Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Fall Outreach is Critically Important

A few months after becoming involved with the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska, I heard a startling statistic. Apparently a study had been done in the late 1990’s about incoming Catholic students to the university. The poll discovered that nearly 3 out of 4 Catholic students abandoned their faith before the end of their freshman year! Thankfully, due to a large increase in financial, physical, and spiritual support (not to mention a wonderful priest) Lincoln’s NewmanCenter now has over 2,000 registered students at the Newman Center!

While I’m thankful for my days at Lincoln, I’m even more thankful for the gift of serving St. Thomas Aquinas and its campus ministry. Many of you may be unaware that Catholics all around the state and even nation have heard and continue to hear about the campus ministry efforts of St. Thomas. Of course, we are not doing what we are doing to be recognized, but such attention is a sign of God’s active hand here. Thank you all for making this past year’s outreach so fruitful!

While last year was a successful year, we have increased our efforts significantly for outreach this year. Many of you may be aware of the signup sheet in the vestibule of the church for fall outreach support. I ask you to please prayerfully consider becoming a volunteer this fall. The first two to three weeks of the academic year are the most critical for our ministry. It only takes a couple weeks for the newly realized freedom of freshman to be consumed with spiritually, psychologically, and physically damaging lifestyles. Our hope is to saturate the campus with a Catholic presence, and to have daily activities to invite them to. It is not in apologetic debate that we will win them over, but rather in a community of hospitality that actively and genuinely expresses itself in respect, love, and selflessness.

A national survey revealed that among all Catholics who considered themselves “inactive,” 52 percent said they would welcome a warm invitation to a parish. If the statistic holds true for CU, then if we could offer a genuine invitation to each Catholic CU student (guessing there are around 6,000 to 7,000 Catholic students at CU), we could have an increase of over 3,000 students to St. Tom’s almost overnight! Such a statistic sounds incomprehensible and it is without the help of the parish.

I recognize that not all of us feel called to pound the pavement of CU. Fortunately, we have many needs that may be better suited toward your gifts. Our daily BBQ’s at the Catholic Student Center will require many volunteers for setup, cooking, greeting, cleanup, etc. In addition, we need help with cookie making for the student gift-bags for those living in the dorm. That’s a LOT of cookies! As the campus ministry team finalizes the events, more areas of volunteer opportunities will become available.

I pray the remaining weeks of your summer are a peace-filled one, and I look forward to seeing many of you on August 17th at our volunteer Mass & BBQ May God be Praised!

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