Tag Archives: Discernment

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: 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.