Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Campus Ministry is for Faculty, Too. In Theory.

A longtime internet corresponded of mine, who is now a professor, commented on the post below in response to my queries about Catholic campus ministries' faculty relations. Her words are worth a post of their own:
While I don't want to put all the burden of relationship-building on the Catholic Centers, I do think that they need to strive to cultivate good relationships with Catholic faculty.

I currently teach part-time at a state school with a vibrant Newman Center. The Newman center bulletin claims that it is for the "Students, faculty, and staff of [area colleges]." Great! You'd think that would include me, as a part-time faculty member, right?

But . . . in the few months that I've been going to this Newman center, the only thing that I've seen pitched specifically for staff and faculty was a call for financial assistance.

True, many of the social activities -receptions, parties, etc.- are carefully planned to allow non-student community members to take part, as well as students, but most of the actual spiritual formation activities, from the women's group to the praise and worship, are intended for students and are designated as student activities. And as far as I can tell, there is nothing specifically FOR Catholic faculty members or staff as distinct from students. My undergraduate institution had a faculty-wine-and-cheese event every year; I have yet to see anything even as simple as that.

I guess I am lazy. A true trail blazer would have gone knocking on Fr. What's his name's door and said, "Hey, I'm Catholic, and you might notice that I've been coming here week after week. I teach part-time here at Somewhere State, and I work on some Catholic authors in my research! And I'd really like to do something with or for your students. What would be helpful? Could I give a lecture? Teach a mini-class on Catholic literature? Help start a reading group?"

I guess that's what I should do. But I am a coward, and I flourish best when someone else makes the first move, or when there's already a structure for me to step into. What I would really have liked would have been an announcement at the beginning of the year saying "Any faculty, staff, or community members willing to assist the Newman center in X, Y, or Z ways, please contact so-and-so."

So, if any of your readers happen to be in leadership positions at Newman Centers, here's my unsolicited advice: don't just hope that Catholic faculty will seek you out. Set up a structure for whatever kind of faculty involvement you want -mentorship, teaching, after-party clean-up crew, whatever- and then actively recruit. Throw a faculty wine and cheese party once a semester, and recruit there. Set up a faculty Bible study, and maybe you'll get strong faculty mentors rising out of that. To get people to come to these events, put an ad in the school paper. Or distribute flyers at the local parishes in town in order to catch faculty members who prefer to worship in their own neighborhood. Once they have their heads in the door, bag them by suggesting further (and perhaps more active) ways of becoming involved.

I also suspect professional burnout hinders faculty involvement with campus ministry.
Though this is one reason I'm not a professor myself, spending extracurricular time with students would be low on my priority list after hours and hours fulfilling my teaching, grading, and research responsibilities.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I thought you meant something for faculty in the sense that there are things for students - not that faculty should be expected to "do" stuff. The chaplaincy to God's Own University used to have a Tuesday afternoon (?lunch? teatime?) prayer group particularly for dons - that was the longest-running thing. You'd see dons when one of the Catholic societies organised an interesting event. There was a Catholic graduate society, and junior fellows would be seen at their "things" quite frequently. Dons were often more involved in their parishes, which is understandable - they're there for years and years, whereas the undergrad population was completely renewed every three years.