From the Office of Campus Ministry

by Alexander Pierre | Apr 17, 2015

By Adam P. Setmeyer, Director of Campus Ministry

Marian University Alternative Breaks
The Alternative Break program is rooted in the gospel mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself” and explores social concerns by engaging in direct service, reflection, and advocacy. The program seeks to integrate Catholic social teaching and Franciscan sponsorship values in an intensive week of service at various locations, domestically and internationally.

Student leaders, chosen through an application process, spend an academic year preparing a team of their peers for the immersion experience. These leaders have a weekend of formation to reflect on the Christian roots of our program, learn the philosophy of alternative breaks and the practical skills in developing group dynamics and formation, and identify the motivating factors leading them to invest time and energy preparing others for a transformational opportunity. These student leaders, two per trip, also comprise the alternative break board, which meets monthly for ongoing formation and mutual support, as well as bi-weekly with their campus ministry advisors.

After the teams are selected through application process, they meet monthly in preparation, which includes cultural and social issue identification, reflection, team formation, and a pre-trip prayer and service experience. We do not send these students to their destinations “cold turkey,” but seek to develop the team to move along the Active Citizen’s Continuum from unaware to more aware of how their behaviors, beliefs, and actions can impact the world for good and, at best, to become willing advocates for those who are oppressed and underserved.

The Alternative Break experience, which has recently expanded beyond Spring Break, now includes Fall Break and early summer opportunities, directly reaching approximately 40-50 students per year. Marian University staff and faculty are also impacted through the opportunity to serve as advisors—two per trip. Locations have included Chicago, New York, Indianapolis, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Limiting factors include costs of trips which are prohibitive for many of our students.

Most importantly, Alternative Break programs ground our service orientation in faith and require many opportunities to reflect upon the reasons for service and need for social action. Anecdotally, many students have credited their Alternative Break experience with impacting their career perspective and informing their vocational call to transformational leadership.

Peer Ministry
There is a short but powerful phrase tucked within Pope Francis’ exhortation The Joy of the Gospel that reads, “Missionary disciples accompany missionary disciples.” (#173) The Office of Campus Ministry has created a peer ministry program that is both prophetic about the Gospel message and engages in dialogue with students wherever he or she may be on the journey of faith. This is being accomplished by hiring four Marian University students (one for each residence hall) who are mature Christians, and equipping them to be missionary disciples through training and regular supervision, and then sending them forth to evangelize and equip others.

The strategic plan of Rebuild My Church challenges us to create a vibrant faith life on the Marian University campus, and peer ministry plays an integral role in accomplishing this goal. Peer ministers are a valuable asset to students as they invite individuals to grow in faith, provide a supportive presence during times of need, direct students to the appropriate campus resources, promote positive community practices, and challenge destructive behaviors which plague college students. Peer ministers are calling students to the fullness of life by sharing how Jesus Christ, the gospel message, and Christian faith have impacted their lives.

To do all of the above the peer ministers focus on three main responsibilities: 1) to practice the ministry of accompaniment; 2) create life groups in which the word of God is read, life stories are shared, and prayer is made; and 3) invite students to respond to the gift of faith by attending Mass and practicing the corporal works of mercy through Students Taking Active Reflective Roles (S.T.A.R.R.), a campus ministry program. I am happy to share our first piece of big news. In the just the first month of our program, 123 Marian University students signed up to join a life group. With that in mind, please remember the peer ministers and the life group members in your prayers.

This new residential peer ministry program was made possible through a grant from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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