By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Campus ministry team members from St. Ambrose University attended a national conference this spring to affirm the ministry they are doing, to be challenged to think differently and to learn of other opportunities to provide college students.
Catholic Campus Ministry Association sponsored the May 29-June 1 conference “Called 2018: That Your Joy Be Complete” in Minneapolis. Attending from St. Ambrose University were Father Thom Hennen, Tammy Norcross-Reitzler, Kaitlin Bormann and Christopher Clow.
“The conference was valuable to us as a team here at St. Ambrose,” said Norcross-Reitzler, director of faith formation and campus minister. “We were also challenged to think differently about the opportunities we can provide for students to encounter Jesus in prayer, in Scripture, in the sacraments and in the faces of the poor.”
In addition to daily keynotes, the campus ministers attended a variety of workshops, met campus ministers from throughout the country and had the opportunity to attend morning prayer and Mass each day. Clow, director of music ministry and liturgy, played the guitar and sang at three of the Masses. Bormann, director of service and justice ministry, played the flute.
Clow said he attended the conference to gain new insights and ideas. “I’ve been at this ministry for seven years now and it’s important to not get complacent, to continue to try and learn new things. Our students are always changing; we should as well, to some extent at least.”
He identified Mass as a highlight. “The bishops who celebrated with us (Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, both of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of New Orleans) were a delight, and as always I loved getting to assist with the music. Clow also appreciated the keynote talks because they promoted discussion among the St. Ambrose staff and “gave us all a lot to think about as we plan ahead for the upcoming year.”
Bormann was excited to attend the conference this year. “I went in 2011 and found the connections with other campus ministers very helpful. I meet with the Iowa Catholic Campus Ministers Association (ICCMA) twice a year to build connections, share ideas and support one another in our ministries. Being able to do this with campus ministers from all across the nation was awesome.” As a result of the conference and suggested reading materials, “we’re ready to work better as a team to walk in faith with our students here at St. Ambrose,” she said.
Fr. Hennen, St. Ambrose University’s relatively new chaplain, said having the campus ministry team attend the conference allowed the group “to hear some of the same ideas, ‘divide and conquer’ for some of the breakout sessions, do some networking with other campus ministers and do some of our own team building and brainstorming as a department.”
Fr. Hennen said the conference provided good ideas pertaining to the approach to campus ministry and “a few more concrete things we might be able to implement. We are still unpacking all of this.”
Clow added that one thing the team wants to try to improve within campus ministry is an online presence. “Our students exist in an online world, and while we are always stressing the importance of actual person-to-person contact and ministry, we cannot ignore that for young people social media is not a distraction — it is communication. If we want to reach them, we need to engage in communication with them through the avenues they are using, and the good news is that there are lots of ways we can grow in that.”
Norcross said conversations at mealtime during the conference were also valuable. She visited with a campus minister from Notre Dame University about that school’s retreat ministry, with a campus minister from the University of Missouri about spiritual direction opportunities for students and with a campus minister from Syracuse University about Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults on campus. “And, of course, we were able to connect and share ideas with the campus ministers from Iowa, too.”