By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published noviembre 15, 2007 | Available In English
A large crowd, consisting of Emory University students, faculty, staff and neighbors, gathered on Oct. 28 in the university’s Cannon Chapel to celebrate 40 years of Catholic campus ministry.
Highlighted by a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, the community came together to give thanks and show support for the continued Catholic presence on the campus. With joyous music provided by the Emory Catholic Center Choir, the archbishop processed into a chapel full of attendees, whose ages represented the four decades of ministry.
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory expressed his joy at the future of the Catholic community at Emory.
“Today, the archbishop of the church in North Georgia rejoices with this young adult community, augmented as you always are with faculty, staff and neighbors of Emory University,” he said. “Just being in your presence, you give me many reasons to be hopeful for tomorrow because of the bright promise that is so very much alive in each one of you.”
The archbishop went on to talk about the day’s Gospel reading from Luke, which featured Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. He also spoke of the diversity of college students but in the end how they are all alike.
“God has fashioned us all with gifts and talents, and those qualities are never improved or made more precious because we denigrate another person who may not be like us,” he said. “In truth as you grow older and wiser, you will come to see how very much alike we all are in spite of the external variations that we display. We are all alike because we are all the sons and daughters of a Father who absolutely delights in variety!”
Following Mass, the congregation gathered for a reception to continue the celebration. Food and drink spurred a sense of community, resembling the way the Eucharist brings Catholics together in Mass. The attendees visited and laughed with each other, sharing stories of the past 40 years of campus ministry.
The ministry at Emory University began in 1967 following a petition by a group of faculty and staff at the college. During that time, the Archdiocese of Atlanta purchased a house at 1753 North Decatur Road to be the center of the newly established program. Named the Newman House, the property helped to serve the needs of the Catholics who were involved with Agnes Scott College in Decatur and Emory University. Over the next 15 years, the Catholic community grew from the original 30 members to nearly 300. The Newman House was eventually renamed the Catholic Center in the early 1980s, while the Masses were moved from the house to Cannon Chapel following its completion.
Though many challenges were endured throughout the years, one thing was constant—the community of Catholics on campus who wanted to continue their spiritual growth together through their campus ministry. In an interview, Father Bryan Small, Emory University’s chaplain, addressed the importance of a Catholic presence on campus.
“There is a point when the students question everything, as they should,” he said. “They are growing leaps and bounds in their intellectual and academic endeavors, and for a lot of people, it is easy for them to leave their faith behind. So if we are in the mix, if they know that they can’t miss us, then it provides a greater opportunity to let their faith grow along with all the other aspects of their lives. For me, it’s very exciting to be in the campus environment and be part of that faith walk with my students.”
The necessity of a Catholic community is not only recognized by the college’s chaplain, but also by the students who are closely involved with the Catholic Center’s activities.
“The Catholic ministry has been one of the most important parts of my life, as a small community where everyone knows each other and supports each other,” said Kenneth Patterson, an Emory senior from Lawrenceville. “I feel the faith is better expressed in a small community.”
Fellow Emory student David Abraham agreed.
“The church at home is so huge that there’s a sense of anonymity in the whole thing,” he said. “But here, if I don’t go to 6 o’clock Mass, I have people saying, ‘Where were you?’ So you have accountability and you have some of the better friendships. The Catholic Center is something really special.”
Michael Tigue, lay campus minister for Emory University’s Catholic Center, has served the campus community for the past five years. Tigue, who helps with student programming, retreats, Bible studies, and other faith enrichment events for the Catholic Center, has had the opportunity to watch a class progress through all four years, giving him a special first-hand experience of the effect of a Catholic presence on a college campus.
“It’s just amazing to see how fast students can grow when they are open to the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s love,” he said. “One of the things I try to do here is help them become familiar with their gifts, so that they can walk into a parish and confidently move into an area of ministry. To me there’s a balance between continuing youth ministry and providing things for the students, but I also want the students to do things on their own, to be challenged, to take charge of an area, because that’s what they are going to have to do at a parish.”
During the school year, the Catholic campus ministry offers Masses at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays, noon on Mondays and Fridays, and at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, which is followed by dinner. In the summer and during school breaks, Mass is offered solely at 9 a.m. because the evening service is predominantly attended by students.
For more information on Emory University’s Catholic campus ministry, visit www.emorycatholic.org or call (404) 636-7237.