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What Pope Francis’ Interview Has To Do With Your Student

by Adam Setmeyer | Oct 03, 2013

A reflection from the Director of Campus Ministry, Adam Setmeyer

“An extraordinary moment in journalism. ” That is how Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, described Pope Francis’ recent interview in America Magazine which has been reported upon by nearly every major news outlet and praised. But what does the Pope’s 12,000 word interview (about sixteen printed pages) have to do with you and your children, our Marian University students?

On the one hand, the Pope says nothing specifically about college students or university education. He does not mention many of the things college students focus upon, and rightfully so, during their day to day lives: passing an upcoming test, finding a community on campus, balancing school and work, etc. So, we might conclude, at first glance, the article has little to do with you and your children. On the other hand, Pope Francis addresses many issues that touch the heart of what it means to be human in any stage of life, including that of being a college student. Let me point out two sections that I find especially relevant.

Early in the interview the Pope is asked, “What element of Ignatian spirituality helps you live your ministry?” (Note: Ignatian spirituality is developed from the life, writings, and example of Ignatius of Loyola; The Jesuits are a religious order within the Catholic Church much like the Franciscans who founded Marian University.) The Pope’s answer is simply, “discernment,” meaning, for Christians, the search for God and desire for God to guide one’s life through the Holy Spirit. In speaking about pastoring the Catholic Church the Pope states, “But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong. ” What a profound example for our students at Marian University!

College is filled with countless decision points. Chief among these decisions is the choice of major. It is common knowledge that college students often change majors during their four years, and often more than once. Despite knowing how widespread this experience is it can be stressful for students and their parents. Pope Francis’ personal reflection brings up three significant points for the Marian University students:

  1. He encourages them not to feel rushed into a decision, and to be comfortable with the change of major.
  2. He challenges them to bring God into their decision making process as a conversation partner.
  3. He lets us know we are not in this process alone.

On the third point, it is important to note Marian University provides many services for students making such decisions. For example, the Learning and Counseling Center, Internships and Career Services, Academic support Services, and Academic Advisors allprovide one-on-one support and utilize proven tools which may help your student in this process.

A second section worth noting comes when the Pope is asked, “What kind of church do you dream of?” Pope Francis answers, “How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel.” At Marian University we hope to do just that, to accompany our students through their college journey in all aspects. In the department of Campus Ministry, we respond to the Pope’s challenge by providing retreats which meet students where they are and as they are. On our retreats, students are able to express their true-selves in an accepting environment, and, in addition, are presented with an image of how life can be lived more fully through Jesus Christ. Additionally, we call students to be a part of the church and meet the needs of the community through our dynamic service programs, such as STARR (Students Taking Active Reflective Roles) which meets each Friday and serves at local Indianapolis agencies. But make no mistake; Campus Ministry is not the only department fulfilling the Pope’s vision. Housing and Residence Life, for example, provides this for our resident students through the personal interactions of the Resident Directors and Resident Assistants, and the programs they offer. And, finally, our academic programs provide an education which transform lives, in part, by integrating our four Franciscan values.

I have chosen the above sections for reflection, because they connect closely to the experience of a college student, but there are many other points worth reading and reflecting on if you have the time. By reflecting one Pope Francis’ words, we have the opportunity to fulfill the mission of Marian University, and to meet each and every student amid their decisions and daily life in order to minister to her/his mind, body, and spirit.

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