As a campus minister, I wear a lot of hats. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked by one of my parents or a friend, “So, what DO you do all day?” And I stare blankly, unable to fully articulate that every second of each and every day is so very different.
Some days, I’m in meetings all day with different departments across campus. Some days, I’m in back-to-back interviews for a week-long service immersion experience–or as we call them, “plunges.” Some days, I’m helping a student work on her resume to be a Resident Assistant. Some days, I’m at BJ’s buying three thousand granola bars for a program, while getting the weirdest stares from other customers. Some very late nights, I’m getting a duty call and responding to a life-threatening incident or meeting a student’s family at the hospital. There are only two things for certain: first, that there is a lot of praying, and second, that there is a great deal of coffee involved.
In simplest terms for ministry, the work is categorized into two main parts: a ministry of presence and a ministry of programming. In either scenario, whether I’m planning, organizing, implementing, assessing a program, OR accompanying a student on his faith journey, it is absolutely essential that I am catechizing and evangelizing through every step along the way.
Last semester, I struggled with properly articulating my expectations for a team of retreat leaders. I presented them at the beginning of our process but not right before the retreat. This particular retreat is a real doozey: a three-day /two-night immersion into Ignatian spirituality–and students LOVE it. However, it takes a small village to make it happen: a team of eight student leaders, a graduate assistant, and two full-time campus ministers meet weekly for two hours, for faith sharing and logistical planning. There are five talks to be planned, reconciliation, adoration, an agape meal, “family and friend stalking,” and organizing for palanca collecting, a dance, a banner, a skit, a prayer chain that takes place for the entire duration of the retreat, and about a million other tiny little details. The entire process was seemingly perfect until the retreat began. I had a dream team, and they were ready….or so I thought.
Despite having lead the retreat once before, this group wasn’t prepared for “game time,” and it was hard to explain what that was once the retreat had begun. I will save the details, and despite our thirty-five retreatants having a wonderful and prayerful experience, my retreat leaders were left feeling sad, empty, and discouraged. I remember meeting with a colleague and explaining the weekend, and he so insightfully said, “You mean they wanted to be Martha when it was time to be Mary.” That was it exactly! For those unfamiliar with the story, Martha and Mary are two sisters. Martha runs around like crazy trying to be a gracious host, while Mary stops what she is doing to be present with Jesus. I used to read this passage and think that I just had to be more like Mary, to remember to always put God first, no matter what. And while that is ultimately the core of our faith, it is a bit impractical. We all need to embody the wisdom of both sisters. There is a time and place for everything, and that was the lesson for my retreat leaders.
When I began my recruitment for my next retreat team, I used our Vincentian tradition to my advantage. In speaking to recruits, I compared the event to going on a plunge or a service trip, not like their first experience of attending the retreat. Participating as a retreatant is an incredible, beautiful, and prayerful experience. But as team members, I told them, they would seek to find Christ in their retreatants–through service.
As we prepared together, I constantly reminded the team to put prayer first. I reminded them that the weekly formation meetings were our retreat. Then, finally, the night before the retreat, we met to run through the schedule one last time. I brought them each a copy of Luke 10: 38-42. I thought about several ways to go over expectations. The Higher Education Administrator in me wanted to make a worksheet with facilitating questions in perfect Bloom’s Taxonomy order. But due to both prayer and time constraints, I had a “Jesus take the wheel” moment and decided to let the Holy Spirit guide the conversation–and I couldn’t have scripted it better myself. My approach clicked. They realized that, in this case, the retreatants would be Mary, spiritually speaking, and that our team’s efforts, as Martha, in the next few days, would bring the entire community closer to God.
I’m sure it was a combination of elements–the strengths of the team, the diversity of the group and their talents, the fact that this was my fourth time on this particular retreat–that made our efforts successful. However, I can’t help but believe that the fact that we took a moment, “retreated” ourselves, and broke open the Word together lead us to such success.
What an incredible lesson for the team! What an incredible lesson for me! In times of stress or self-doubt, as catechists, let’s look to the Greatest One, Jesus himself.
Loramarie Muratore is a campus minister at St. John’s University, in Jamaica, NY, where she has a dual role, leading the retreat program and living and working with residence population. She has earned an MS in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from Buffalo State College, as well as a BFA in Theatre Performance and a BA in English from the University of Buffalo. She is currently pursuing an MA in Pastoral Theology from SJU. Loramarie hopes to conduct doctoral research exploring the development of student leaders and ministers through drama exercises. Loramarie is also a cantor, enjoys spending time with loved ones, and is thrilled to begin exploring the world of blogging. Contact: Loramarie.firstname.lastname@example.org
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