Saturday, January 2, 2010

Formation, Transformation and Mission

As I think about our students making their pilgrimage in Italy I find myself also thinking about “formation” in general. Formation is important to the culture and ethos of USF. Faculty, staff, administrators and students all take part in the AFCU Franciscan Pilgrimages. Our growing number of pilgrims on campus is beginning to change the culture on campus. This January we will be initiating the Angelus Prayer at the foot of the clock tower. This is in part due to the impact of our pilgrims saying the Angelus with the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Square.

Sister Anita Holzmer, Director of the Center for Franciscan Spirit and Life is at the center of many of the formation activities. She prepares student pilgrims for their journey using both group and individual meetings. The preparation includes prayer, readings, video and reflection. Sister Anita also works with faculty and staff throughout the year. This includes informal and formal reading programs. Our School secretary, Kathleen Lotter, completed the Living Stones program through the Center prior to her pilgrimage to Assisi.

Sister Mary Govert, Director of Missions and Values is also active in formation. She prepares the selection process for staff and faculty pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome. Values and Missions helps select the recipients of the Values in Action Awards. Sister Mary provides guidance for the Director of Campus Ministry, Jan Patterson.

Jan is a busy lady. She does all of the things you would think a Director of Campus Ministry would do. That means lots of administrative stuff but also planning the liturgy and working with the dioceses. However, Jan is directly involved in formation. She selects and trains the Peer Ministers. This includes training in boundaries, crisis identification, diversity training and loss and grief. The Peer Ministers plan two retreats a each academic year. These are open to all students.

Fr. Stan Fortuna - Everybody Got 2 Suffer

In the past two years Jan has dramatically increased the impact of Campus Ministry. This included concerts attended by students from other colleges and from local high schools. Two years ago Jan brought in Father Stan Fortuna, this past fall Jan and two students were able to organize a Matt Maher concert. Both were well attended and the response was enthusiastic.

Matt Maher at USF Talking About Music, Faith and Francis

For Jan formation does not simply meaning learning. Internal growth should be reflected by external growth. So Jan kept us all busy helping others. That included sending students to Workfest in Eastern Kentucky the past two years. Workfest is a program of Christian Appalachian Project, an ecumenical Christian organization that works with universities to build homes in Appalachia. Our students will return again this year. After attending Workfest 2009 one of our graduating seniors then signed on for a full year internship with CAP.

Workfest 2009: USF Singers

Jan has also added an urban ministry alternative spring break trip. We will be sending students to Chicago to volunteer at Emmaus Ministries. This is a ministry for homeless males. Emmaus is also ecumenical and has the potential of providing internships for students.

Lennette Reynolds, Assistant Director of the Ministry Center

Jan tapped into the resources of the entire campus this past fall. Working with Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity, Jan, along with various school clubs and departments, built a home. Yep, starting from scratch (or foundation) they built a home for a Burmese family.

Campus Ministry is hardly the only group involved in formation and transformation. Dr. John Banquette of the Department of Philosophy and Theology is the academic advisor for the Dead Theologians Society. This group consists of college and high school students from around the region. Dr. Banquette’s group met in the room next to one of my classes this past term. I can tell you, they are a lively bunch who likes to study the early Church Doctors and also make sure they have fun doing it.

The school, along with the diocese has also encouraged students to participate in Theology on Tap. This is a group that takes theology out of the class room and into people’s lives. Again, laughing and having a good time is a requirement.

The school has been very involved in the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities. That includes sponsoring faculty and staff who want to attend the symposium every other year. For the past three years we have had faculty and staff enrolled in the AFCU On-line Franciscan Studies Program.

For the past three years we have also sent a faculty member to the Collegium on Catholic Intellectual Life. This is an association of Catholic Universities that focuses on maintaining a Catholic identity on Catholic Universities or as an individual Catholic in a non-Catholic school.

Each spring the school also sponsors a pilgrimage to the mother house in Mishawaka. This is always well attended and helps faculty, staff, students and the community feel connected to our roots and mission.

Finally, the school opens up its facilities to two fraternities of the Secular Franciscan Order and provides spiritual guidance for the fraternities.

So, while I think about our student pilgrims in Assisi I know they sere sent forth well prepared. I know they will have a big impact when they return. I know that USF is not just a place where you learn facts. It is a place of conversions, a place of both internal and external growth. It is a place where Catholics, Protestants, other believers and non-believers can grow in respect for one another. It is both a nurturing environment and an effective launching platform. I cannot wait to hear from our newest pilgrims!

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