That’s my most asked question these days and the answer is: “Wonderful and very busy.” We had what seemed like a hundred events at the start of the semester and now I can breathe just a bit easier as the semester begins to settle down.
I’m really enjoying my time here. It’s different from parish life as a campus minister where it was much harder to insert one’s self into the campus of a secular university. Here I am right in the thick of things. I picked up the student newspaper The Griffin (more on that later) and actually knew most of the news in it already. I was always surprised by the news I’d read at UB. I enjoyed my time at UB and especially on the parish team at St. Joe’s, but I think that this place suits my style a bit better and this is more of what I expected when I made the move to be a Campus Minister.
The workday also starts earlier for me now. As the director, I need to be in early to start the day and get things done, or occasionally I have an early morning meeting. Afternoons are usually dedicated to creating relationships with colleagues, spiritual direction with students or alumni, preparing liturgy materials, or finalizing budgets. I also meet with each member of the staff once a week and my supervisor every other week. I stay late two days a week to participate in a Christian Life Community (CLC) on Tuesdays and I often attend a ballgame once a week when there is one that fits my schedule.
I’m in on a few standing meetings: Senior Operations team, Students of Concern and the Student Affairs Directors meetings. They’re mostly informative with some work to be done before or after. In general, I’m not a huge fan of meetings, but these are good and informative meetings and I’ve learned a lot about the school from my colleagues, so I’m enjoying them.
My favorite parts of my day is when I get to spend time with students and colleagues. And when we make plans for something like a retreat, community service event, liturgy, or just something fun. I’m excited by the fact that the Career Center wants to work with me on a few events for students surrounding discernment and that I get to be on the next Kairos retreat team in October. I’ll also be doing a Winter Service trip to New York City (Yay!) and a Spring Service trip to Erie. I’ll probably also go on one of our international trips, but I’m still deciding on which one. (El Salvador, Puerto Rico or Poland–tough choices!)
I’m really enjoying the students as well. I’ve learned a lot of names and am trying not to get any wrong. It’s a lot to learn in a short period of time, but my memory is pretty good and once I have an experience with a student, I usually remember their name. I’m getting to know the faculty and staff a bit more too and am slowly thinking of ways to get them involved with campus ministry or I should say, campus ministry involved with them.
I’m going to make more time for writing. I know I’ve been lax in doing so. Lots of pre-loading on the weekends and a good deal of late nights are what it will take to keep this blog moving forward.
Speaking of writing, The Griffin has asked me to do a column. I’m meeting with them on Monday to talk about particulars, but I was honored that they even asked. I know that my pastoral experience always informs my writing and so I’ll begin to do lots of reflecting on the events of my day and I know that will percolate my thoughts.
One of the more significant moments for me this semester came when a Muslim student came to the office. He asked for the keys to the “Mosque”. This made me giggle as we don’t have a “Mosque” but rather a room in the chapel’s basement that we have turned into a prayer room for our Muslim students. Another group of students, suggested that we start a prayer room in our library for people of all faiths to be able to use. A group of Kairos retreat veterans began to meet in the library and pray together and they motivated the project.
I asked the aforementioned Muslin student, “Hey do you know about our new prayer room in the library?” “No,” he replied. So off we went to check it out. When he got there, he nearly cried. He was so touched that we were giving students of all faiths a place to pray. A colleague also told me that they headed to the space the other day and found another person using it. So word is getting out about it. We have a “book of common concerns” in there and I’m eager to see what people are praying about in there.
Mass, of course, is very vibrant. I’ve been impressed with the care people take with liturgy, especially our Jesuits who preach at both weekday and Sunday mass. Our contemporary music ensemble always lifts my spirits. And the students who gather for mass are so welcoming and joyful as we pray together.
And we have a good time together. The students have a great sense of humor, which I can appreciate. I lent my ipad to a student whose computer died over the weekend and she filled my pictures with goofy ones of her and a friend. Somehow she knew I needed a boost after a long tough week in which I lost a friend and had to spend a lot of time working hard on a budget report. On our Ignis retreat, one of our alums asked me to conspire with him against his girlfriend who is a Senior during a game where both people are blindfolded and one has to feed the other whipped cream on a spoon. Shall we say that our friend cheated and removed his blindfold and smeared whipped cream all over his girlfriend. So mean.
One evening, Denny, who has since graduated and is now in a volunteer program, said to me, “Mike, I know you haven’t been here very long, but it feels like you’ve been here for years.”
Man, did that make me feel great.
And indeed, I feel the same way. I’ve grown to respect my staff and value their opinions. And the students just have this passion and love for both campus ministry and Ignatian Spirituality that really gets me charged up.
A final note: Our Kairos team has been writing emails back and forth..a countdown to the big day of retreat. They are so excited and I cannot wait for the first retreat. I look forward to each silly note and have been responding with words like “This retreat is taking me to unknown places where it has become the benevolent ruler of all my emotions.”
Clearly I need help.
So pray for us as we continue to plan and recruit others to come on the weekend. I’ll be giving a presentation on the weekend and am carefully planning that as well.
St. Peter Canisius, pray for us.