Dylan started out slowly on the course placing his legs in each “tire” and the determinedly crawling through the tunnel ahead. He was determined but not hasty. As the goal of completion became the forefront, one of his counselors yelled “Go Dylan!” and the boys in his group turned to watch and cheer on their friend. The room was at a standstill, and all eyes were on Dylan as he made his way through the course. While it had previously been a competition, Dylan’s victory would be a win for everyone.

The slow rise of his name first crept in from the voices of the campers behind me…“Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dylan!” Then, his name echoed from the mouths of his group mates and his counselors as he steadily walked around the chairs meant for darting, walking over the crates meant for hopping and made his way through the “minefield’ without dropping a single Jenga block. As he crossed the finish line, there was no time called out as before. There was no need. He’d won more than a reduced time. He’d won a greater victory, and with this, he beamed as he noticed no difference between the friends that went before him and his completion of the course. His goal was accuracy and he achieved it with a room of fans cheering his name.

It was this moment that I realized this camp, which I’ve been a part of for almost half my life, was a ministry, and a beautiful one at that! While creating costumes, skits, and activities for the week long sleep over camp experience, I was also sharing with the kids the love of God, and that love is powerful.

For me, ministry has always been about that love. The Christian community contains a family that loves us for exactly who we are, a love that calls us to more than what we thought we could, and a faith that reminds us that we are capable of miracles if we let that love guide us.

Kayla walking with students as she ministers

This is why I minister. That love gives us courage. It gives us hope. It propels us. It gives us the power to complete the obstacle course of life with smiles on our faces and cheers in our hearts. Camp isn’t the only place people encounter the struggles of life. It’s all around us. Our society is filled with hardships, poverty, crime, illness, natural disasters, broken relationships, unhealthy attachments, and unearned struggles that people face which are far from fair but are actualities nonetheless. When a student comes before me in tears dealing with the hardships of life, I am the reminder of God’s love. A reminder that God hasn’t left them, but is instead holding their hand through the Jenga minefield of their day to day struggles. In ministry, Christ is the one screaming their name and I get to cheer them on along the way. I get to be there as they realize the beauty of what God made them to be.

That moment with Dylan reminded me that I’m not just a part of a camp community but a church family and that the power of love and support has been a motivating force in my life. Everyone is welcome to that family, and as Dylan made his way through the obstacle course, the kingdom of God manifested in a way that brought to life a clear vision of the world. One where a pure love was the ultimate unifying source. A world we all want to live in. A world that we were meant for.

Thirteen years ago, this view of the kingdom motivated me to make the whole world that small campsite in southern Louisiana. It showed me what the radical love of Christ can do. Everyone was invited to share in that love and receive the hope it brings.

As the Assistant Director of Evangelization, it’s my job to share that love.  Evangelizing is being able to spread the good news. That this love is for everyone! In my ministerial life, my goal is that everyone comes to know the power of that love. I’m reminded of this as I read the gospels and see the revolutionary way in which Jesus’ love touched and changed the hearts of those he encountered. In fact, after his resurrection, Christians risked death to preach of this life-changing love. The love that not only made the blind see or the lame walk, but also called people to walk away from all they knew to follow a new path of hope.

With each student I encounter, I mirror that love of Christ, so that they may experience it as I have. That inner awakening that resounds in the soul. The love that affirms who we are now and have always been while still calling us to more. The love that unites us all. It is an open invitation that I have the privilege to share, and I watch as that transforming love changes the lives of the students before me. In ministry, I’m blessed to witness the miracles that come from that radical love and also to be the vessel to bring it to those in need.

That love is God. It’s why we’re here. It brings us to life. It keeps us moving forward. It gives us hope. It’s why I minister.

Why We Minister: Patrick Kronner

Dr. Patrick Kronner, Choral Program Director and Organist, Director of the Women’s Liturgical Choir and Community Choir

God speaks to his people in many different and varied ways. For some it may be through the comfort of the Mass, or for others, the silence found when we’re open to it. For me, I’ve always felt God’s presence most in beauty. Whether it’s in his creation, the words of a prayer, or in the kindness that people show to one another. However, the beauty that has taken the deepest roots in my life has been the gift of music.

I vividly remember first finding this beauty in Beethoven’s symphonies when they were originally introduced to me in my second grade music class. From then on I would, as most grade-schoolers do, save up my pennies to buy cassette-tapes of Mozart and Bach (Oh, wait—was that just me?!) I felt a strong pull to immerse myself in this beauty. At the same time, I remember falling in love with the beauty of the Church as I experienced it in my community. It wasn’t until high school, though, that these two areas of my life began to intersect.

Dr. Patrick Kronner and the Summer Community Choir

Through the encouraging guidance and example of a high school mentor, I began to see the peace found in a life devoted to serving God and his people through music. Through my mentor, I was introduced to the pipe organ, the human voice, various monastic traditions, and the vulnerability that necessarily accompanies creativity. This, along with his inspiring love for his family and vocation, became a powerful model of a music minister’s life. It is a life which strives towards holiness through prayer and creativity.

As in most areas of my life, my sense of vocation did not come to me quickly. While I had a passion for music and the Church, it wasn’t always clear that these things should work together in my life. I don’t think I can pinpoint any one moment when I realized my vocation was to be a music minister. Rather, it has been through small moments, encouragement, challenge, and loving examples, that this picture has slowly come into focus.

I feel compelled to bring others to the beauty that I find around me. All of us are created in God’s image and should strive to reflect this beauty in ourselves and in all that we do. I take comfort in the fact that we’re all struggling together as we strive for holiness, just as many saints have done before us.

When I first arrived at Notre Dame for an interview over two years ago, the beauty of this campus was immediately apparent. Despite the gray and cold outside on that particularly frigid February day, I found warmth in all the people I encountered and in all the sights I saw. As I had felt at similar moments of my life, I was drawn to this beauty and curious to explore it further.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Having now spent two years as a campus minister at Notre Dame, I’ve been blessed with many moments of beauty. I’ve experienced it in the musical offerings of our choirs, in the familial care our students have for one another, in the intricate details carefully painted in the Basilica, and in the calm of a walk around the lakes. Most powerfully, I’ve seen it in the examples of service for the body of Christ that many of our choristers are boldly living out through their daily lives. All of this has enlivened my own zeal for ministry here on campus.

I minister because I hope to leave this world more beautiful than it was when I first found it. Jesus, through the greatest act of beauty, gave his life for us that we might fully experience his love and mercy. In the same way that my mentors, choristers, and students have inspired me to delve more deeply into this love, I pray that my work in campus ministry might do likewise for those around me. One of the most loving things we can do is to help others find this in the person of Jesus Christ.

Particularly in the spring, this simple quote from the Greek playwright Nikos Kazantzakis often pops into my mind: “I said to the almond tree, ‘speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” If we use our creativity for the pursuit of beauty, we’ll surely find God.

Why We Minister: Mary Olen

Mary Olen, Administrative Assistant, Retreat Administrative Coordinator

Why do I stay up watching one more episode of Fargo when I have to work in the morning? Why do I eat that third piece of chicken when I was full after the second piece?  Why did I offer to write this blog when I despise writing?  Those are the difficult questions!   Why we minister?  That is much easier.

Tender, Strong and True // Freshman Retreat

Leaving Martin’s supermarket, I have a trunk full of groceries and two kids strapped into the backseat. As I pull out onto Elwood Street heading home, I notice a young woman struggling to juggle groceries and a toddler while standing at the bus stop. I pull up to the curb and ask if she would like a ride. She eagerly and gratefully accepts. We make room to pack them into our little Saturn wagon. Driving several miles to the west-side on Indiana Avenue, she points to the building where I should pull over.  Mentioning how far she has to travel to grocery shop, she tells me the commute takes her downtown where she transfers buses. The block we are on is not residential and she motions to a door on the side street.  We gather her bags and trudge up the stairs which empties into a single dingy room above an abandoned business front.  There is one wooden table with 2 chairs, a bed, and a sink. I am ready to drop the groceries and get the heck out of there as she reaches for a bible from the bed and tells me how she is trying to get her life together.  She has done a lot of drugs in the past and knows that she needs to stop. Calling me an angel, she believes that God sent me to help her that day.  I laugh and tell her I am about as far from an angel as there could be but that I was happy I could be of some help.  “Keep praying,” I say “I will pray for you, too.”

Days later, my daughter asked why I picked up a person on the street that I did not know.  I told her it was because she seemed like she needed help and I felt sorry for her.  As soon as the words were leaving my lips, memories shot back into my mind: my mom taking prepared meals to elderly neighbors, buying extra groceries for a single mom who lived in a rundown house at the end of the alley- witnessing those acts of kindness made a deep impression on me.  Are we born with compassion or are we taught compassion?  Is caring and compassion what fuels our desire to minister?  Did 12 years of Catholic education make a difference? I believe yes is the answer.     

The Plunge // African-American Freshman Retreat

The awesome part of ministering is that it often has a retroactive effect.  I left the apartment of a stranger I helped and it made me more humble, more grateful, more present and alive to all the blessings in my life.  “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” My encounter with a stranger ministered to my children.  You do not need an invitation to assist.  Ministering is just aiding someone in need or just sitting still for someone who needs a listening ear.  We do it every day.  Why?  Well, that depends on who you are.  

So, here I am in Campus Ministry.  I am not a minister by definition.  I do not hold an MDiv., not even a minor in Theology.  As an Administrative Assistant, I minister all day long: to students, to the staff I support, to the people who just drop by because they are visiting campus. But, that is my job. I believe that the true ministering is done with perfect strangers, not expecting anything out of the ordinary who are suddenly given a smile, a hello, a ride as they are standing in the rain waiting for a bus, or given a place in line at the store because they look like they’re in a hurry.  Each of these people are being noticed.  In that small instance of acknowledgment, they feel loved. Isn’t that what everyone really wants?  We seek to minister because we love and we are able to minister because we have witnessed it.  Amen.

Why We Minister: Allie Greene

Allie Greene, Assistant Director of Liturgy

I sat in the Basilica alone on a freezing winter evening, in need of a quiet place to pray. I chose a pew, sat down, crossed my arms, and glared daggers at the tabernacle. My silent prayer went something like this:

“Really – nothing? It’s been months. Which part of my prayer was unclear? I’m out of patience and so tired of this. No more gentle ‘I trust in your will’ prayers. It’s your turn.”

Both satisfied in my silent reproach of God and defeated that I had come to that point, I genuflected and exited the church. It wasn’t my finest moment of trust in God’s providence and grace.

It was, however, one of the most honest moments of prayer I’ve ever experienced. Before then, I believed that giving my intentions over to God would feel good-natured and graceful, easy to do with answers to follow quickly. I was wrong: it felt more like exhaustion from running out of other options.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart // University Photographer

The answer to why I minister is rooted in my experience of prayer. I try to be a faithful disciple, and I hope to help our students do the same, to grow in faith here at Notre Dame and far beyond. Specifically, my ministry is to help our students to pray well together, and there’s a phrase I use to describe this work: serious joy.

It’s serious because this ministry is no small task: to teach students how to pray and how to lead communal prayer, to offer formation as they plan Masses and prayer services, and to encourage them to grow in their faith long after they leave Notre Dame.

At the same time, this ministry is abundantly joyful. I’m privileged to see what happens when students — while praying together — encounter God. I hear them give reflections on Scripture and listen as their words bring new light to old passages. I watch as students give their time, energy, and boundless courage to lead music during their hall’s Sunday Masses. I see their heads bowed, eyes lifted, hands folded, hugs of peace, and other postures and gestures of prayer expressed. It’s a true joy to pray with, for, and among our students.

I have a personal investment in working with students to plan liturgies because it was in the Mass that God and I first found each other. In effort to grow in faith, I’d gone on service trips, attended many retreats, and prayed with Scripture; however, it was in Mass that I first encountered God and that encounter is what compelled me to return.

At different points in my life, I’ve found great comfort at Mass — even if I’m distracted, even if I don’t know the songs, and even if I only caught the opening line of a homily before my mind raced in another direction. I have strong memories of events that took place in the context of Mass, some monumental and some rather routine: I’ve witnessed my college friends become ordained priests, and received chrism oil on my forehead at Confirmation; I’ve run straight from the lake to church on a summer Saturday, and celebrated the beautiful sacrament of my sister’s wedding. Like my prayer, Mass takes different forms and shapes, but it is a constant in my life. Mass was both fifteen-minutes before starting my high school day and the three-hour Vigil on the night before Easter. Mass sounds like a packed residence hall chapel of women’s voices and like echoing silence after communion in a French cathedral.

Truthfully, going to Mass doesn’t always feel like the most thrilling activity in which I participate. I can’t compare it to rollerblading, kayaking, or watching Notre Dame football. But I don’t go to Mass because it’s always thrilling. I go to Mass to meet God there, again and again. And I keep going back because of what the liturgy compels me to do after: to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and love in the world.

I’m grateful for this ministry in helping students to pray well together. I hope that they will always want to return to God in different moments of prayer, as I do, and never to be far from that encounter.

Student Prayer in Ryan Hall Chapel

About a month later, I felt overwhelming gratitude when I received an answer to my despairing, wintry-day prayer. So I returned to that same pew in the Basilica, this time for a different style of prayer. I found there a place to pray when I was exhausted and felt unheard, so it made sense to go back when I was grateful and filled with hope. I was honest with God before in my pain and confusion, and honest with God again in amazement and joy. I minister with the hope that our students will do the same and find faith in the constancy of God’s love, particularly in the way it is revealed to us through the Mass.

Why We Minister: Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C.

Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., Director, Campus Ministry

Out into the Deep

As Faith began to wade out into the water, I attached her skis and taught her the basics of what to do when the boat began to pull.  Confident that she had a good enough sense of the mechanics, I told her to sit down in the water and close her eyes.  After a quizzical look, she settled into the water, closed her eyes and at that moment I cupped my hands and splashed her in the face with enough water to get a quick “What did you do that for?”  I looked at her and said, “Most water skiers your age fail not because they can’t pull themselves out of the water, but because the water hits them in the face and they start to panic.” 

Fr. Pete on the water!

With water dripping from her face, she smiled and settled in for her first attempt.  It wasn’t until the fourth try that we hit pay dirt.  Faith made almost an entire loop around the truncated path that my uncle carved out on her maiden voyage.  About 100 yards from shore Faith encountered a set of waves that looked fierce, and in fact they were fierce.  I watched her go up and down, up and down, and then just down. 

Splash!  After my uncle circled back and began bringing Faith to shore I could see her standing on the boat like George Washington on his way across the Delaware.  When she finally made it back, Faith looked over and said, “Now that was a lot of water.”

The key to our spiritual faith is to be equally expressive.  Jesus asks his disciples in St. Matthew’s Gospel to clarify who people think he is.  They respond by saying: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  However, St. Peter filled with faith replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” 

St. Peter, the fisherman by trade, the one who had a documented temper from time to time, who would go on to deny Christ three times, recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus’ response was clear and direct:  “… you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”. 

Was St. Peter fully ready for Jesus’ invitation?  Debatable.  Yet, the compelling fact about faith is that it never leaves us where we started and rarely offers a complete road map for how to get there.  When Jesus first encountered St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee he didn’t unfurl a ten-point plan on the benefits of following Him.  Jesus simply said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  That same invitation to follow is extended to us today.  How do we respond? 

First, we can stay near the shore and play it safe.  The waves will pose a minimal threat and we’ll have no fear of the water hitting our face.  This lifestyle tends to be more predictable, minimal risk, less stress and a greater reliance on our own abilities. 

Or, we can let Jesus pull us into the deeper water where the waves are bigger, trust and belief are essential and we are reminded that the answers we seek are sometimes too big to solve in a lifetime.   

When answering the question of “Why I Minister?”, I hope that it is because I’m willing to let literal and figurative water hit me in the face.  To be out a little deeper than I’d prefer, but always trust that the one who called and even tugged me here will also see me through.  As St. Paul so beautifully points out in his letter to the Romans, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  For from him and through him and for him are all things.” 

I cannot promise that a life lived with faith will be perfect.  You will fall and fail.  Further, I cannot guarantee that everything will go according to plan: majors will change, relationships will change, priorities will change, and you will change. 

I can promise that lives dedicated to faith will ultimately transform relationships, improve communities and bring us all a step closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.   

Why We Minister: Kate Barrett

Kate Barrett, Associate Director of Liturgy

Sometimes I walk around our almost ridiculously beautiful campus and think, “I can’t believe I get to come to work here every day!” I feel it when heading into the Basilica, or down that awesome center path through the trees between the statue of Fr. Sorin and the Dome, or past yet another group of tourists listening intently to the legends and factoids and lore that make up the Notre Dame story.

You may be thinking, “Aww, that’s sweet – she must be new here,” or perhaps, “Doesn’t she understand that there’s more to Notre Dame than how pretty it is?”

Well, no, I’m not; and yes, I do.

I’m almost embarrassed to say how not new I am … it’s been almost 36 years, actually, since I moved into Farley Hall as a first-year student, with a couple of short breaks here and there. A few things have changed: the bookstore, a tiny building on South Quad, was so cramped that at busy times you’d have to line up outside and wait your turn just to enter the building to buy books or t-shirts. What’s now West Quad was still about nine holes of the 18-hole Burke golf course, then our only campus course.  So you might think I’ve been here long enough to get used to working (and at times, living) at Notre Dame.  Nonetheless, I still have frequent moments of newbie-like awe at my great fortune to have the job I do, as it gives me the opportunity to accompany others as they explore their faith, and in so doing help me grow in mine. 

Main Quad // Photo by Matt Cashore

After a career path in Campus Ministry that could at best be called “meandering,” and including more years than not of a very part-time schedule while my children were younger, I have been fortunate to land on the Liturgy team.  Here (mind. blown. again.) I have the distinct privilege of supporting our common prayer all over campus: the residence halls, the Basilica, the Grotto, even the Purcell Pavilion when we turn it into a giant, temporary church a few weekends a year. I hope my ministry plays a small part in helping all our varied communities – students, faculty members, staff and visitors – to share our faith, to practice it, to try and fail and try again to draw closer each day to Jesus Christ.

Over the last three-plus decades I have learned that Notre Dame is exponentially more than its gorgeous campus; it’s more than all the facts and stories, embellished or otherwise, that you learn as a visitor, student or long-time faculty or staff member.  At various times, Notre Dame has moved me, disappointed me, infuriated me, mystified me, and impressed me beyond my wildest imaginings.

Underneath the physical beauty of this place lies a foundation of 175 years of people faithfully seeking to know, love and serve God through a bold belief. We believe that we can find truth in the classroom and in the Basilica; in the lab and at the Grotto; in the Hesburgh and Kresge and Mahaffey libraries and in the chapels of each of our residence halls.

As a student at Notre Dame I somehow knew that I had come to a place deeply saturated with trust in God, a place that truly desired to share that trust with me and each of my fellow students.  If you are reading this as an incoming first-year student, please know that if you are open to beginning or deepening your relationship with Jesus here, it’s perhaps the best gift Notre Dame can give you. 

Freshman first visit to the Grotto // Photo by Peter Ringenberg

Um, how about an education, you might ask (or your parents might want to ask)? Yes, exactly.  The deeper gift of Notre Dame lies in the truth that emerges from the “and.” Your education will be of your mind and your heart, grown in the library and the chapel, in friendships and in service, alone at prayer and joined in shared worship, in sorrow and in joy, when God feels acutely present to you and even when you feel most alone.

While you may think this place is beautiful to look at, especially when you are first learning your way around, pay attention to the ways in which the beauty goes much deeper than that.  You’ll notice the beauty in the people who will become your dearest friends; in the opportunity to bring your joys and sorrows to prayer at the Grotto or in the chapel just a few steps from your room.  You’ll notice it in the questions you’ll ask your classmates and professors and rectors – and the answers will be more complete because we can have the courage to allow faith in God to be a critical part of the conversation.

All these ways I’ve come to know Notre Dame over the years kept popping into my head while asking myself “why I minister.”

You incoming first-years who are reading this? You’re why I minister; you’re why we all do. Hope to see you under the trees on God Quad’s center path.

Why We Minister: Tami Schmitz

Tami Schmitz, Associate Director of Student Ministry

     “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From second grade until I entered the collegiate world at age 18, the answer to this question was “a teacher or a social worker.”  I come from a family of teachers and have always loved school, so teaching seemed like a natural fit. I also had a heart for the poor and wondered if working for a service agency was my calling.  Of course, God had a bit of a different plan which took shape most intensely and beautifully during my college years.

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From second grade until I entered the collegiate world at age 18, the answer to this question was “a teacher or a social worker.”  I come from a family of teachers and have always loved school, so teaching seemed like a natural fit. I also had a heart for the poor and wondered if working for a service agency was my calling.  Of course, God had a bit of a different plan which took shape most intensely and beautifully during my college years.

     My four years as an undergraduate at St. Norbert College were some of the best years of my life.  I formed friendships that continue to be some of the most important in my life to this day. I loved my professors and my classes (well, most of them…Statistics is another story!). By sophomore year, I claimed “Sociology” as my major.  I was very involved in extra-curricular’s ranging from Hall Government to intramural sports to community service.

Tami, right, and her St. Norbert College roommate Pam

      One of the largest influences during my time at St. Norbert was something called “Campus Ministry.” This was something I never heard of as I was a product of the public school system and tended to my faith through my home parish on Sundays and in weekly CCD classes.  I had never heard of a person called a “Campus Minister.”  My dear Aunt Lois played the organ at my parish every Sunday morning, so that was about the closest thing to a professional lay minister I had encountered up to that point in my life and she was a volunteer!  Slowly, but surely, I became more involved in this thing called “Campus Ministry” and developed wonderful relationships with members of the team which included both lay men and women and Norbertine priests.  The Masses, retreats, Bible Study, the First Communion Class I taught, and the community service I participated in all helped shape me in ways I never intended or expected. I had some wonderful Theology classes, too!

     I share this part of my journey because those four years were the most transformative years of my life (so far!).  By the time I reached senior year, my answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” became clear. I answered, “a Campus Minister!”  My faith had grown in ways I never imagined. I realized I actually had a “vocation” and was hearing God invite me to a life of ministry within the Church.  I was being called to integrate my faith into my entire lifestyle, including my job.  I had wonderful spiritual directors and friends along the way who helped me sort through this experience.  I encountered Jesus in a profound way through the people, classes, and experiences I had during those years. I could not deny the discipleship I was being invited into by God.

     Since 1986 (the year I launched into the workforce as a college graduate), I’ve always served as a full-time minister. I dabbled in parish and high school ministry for a few years, but truly found my calling in college Campus Ministry and have been serving in that role for the past 25 years.  It’s no huge secret why I may have landed here since my own college years were so transformative for my journey of faith.  I simply love college students! I love the stage of life between 18-22 years of age because college students are asking some of the most important life questions: What are my core beliefs? Who is God and what difference does faith make? What should be my major? What’s my vocation? What are the most important relationships in my life? What does our world need from me to make it better? What are my gifts and passions?”

Tami and ND students walking the Camino in Spain

     Walking with students as they wrestle with, ponder, and embrace some of these most important questions of their lives is the greatest joy of my life.  I look to Jesus and see how he “walked” with a variety of people on their journey of faith such as the woman at the well, the man born blind, the paralytic, and the disciples and I feel called to do the same, particularly with college students.  There are many things that can easily distract students from paying attention to their faith lives. There are many “things” that seemingly satisfy us in life. However, I found that there is nothing better, or more meaningful, than following Jesus, who is “living water,” the “bread of life,” and our “Good Shepherd.” I simply want to share that message and help students encounter Jesus along the way. As students grapple with important life questions, as a minister, I love the opportunity to remind them to not forget about Jesus and their faith lives during their time of discernment. In fact, I suggest that one’s faith and values is a great place to START when considering the “BIG” questions.

        When a ND student is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I hope the answer has something to do with their passion, their gifts, and most importantly, their faith in Jesus which will inspire them to be the “good news” wherever God is sending them into the world.

Why We Minister: Rebecca Ruvalcaba

Rebecca Ruvulcaba, Multicultural Ministry

“Ministry is a participation in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king.”  ~ USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

Pies del Bautizado (Feet of the Baptized),
Picture of my feet after a walk in the Valley of Death. May 2016

What is a minister?
For years I believed that a minister was only associated with a member of the clergy. I never realized that for years I had been an active minister; participating in the “threefold ministry of Christ.” I grew up serving and participating in different parish ministries but I really did not understand my participation until I lived a retreat called Christ Renews His Parish as an adult. My baptism for years was being lived out unconsciously.

I participated in Jesus’ ministry unknowingly (to some extent) because my parents taught me that we must all work for the betterment of society. We must seek to serve others because that is how it should be. I do not remember my parents, or any other mentor in my life, mentioning the fact that because of our baptism we are called to serve as Jesus did and that our ministry in the world is Jesus himself in the world. My understanding of my service was because it was just something we did as good people. I watched my parents give their talents and gifts, and how they loved humanity, and I desired to do the same. Therefore, my active life in Jesus existed without really knowing that He was the one working in, with, and through me

When was the first time I realized I desired to give more beyond just a “job”?
It was the Holy Spirit that moved my heart at the CRHP retreat, and I realized that God had always been guiding and moving me in His direction; serving and “ministering” to, with, and for His people. For many years my “work” was because I desired to give of myself to the community. I had worked in food pantries, with migrant farmworkers (making sure that they had medical assistance), leading girl scout troops, and confirmation classes at my parish.

After living the CRHP retreat in 2009 my “work” became God’s, and my desire to give of myself became Jesus’ gift of self in and through me. I realized that I was His vessel, I was serving and giving God’s love that had become part of me. The only reason I was able to serve at my parish, to serve at my job, and to serve my family and friends was because God’s love had penetrated my being. My life became as the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). My life was of God’s and it had always been. All that I had done in my life was because Jesus lived in me, and I now desired to live more fully in him.

When have I felt overwhelmed and/or consumed by Jesus in ministry? Why?
In these 8 years of consciously serving in the vineyard of the Lord (Mt 20:1-16) I have found myself often overwhelmed and consumed by Jesus. He has filled my heart so much that I often find my thoughts consumed by Him and I have found myself often saying: “Padre Mio, Aqui Estoy” (My Father, Here I Am). There is peace, joy, and an amazing love that consumes me and I desire to give myself to all that He desires. There is a growing fascination I have for Jesus, and I have fallen in love with Him and all He did and does in, with, and through all of us. My heart is so much more compassionate and generous with and for others because of Jesus’ heart in me. I desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. I sit with Him often to listen for His word, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom. As I move in the world, Jesus allows me to encounter Him in all people and I have come to love Him in the flesh through each of them.

In the spring of 2015, I started to have an overwhelming sense that there was something I needed to do that was not academically focused. I had spent four semesters and two summers studying about God and my heart was missing something. I went to visit the director of HIM (Hearts In Motion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the poor in Guatemala) and found myself with a desire to serve the poor in Guatemala. I withdrew from my next summer session and the organization found a sponsor which allowed me to I fly with a team of doctors, nurses, and students to Zacapa, Guatemala.

I thought I was to work in an orphanage organizing a soccer camp for the local children but God had other plans for me. I spent 11 days as a medical interpreter. It was one of the most humbling and moving experiences of my life. I encountered Jesus in every single child that saw the doctors, and I heard the concerns and love in the voices of the parents. I felt His love in every hug and heard God’s voice in the words of gratitude that the people expressed. I had been studying of God but my heart desired to know Him at a deeper level. I desired to be consumed not just intellectually but spiritually.

 

La Cara de Jesus (The Face of Jesus), Interpreting in Zacapa, Guatemala, Summer of 2015.

What called me to Campus Ministry and working with Multicultural Ministry?
As I continued on in my academic studies, I realized I needed to continue ministering in my parish community at St. Adalbert/St. Casimir seeking to encounter Jesus on a deeper level. Nonetheless, there was something more that God wanted from me. As I was approaching my final year of studies, I was confronted with having to discern where God desired me to serve His people in the best way possible. In my years of study in the MDiv, here at the University of Notre Dame, I always believed that I would be doing parish ministry full-time at my home parish. It never crossed my mind to be anywhere else but God had other plans.

I was called to Campus Ministry, specifically multicultural ministry, because of God’s many servants in His vineyard who knew of my experience and work in the Latino community and in the Catholic Church. I came with no expectations and future inclinations to make ND Campus Ministry my place of ministry but God in His boundless wisdom placed me in the path of some of the most amazing and loving young people. For years, my husband and I prayed for children but we were never blessed with our very own. However, over the years, God has given us many spiritual children. I’ve come to realize that here as Campus Ministry I will be able to love and care for many of His young people.

Through the years, I have worked with many different communities and experienced many different ways of life. I have ministered in a large Latino Catholic community and encountered Jesus in a non-Catholic homeless person. I have worked with Jews, Muslims, and Christians on social justice issues and I have ministered in a diverse community on the West Side of South Bend providing food and youth programming. God has guided me here to Campus Ministry and multicultural ministry. I have learned that there is no difference in who we serve. Jesus loved everyone and cared for all no matter their ethnic background, culture, and/or faith background. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3:7-8). During His ministry, He reached out to Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, and Romans. I was attracted to multicultural ministry because of Jesus’ example and the call to live the “eternal gospel” which is to preach to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

Why do I minister?
I minister because of my threefold ministry in Christ. In my priestly call I pray for wisdom and the heart of Jesus; in my prophetic life I speak through, walk in, and proclaim with the Truth; and in my royal commission, I govern my interior being to be able to serve and care for the people of God. I minister because of whose I am in and through my baptism.

 

“Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” ~ Matthew 28:19