Campus Ministry: Here to serve

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Ministers seek to combine both faith and service

Imagine sitting in your office when someone knocks on the door, enters, sits down and tells you that they want to help people. What do you say?

It may seem a daunting task at first. Help people? In what way? In what capacity?

How much? Where do you send them? To the library? To the streets?

On Saint Louis University’s campus, there are people who experience this situation on a daily basis: campus ministers.

Their jobs are to facilitate service, volunteerism and community involvement with a foundation in their Christian faith traditions. To some, they are quite literally stewards of stewardship.

Julie McCourt, Fr. Patrick Quinn and Rachel Kondro are three of the campus ministers at SLU.

When asked questions about the role that faith plays in their lives and how it influences their service to the community, they responded in a variety of ways.

Despite similar Catholic upbringings, they all had unique views of what faith and service has meant to them.

McCourt made a distinction between faith and religion, saying, “Faith is based on your experiences and connections with the religious community,” whereas religion is “organized and set out.”

“Faith is what you make out of your religion. You own your faith,” McCourt said.

Quinn stated similarly that he views faith as “something more of the lived experience.”

A campus minister since 2004, Quinn said that experience comes to us in the reading of scripture, the contemplation of prayer, the participation in the sacraments of the church, the grace of family and community, and the growing in holiness through the practice of compassion and charity.

Kondro added an even more holistic viewpoint, and described her faith as “influencing every area of [her] life.”

While McCourt and Quinn indicated how faith is expressed through experience, Kondro focused on defining faith in terms of “relationships.” She said the primary relationship is her relationship with God, which “draws in relationships with other people.” Her love of a communal dimension is what drew her toward a career in campus ministry.

Erin Swezey, writing as a coordinator for community service at Loyola College of Maryland and an expert on the different organizational structures of campus ministry offices, said, “Essential to any vision of campus ministry is a faith in action directed toward service.” How did these three SLU campus ministers react to this claim about the relations between faith and service?

Quinn said, “While some may come to service from a more abstract or altruistic perspective, for me, service comes from my experience of God’s grace.”

He said that service was not just an attempt to serve, but also to teach others to serve.

Kondro possessed a “faith first” mentality, where faith initiates service and shapes the types of service performed.

For example, her faith as a Roman Catholic influenced her decision to work with Our Lady’s Inn, a shelter for women and children, and Students for Life, SLU’s pro-life chartered student organization. She described her relationship between faith and service using a metaphor of a wheel. “The faith sets the wheel in motion,” but once it’s moving, “the service strengthens the faith…propels the wheel forward.”

For McCourt and for many other campus ministers, service is more than just volunteering. Service is a strengthening of the community, a means of learning, of developing faith, of ecumenical collaboration, of ensuring social justice and a responsibility. McCourt said, “The two [faith and service] work best when they are combined” because the effect of one deepens the other.

That effect is what campus ministry is all about.

Campus ministry enables students to build bridges between their developing faiths and their lived experiences through service, community and reflection, helping to create a broader vision for the love and renewal of human life, both in one’s self and in others.

What do faith and service mean to you?

What are you waiting for?

These three campus ministers, and others like them at SLU, are in their offices just waiting for you to knock on their door.