In a time of institutional uncertainty for the Catholic Church in the U.S., we are still able to soundly invest in its future. We do this by investing in people. This was the observation of Catholic Extension’s Chancellor, Francis Cardinal George, in his remarks to our board members last week. He went on to say that even if institutions fade, the faith will remain if we invest in people by providing leadership training, adult faith formation and religious education. My travels this week confirmed this fact.
On June 3, I spent an evening with 120 young Catholics gathered in Philadelphia for the Campus Ministry Leadership Institute, an annual gathering of college student leaders designed to give Catholic students tools and training to be faith leaders on their campuses. Catholic Extension provided funding so that nearly 50 students from under-resourced and geographically distant areas of the country could be a part of this experience. Beginning in 2012, Catholic Extension will help regionalize this institute so Catholic university students from the Southeast, Southwest, and Western states will have greater access to this training.
I met an extraordinary group of young people who, with support and encouragement, are going to do amazing things both in the coming academic year and in their future careers.
Alicia, from the University of Colorado in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, plans to implement a peer-to-peer outreach so that her campus ministry can connect more Catholic students to the Catholic Church. “We are all passionate about our faith and our belief in God is moving us to do this,” she said.
Kristin, a native Texan studying education at Texas Tech in the Diocese of Lubbock, says her faith is impacting her career plans. Initially, she wanted to try to “make some money.” But, after teaching in a Catholic School, she decided to dedicate her career to educating the poor. “Children need to know that they are loved by God,” she said.
Dan, a journalism major and campus ministry intern from the University of Missouri in the Diocese of Jefferson City, admits that campus ministry has changed his life. “It’s made me consider service in the Church,” he stated with great sincerity, explaining that he is considering the pursuit of many ministerial vocations upon graduation, including the priesthood.
It’s amazing to be in a room with so many young Catholics who are fervently faithful and accept the invitation to leadership. As I spoke with the students about their interests and dreams, Cardinal George’s words resonated deeply. These are the future leaders of the Church, and we must invest in them now.
Catholic Extension is discussing with campus ministers how we can solidify this leadership pipeline, so that we are investing in the development of young people during their college years, while creating post-graduate leadership opportunities as well. We cannot lose touch with these aspiring young leaders, who are arguably the Church’s greatest assets.
It’s faith-affirming to meet with these young Catholics, who are giving so much of themselves and receiving so much from their Catholic faith. It reminds us that, no matter what, we must invest in people, because people do make a difference.
— Joe Boland, Senior Director of Grants Management