One Semester Down

Apologies for the lack of blogging over the last few months. To be honest it’s been a whirlwind lately. I’m getting used to new job responsibilities and balancing family life and other part-time gigs. I should have all of this down by Mid-January and then I can work out some kind of daily blogging schedule again.

But regardless, you may be asking: So just what the heck are you doing lately, Mike?

Well, I’m the Director of Campus Ministry at Canisius College, which is a Jesuit College in Buffalo with about 2800 undergraduates and some more graduate students–but I would say I primarily work with the undergrads.

My job is primarily management of the Campus Ministry Staff and being the public face of Campus Ministry. So if there’s a public prayer to be said, I’m usually the one doing the praying–although I often ask one of the staff to pray from time to time. (More on this later). I have a staff of 7: 2 Jesuit Priests, 3 married Campus Ministers who are women, a single male campus minister and an administrative assistant. We also employ 5 student workers and several interns for a variety of things. They’re a great staff and I’ve gotten to know all of them pretty quickly and I really like supporting their work and helping them to execute the ministry well.

Campus Ministry at Canisius is central to the identity of the school. Essentially, we animate the mission and accentuate the educational experience with spirituality and service programing. We obviously have mass and confessions on campus (in a beautiful chapel–our Sunday night 9:30PM mass is especially moving with great music and candlelight often). We also have a major retreat initiative called “Kairos” which is kind of the thing to do for many of our undergrads. And service is a big component of our experience-based ministry. We do that in many forms: Local, Domestic and International. For example, I will be heading to El Salvador in May for an International immersion trip (and I totally can’t wait). I’m also leading a domestic trip to New York City in January and then I participate in local service from time to time with the students when my schedule allows.

We also give people a full experience of the Ignatian Exercises, if that’s something they want to do. I direct 3 people in this as their spiritual director and Fr. Tom who heads up the program, has about 27 people doing some version of the exercises this semester!

As the director, I also have to attend a bunch of meetings. We’re in the student affairs division, so I attend the divisional staff meeting with colleagues like the residential life office, student support services, public safety, counseling and athletics, just to give you the scope of things. Some other meetings I go to are the Senior Operation Team, Long Range Strategic Planning, Students of Concern and College Level Assessment. I’ve learned a lot from these meetings and it’s been amazing to see how the college operates.

I also pitch in on a variety of ministerial initiatives. This brings me a lot of life and gets me to interact more deeply with the students. My favorite thing from this past semester (no surprise here) was to attend my first Kairos retreat. I gave a presentation and assisted in leading a small group amongst other things–but mainly just being present on a deep spiritual retreat was life-giving in so many ways for me. I also attended my first Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice. This is a large conference that the Jesuits run where Jesuit Colleges, High Schools, Parishes and Jesuit Volunteers all get together and discuss social justice issues that are of concern to us and to our members of congress. We end the conference with a public demonstration and then we actually go to lobby congress! Exciting!

I try to assist in some of the local service initiatives, but try to do this when they really need help as students are always beckoning to do some local service during the semester. This week, in fact, I’ll be doing some work at St Luke’s Mission of Mercy who does a lot of vital work in one of the poorer sections of Buffalo. I’ve done meals on wheels, our sandwich ministry and the burrito project. Feeding the hungry is a primary goal for us as a ministry.

Lastly, I do the call to worship at most masses and I’ve been doing many of the public prayers (invocations) at campus events. In fact, I do almost all of them in verse. You see, often the invocation is what keeps everyone from the program they are attending or a meal. So I always believe you need to be either serious and short, or somewhat innovative and fun (Who says prayer can’t be fun?). People are responding to this and I’m kind of proud of this as I think it brings morale up a bit and has sort of made me the “Dr. Suess of the Campus.”

I also get to write a column in the student paper each week. So much of my writing efforts have gone towards that end along with my BustedHalo responsibilities. You can check me out at Canisiusgriffin.com

So, yes, this was a good move for me. I’m enjoying my work immensely–but then again, when have I not enjoyed my work? I get to do ministry and any day I get to do that, is a good day indeed! Perhaps over the break, I’ll tell you about my colleagues and my lunch table and some of the students I’ve met. They’re all great.

It’s still hard and time consuming work. So this blog often takes a back seat. I’m looking to fold my private prayer time into writing more and more (one of my resolutions). I will also be having hand surgery for “trigger finger” in January (a minor procedure) so I may need to break from the blog around then (Or learn to type with one hand!).

In short, life is good. As we head from Gaudete Sunday into our final Sunday of Advent and then Christmas, I hope that your life is filled with as much joy as mine has been this semester.

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