Published November 2, 2006
There are more than 55 colleges and universities within an easy drive of these 69 North Georgia counties I learned last week. These institutions of higher learning serve a great many of our young adult Catholics. I visited three of those institutions last week as I continue to make my rounds to the places where our people live, work, pray and study.
Campus ministry is an important enterprise for our diocese since so many of these young people are away from their homes and parishes for the first time, and they need to know that the Catholic Church is available to them and quite anxious to serve them.
At Georgia State University, Emory University and Southern Catholic College, I celebrated Mass and had a chance to visit with some of our young collegians. They told me that they were glad to have the Archbishop stop by their campus and the chance to chat with him.
The congregation at each of these Masses was greater than usual, but I also know that the numbers of Catholics who are involved with the Newman programs are nowhere near what the potential might be. I am grateful to the priests, deacons, Religious and lay staff members who serve in campus ministry both full time and part time. They represent the Church’s pastoral care for these young people and for the faculty and administrators who gravitate to those campus centers.
I am also grateful for the numerous volunteers who support the works of our campus ministries. In particular, I have asked the Knights of Columbus in the Archdiocese to consider assisting the campus ministries throughout these 69 counties. And true to form, the Knights have already begun to identify and to respond to those projects and needs that these ministries might have.
Campus life is transitional—the predictable age of the congregation is early to mid-twenties—and the times of campus liturgies reflect the calendar of young adults. The pastoral needs revolve around exams, sporting and social events, and semester schedules. Yet it is very important for the Church to be present in the lives of these young people. Whether they live on campus or are commuter students, they need to know that the Church is available to them as they pass through those years of learning and growth that will prepare them to enter the job market and to begin life as faithful, loving, and well-adjusted young adults.
Many of the college students who are at the institutions within the Archdiocese are not from this local Church. They come from other states and other nations to study here in North Georgia. For the time of their residency, they are our pastoral responsibility, and hopefully our own sons and daughters in other places of learning will receive the kind of pastoral outreach and care that we would want for them. During those years of college, the Church needs to reassure these young people that Faith is not something that you grow out of but something that you grow into. The campus ministry programs are intended to do just that.
College students ask lots of probing questions about many different issues. That is part of the learning process in which they are engaged. They should never have to ask the question, “Where is my Church?”… because it’s right there on campus with them.