Diocese of Rockville Centre

Campus Ministry Part Of ‘The New Evangelization’


ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NEW YORK, March 29, 2005 – After a two year collaborative assessment process, the Diocese of Rockville Centre announced today the launching of new initiative designed to reinvigorate and strengthen the ministry it offers to the more than 50,000 Catholic college students attending the ten secular college campuses located within the diocese.

The initiative involves the introduction of a new vision and model for campus ministry which is based on the best practices of college campus ministry programs nation-wide, as well as a realignment of resources to more effectively meet the unique spiritual and pastoral needs of each campus.

“I consider campus ministry to be one of the most important things we do and that college students are among those who are most surely a part of my life and my hope for the future,” said The Most Reverend William Murphy, bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

“In the apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Inuente, the Pope invites us, at the beginning of the new millennium, ‘to put out into the deep’ and renew our commitment to evangelize the world by the witness of our words and actions. He invites us to renew our life as church as ‘together in hope’ we build up the Body of Christ and make our Church the ever spirit-filled mystery of life and salvation for all the world,” said Bishop Murphy.

When Father Brian Barr was appointed administrator of the campus parish and director of campus ministry in 2004, the diocese was at the midpoint of a comprehensive self-study of the campus ministry program. “Last year, when I appointed Father Barr, I asked him to continue the review process began by his predecessor. I asked that he look at campus ministry on Long Island through the lens of the new evangelization,” said Bishop Murphy.

“I was asked by Bishop Murphy to think outside the box and to study the different models of campus ministry out there and bring the best practices from those programs here to the diocese,” said Father Barr.

“There are some extremely exciting models of campus ministry throughout the country, where faith is on fire, where participation at Mass and in the sacramental life of the Church is phenomenal,” Father Barr said. “The purpose of the two-year study was to study our own program and determine how can we make it a world-class ministry. A ministry that’s alive with the Holy Spirit. A ministry where young people embrace the message of Jesus and the Gospel,” said Father Barr.

Out of this study emerged a new model for Long Island campuses. “It’s a dynamic approach,” said Father Barr. The primary shift in this plan will be from that of a traditional campus minister model to one, which supports the value of peer ministry. “Consistently, the ‘peer ministry’ approach has reached considerable levels of effectiveness elsewhere,” said Father Barr.

“An effective campus ministry program is essential as its mission is to prepare future leaders of the Church,” said Reverend Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv., director of campus ministry and university chaplain, Catholic University of America. “If students are involved in their faith in college, they’ll tend to be involved in their Church when they graduate,” said Father Schlageter.

A successful campus ministry program is one where young adults, no matter where they are from, feel welcome and challenged by the Gospel, where students make other students feel welcome,” said Father Schlageter.

“Chronically, young adults are the most underserved group in our Church. Anyone can look in the pews and see that young adults find it hard to find a place in church. And when push comes to shove, young adults are in a much better place to reach out to peers. We’ve found that young adults listen to young adults,” said Father Schlageter.

It makes sense to have younger people involved in campus ministry. “Shepherds don’t make sheep, sheep make sheep,” said Father Roy Tvrdik, S.M.M., S.U.N.Y. at Old Westbury campus minister. To build on that point, Father Barr said, “If I walk into a classroom of 30 sophomores and talk about going to Mass, I will get one reaction. But, if someone who was a senior walked in and talked about the same subject, they would be more likely to listen to him or her.”

The new model will also not only enliven campus ministry at each of the campuses but also facilitate the networking of Catholic students between the campuses. “We’re hoping to have access to the gifts of students from the other campuses. S.U.N.Y. at Old Westbury students will begin to know students from different schools. If you have a good core group made of students from different campuses, they’re going to want to share their faith. That’s what we’re looking to do,” said Father Tvrdik.

“They are doing some incredible things at other campuses,” said Father Roy. “One thousand people attending Mass each week. Vibrant and beautiful Masses. Theological discussions that are engaging. I’m hoping we can bring some of that to our campus parish here in this diocese,” said Father Tvrdik.

Celebration of the Mass is the most essential element to effective campus ministry and greater graces will flow from it. “It is the most important thing we do. That is our moment to strike with these kids. It is our evangelical moment,” said Father Barr. “Mass has to be done well. If the music is contemporary and the homily is relevant then we’ll connect with young people. I like to think of it as a dynamic Catholicism and dynamic orthodoxy.”

“Brian has been wonderful,” said Sister Margaret Landry, R.S.H.M., campus minister at Stony Brook University. “The students love him. They relate very well to him. He relates very well to young people and has a good sense of humor,” said Sister Margaret. While Stony Brook has a strong campus ministry program, Sister Margaret sees the new peer ministry model as a good way to connect with students. “What Father Barr is doing is very positive,” added Sister Margaret.

The campus parish will also undergo a realignment, which will enable resources to be allocated to meet the unique spiritual and pastoral needs of each campus. The ten secular campuses on Long Island will be regrouped into three new categories:

1. Residential campuses
2. Commuter campuses
3. Combination campuses

Residential campuses are where a majority of the student body resides on campus. In these environments, the mission of the campus parish requires a more theologically consistent presence and regular participation in the on-campus and day-to-day life of the student body. Residential campuses include: Hofstra University, C.W. Post University, and Stony Brook University.

Commuter campuses are where the student body does not reside on campus or in student housing but instead, participates in the celebration of the Mass in “home” parishes. In these environments, it would appear that the mission of the campus parish requires encouragement and motivation to bring back to an active home parish life the spirituality and vitaility maintained and nourished by the campus parish. These campuses include: Nassau Community College and Suffolk Community College.

Combination campuses are where there is a balanced mix of students who commute and those who reside on-campus in student housing. In these environments, the campus parish would need to provide a variety of services/ministries to meet the needs of both the commuter student and resident. These campuses include: S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale, Dowling College, N.Y. Institute of Technology, S.U.N.Y. at Old Westbury and Adelphi University.

Evangelization of young people be it on a college campus, or elsewhere, is helping to build the future church on Long Island. Renewed excitement and enthusiasm and love for their faith has spillover effects in all of the ministries of the Catholic Church. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we witness young men and women being called to a vocation in the priesthood or religious life through a vibrant campus ministry program,” said Father Barr.

About The Diocese of Rockville Centre
The Diocese of Rockville Centre was formed in 1957 and covers 1,222 square miles in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The diocese serves approximately 1.5 million Catholics (total population in both counties is approximately 3 million). There are 134 parishes in 119 towns. Last year over 21,000 baptisms, 18,000 confirmations, 21,000 first communions and 5,000 marriages took place in the diocese. There are 2,622 students in kindergarten, 26,738 in primary or elementary school, 11,979 in secondary school and 9,310 in higher institutions. There are 77 Catholic elementary schools, high schools and colleges/universities in the diocese. Catholic Health Services of Long Island consists of five hospitals, three nursing homes, two home care agencies, two senior housing complexes, a community-based home for those with special needs and a hospice. These facilities served over 743,000 people last year. For more information visit www.drvc.org

For more information:
Sean P. Dolan
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516-678-5800, ext. 625
Cell: 516-510-0473