Book Reviews Subscribe Faith-filled Family Links for Learners Ask a Franciscan Editorial Entertainment Watch Saints for Our Lives Contents

Campus Ministry Today: Not Your Mom and Dad's Newman Center

By Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

In a great variety of settings, Catholic campus ministers work to prepare 21st-century lay leaders in Church and society.


A Growing Presence
An Evolving Ministry
A New Vision for Campus Ministry
A Great Variety of Situations
Looking to the Future
A Jayhawk Success Story
Resources for Campus Ministry

Faculty, students and staff members at the University of Kansas gather to celebrate the Eucharist.

Photo by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Not all U.S. college students will spend Spring Break 2002 in Florida, Palm Springs, Cancun or some other getaway spot. Over 90 students from the campus ministry center at Canisius College (Buffalo, New York) will be preparing to build or repair houses in five Appalachian communities.

Approximately 80 students from St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center (University of Kansas) will join one of six alternative programs (two in Mexico, a Habitat for Humanity project in New Mexico, working with homeless people, a monastic retreat for men and one for women). Collegians from St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, Iowa (Iowa State University) will be traveling to Williamsburg, Kentucky, to do home repair and construction work. Their stories are mirrored by thousands of Catholic students in a wide variety of campus ministry-sponsored, alternative spring-break programs.

Every day 973 Catholic campus ministry centers serving 2,312 U.S. public, private and Catholic colleges offer community-service programs inside and outside the United States. These programs usually include campus ministry mentors to help students reflect on what this experience means to them.

Community service is, however, one small facet of a rapidly expanding ministry addressing the sacramental, intellectual and social needs of future lay leaders of Church and society. Catholic campus ministry programs involve over 1,700 full-time staff members, plus hundreds of volunteers. A few students receive campus ministry scholarships in exchange for assistance to local programs.

Asked how campus ministry programs have influenced her life, junior Sarah Scott (University of Kansas) explains, "They have helped bring many things together for me, grounding me in reality and faith. I hope to go to law school. Western law draws a lot from Catholic moral teaching. Programs here help give an ethical foundation for a future lawyer. Students are open to new ideas. Campus ministry helps students sort them out."

Junior Scott Woods at the University of Toledo says, "In two years of service at our Catholic Student Association as the vice president for outreach, I have been invigorated by our Catholic campus ministry. We've touched many students and have engaged them in practically every aspect of the life of Corpus Christi Parish. I cannot imagine my collegiate career without involvement in campus ministry, and I know that it will continue to shape who I am beyond the earning of my degrees."

Both Sarah and Scott have received partial scholarships from their campus ministry programs.

A Growing Presence

According to the American Council for Education (ACE), 5,355,000 Catholic men and women are enrolled in this country's colleges and universities, the vast majority (87 percent) in public and private non-Catholic institutions. Over 700,000 students are enrolled at one of the country's 235 Catholic colleges and universities. ACE estimates that Catholics make up 35 percent of all college freshmen in the 2001-02 school year.

Newman Centers at state-supported colleges in the 1950s, '60s and '70s addressed students' sacramental and social needs but were less likely than Catholic colleges to offer courses in theology, liturgy, moral issues or spirituality. State colleges and universities today are more likely to offer courses in some of these areas.

Chairs or professorships in Roman Catholic studies exist in at least 11 private or state universities, including Harvard, Yale, Case Western Reserve (Cleveland), Iowa State (Ames), University of Iowa (Iowa City) and the universities of Toledo, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Chicago, Tulsa and Illinois (Chicago campus). Washington University (St. Louis) hopes to fill its new professorship in 2002; the University of Kansas expects to do the same in 2003.

By agreement with the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, the Newman Foundation there pays the salaries of two teachers, who have doctorates. Their courses are recognized for credit at the university. Some Catholic schools, including Fordham University and the University of Notre Dame, have endowed chairs for theology professors.

Through their development offices, campus ministry programs have funded most of these professorships and have some input into appointments for them. Today's campus ministry centers are raising money from alumni, foundations and the general public, rather than depending almost totally on diocesan financing. For the last five summers, a weeklong institute on campus ministry fund-raising has helped newcomers learn from those with more experience.

An Evolving Ministry

Campus ministry in 2002 has built on the Newman Club apostolate of the 1950s and '60s but is pursuing more ambitious goals today. Whereas the motivation was once safeguarding Catholics from "losing their faith" at state-supported schools, today campus ministry programs everywhere work to foster a faith that will grow as the students mature and accept new responsibilities in family, Church and society.

The Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. In his three years as its executive director, Ed Franchi told St. Anthony Messenger he has seen an increased awareness that campus ministries need to develop theological education programs geared to the long-term needs of their audiences.

After he directed Roger Bacon High School's development office and worked as a fund-raiser at Xavier University (both in Cincinnati), Ed was selected for the CCMA job. He continues to work on an M.A. in theology from Xavier University and is active in St. Monica-St. George Parish, the campus ministry center for the University of Cincinnati.

Franchi has noticed a growing concern about the vulnerability of many Catholic college students to the number of non-Catholic, evangelical groups on campus. When members of these groups question Catholic students about their beliefs, some students quickly recognize their need to deepen, or in many cases begin, their theological education. Students sometimes cite a grandparent's faith as the reason for exploring their own spiritual journey more seriously.

Ecumenical and interfaith cooperation is strong on some campuses and growing at others. Many campus ministry programs helped faculty, students and the general public respond to the events of September 11 and learn more about Islam. Some schools urged campus ministries to collaborate in organizing such programs.

Franchi says that, in the last 40 years, one of the most significant campus ministry differences is that many more Catholics are attending state-supported schools. This has surfaced "a need for more frontline catechesis and religious education than in the past. Because of trends in our culture and the Church," he says, "the future religious literacy of the Church is at stake. Campus ministry is increasingly the place where that can be quite effectively addressed."

He sees a relationship between a ministry's growth and its ability to create fund-raising programs. "Campus ministries that initiate more sophisticated fund-raising programs," he explains, "are taking more control of their own destiny, but this has some very fascinating implications. They are involving lay boards, advisory councils and alumni. The ministries that are most active in this are attracting resources like they never had before. In some cases, they have received millions of dollars to endow chairs in Catholic studies, to build multimillion-dollar centers or to offer campus ministry scholarships. That bodes well for the future."

This year the Catholic Campus Ministry Association is sponsoring in Colorado, California, Nebraska, Virginia and Indiana regional conferences for the personal, spiritual and professional development of campus ministers. Orlando, Florida, is the site of CCMA's January 2003 national convention. Many states have their own campus ministry associations, meetings and initiatives.

CCMA is working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in certifying campus ministers. The bishops' new subcommittee on campus ministry is chaired by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh.

Last year CCMA and Maryknoll organized a program which brought 20 U.S. campus ministers to several countries in South America. In 2000, some U.S. representatives joined the Jubilee celebration in Rome for college students. This year many campus ministry centers are organizing groups for World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada (July 18-28, 2002).

A New Vision for Campus Ministry

Today's campus ministry efforts build on Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future, a November 1985 pastoral letter from the U.S. bishops. They identified six aspects (summarized below) for all campus ministry programs. These aspects have become focal points for this work and the basis for CCMA's annual awards to campus ministry programs.

Forming a Faith Community

"Today, the Church on campus is challenged to be a credible sign of unity and a living reminder of the essential interdependence and solidarity of all people....The community knows the sorrows of life but remains a people of hope" (#37).

In 2001, CCMA honored St. Elizabeth University Parish at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, for "The Rock," a Thursday night program praising God through song and through the sharing of personal experience. It averages about 75 students per week. Don Bagert, interim director of campus ministry there, says, "What has impressed me about The Rock is how powerful it has been as a builder of faith, character and community, and how it has steadily improved from year to year."

In 2000, St. Paul University Catholic Center at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) won the CCMA award in this category.

Appropriating the Faith

"By its nature, Christianity calls us to an ever-deeper understanding and appreciation of our faith....the Church on campus has a special responsibility to enable all of its members to appropriate the faith more deeply in order to give effective witness to the academic community" (#50).

The 2001 award went to the St. Albert the Great Forum on Theology and the Sciences. Sponsored by St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center at the University of Arizona (Tucson), the Forum has brought a Catholic perspective to current, crucial scientific issues, such as cloning and stem-cell research.

According to John Schmidt, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering there, "Scientific study has become more and more devoid of ethical and religious consideration. In providing the opportunity to discuss these considerations in a wide variety of disciplines, the Forum has given me access to experts and discussions which by and large I would not have had otherwise."

St. Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa was recognized in 2000 for its work in this area.

Forming the Christian Conscience

"Individuals whose conscience has been tutored by the Gospel understand that their task is not only to resist evil but to help transform the world" (#64).

The 2001 award went to "Venture Crew," an initiative of St. Thomas More University Parish at Bowling Green State University (Ohio). Venture Crew fosters a sense of connection between the outdoors, community and spirituality, using the outdoors as a catalyst for spiritual and personal development. Upcoming initiatives include a retreat for adult leaders of youth groups, a March for Life and a sea kayaking wilderness retreat.

Christy Humbel, a student and an adviser for Venture Crew, says the CCMA award "shows that what we have been doing makes a large impact on people, bettering all that is around us. Little things add up and can make something great in the end."

In 2000, the Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico received this category's award.

Educating for Justice

"Campus ministry is called to be a consistent and vigorous advocate for justice, peace and the reverence for all life" (#73).

The Public Discipleship on Campus program, sponsored by the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, received the 2001 award. This program involved campus ministry centers in Fayetteville (University of Arkansas), Conway (University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College), Clarksville (University of the Ozarks) and Jonesboro (Arkansas State University).

In bimonthly small-group settings, this program teaches students to be disciples of Jesus and to embrace the social mission of the Church. Using the observe-judge-act model developed by Father (later Cardinal) Joseph Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Worker movement in the 1920s, students develop a project addressing a local, systemic social injustice.

Little Rock was one of four U.S. dioceses to implement this program from the Roundtable Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors. Deacon Paul Cronan, director of campus ministry for the Diocese of Little Rock, says that participation in this program "allows students to live the Catholic faith effectively and authentically in the public arena on campus and beyond."

St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas, received this award in 2000.

Facilitating Personal Development

"Christians must proclaim an ideal of self-fulfillment that is solidly rooted in the sacredness of persons, is placed in the service of the common good and stays open to the God who is the source of all growth" (#87).

The Peer Ministry program at Lewis University (Romeoville, Illinois) works to integrate all aspects of student life with the overall goal of developing holiness as an essential aspect of human life. It aims especially to improve life in residence halls.

St. John Fisher University Parish at Oakland University (Auburn Hills, Michigan) was honored in 2000.

Developing Leaders

"Campus ministry has the great opportunity to tap the immense pool of talent in our colleges and universities and to help form future leaders for society and the Church" (#93).

The Catholic Campus Ministry Board and Associates at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) were recognized as a highly effective way to participate in the leadership of campus ministry. A summer retreat and weekly meetings with the campus ministry staff promote spiritual formation for leadership.

In 2000, St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center at Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana) received this award.

Vocation Ministry

Although Empowered by the Spirit did not offer this as a campus ministry goal, CCMA has instituted an annual award for this work.

The 2001 recipient was Southeast Missouri State's campus ministry program in Cape Girardeau. They have developed a program entitled "Discerning God's Call," which fosters skill development in discernment and is closely coordinated with local parishes.

Louisiana State University's campus ministry staff was honored in 2000 for its Busy Student's Retreat Model Program.

Some schools have organized a week of student trips to the headquarters of various women's or men's religious communities to learn about how their members respond to God's call. At the moment, 40 former members of the campus ministry program at Texas A&M are in formation programs for priesthood or religious life.

Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston decided to enter a diocesan seminary while he was studying at Harvard University. At the same school, Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., became a Catholic.

A Great Variety of Situations

Some Catholic campus ministry centers have large staffs; others do not. In a few cases the campus ministry director is also a tenured faculty member but in most cases is not.

Campus ministries at schools with large numbers of students living on campus tend to have a higher profile than campus ministries at commuter schools. In some places campus ministry is coordinated through a canonically established parish. The biggest challenge to organizing campus ministry is probably the two-year community college with its very fluid commuter population.

Most programs concentrate on undergraduate students, but more and more ministries are working to help graduate students have a theological education which prepares them for the increasingly complex moral decisions in their field of study and in society.

In these varied contexts, Catholic campus ministries are united in supporting the faith journey of students, faculty and staff members.

Looking to the Future

"The local, national and global leaders of our Catholic Church, governments, businesses, families and societies are on campuses in your diocese today" begins a recent CCMA brochure for U.S. bishops.

Catholic campus ministry today recognizes that fact and helps students promote an informed and conscientious faith.


A Jayhawk Success Story

St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center (SLCCC, University of Kansas, Lawrence) is a program contacted by many places initiating or renewing their campus ministry programs.

SLCCC maintains active contact with approximately 2,000 Catholic students through various means, including its liturgies, the Young Catholic Scholars program (12 scholarships per year), a medical ethics scholarship, theology classes, the Training Leaders for the Community program (postponing sexual involvement), a catechetical institute to prepare future teachers, its many outreach programs, plus reflection groups for law students and other professionals.

Father Vince Krische, a 30-year veteran of campus ministry, directs 20 staff members who address the sacramental, intellectual, social and personal needs of the KU faculty and students ("Jayhawks" to Kansans).

This year he will receive CCMA's Rev. Charles Forsyth Award, given each year to a campus minister who has had a significant impact on campus ministry at the local, regional and national levels. Father Vince measures SLCCC's success not by its budget or number of participants, contact hours or staff members. "The success of campus ministry," he says, "is measured by the transformative encounter with Jesus Christ through his Church, manifested in a confident faith, a genuine spirituality and a joyful spirit of service."

Asked how SLCCC has affected his college career, senior Derek Teeter responds, "Before coming here I didn't have much of a social sense or knowledge of Church teaching. St. Lawrence has strengthened my prayer life and knowledge of the faith. That faith is not shaken as before by some things said in classes."

Ben Beier, a sophomore, says that the Young Catholic Scholars program "helped me meet people and become more involved. My Faith and Culture course has enriched me."

Resources for Campus Ministry

• CCMA (Catholic Campus Ministry Association, publishes a bimonthly newsletter (Crossroads), coordinates a variety of programs and serves as a resource for Catholic campus ministry in this country.

• NCSC (National Catholic Student Coalition, is student-directed and embraces the six facets of campus ministry identified in Empowered by the Spirit. Its goals include representing U.S. Catholic students in national and international forums, providing opportunities for spiritual growth, nurturing leadership and facilitating career and faith integration. provides the complete text of Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future. lists other materials from the USCCB's Division of Catholic Higher Education and Campus Ministry.

The Gospel on Campus: A Handbook of Campus Ministry Programs and Resources, second edition (USCCB, 1996, Publication No. 5-031). Includes 39 articles by various authors, plus other resources.

A Letter to College Students From the Catholic Bishops of the United States (USCCB, 1996, Publication No. 5-085). An eight-page booklet inviting students to grow in faith during their college years.

Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., associate editor of St. Anthony Messenger, taught Ed Franchi at Roger Bacon High School (Cincinnati, Ohio) in

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ask a Franciscan  | The Bible: Light to My Path  | Book Reviews  | Entertainment Watch
Editorial  | Editor’s Message  | Faith-filled Family  | Links for Learners
Saints for Our Lives  | Web Catholic  | Back Issues

Return to

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

An Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2016 Copyright