Saturday, February 7, 2015

A College Priest's Gratitude to the Parish Priest

Dear Brother Priest,

For the past two years, I have worked as a chaplain at Boston University.  During that time, through the generous volunteer work of a married lay couple and a young Jesuit scholastic, numerous young people have joined our RCIA program and have or will be baptized and received into the Catholic Church.  A few months ago, a young man who was raised atheist walked into the chapel at Sunday Mass.  One of our FOCUS missionaries struck up a conversation with him and the young man expressed interest in learning about Jesus and the Catholic Church.  Since then, he's joined us for various events and has drawn closer to the Church.  

While examples like this are awesome, one thing that has really struck me during the past two years is that the vast majority of the young people who come to Sunday Mass at BU and who participate in the life of our Newman Center were raised in solid, good, and strong Catholic parishes and families.  They sought out our community because they arrived here well-formed by you and your parishes.  They know Jesus.  They know how to pray. They love the sacraments.  They know how to love one another.  They are striving to follow Christ as disciples.  Honestly, I am blown away by the formation that these young people have received.  

While we are constantly seeking to reach out and to draw others to Christ, I can say that the bulk of our community are those who came to us well-formed in the Gospel.  Our strength at the BU Catholic Center is mainly the result of strong Catholic families and strong Catholic parishes.  You sent us some amazing young people.  My hope is that we can return the favor and send back to you some even better formed disciples!  

In the old days, people always said that young people who left the Church would eventually come back when it was time to get married and raise a family.  That no longer holds true.  Now the statistics show that once they're gone, they're gone.  We at the BU Catholic Center do our best to keep them close to Christ and the Church, but we are able to do that because you did such awesome work to form them in the first place.  

I sometimes ask the kids, "How did you get like this?"  What I mean by that is, "How is it possible that in this present culture, you are so strong in your faith?"  In large part, I know that the answer to that question is because they come from good Catholic families and from good Catholic parishes.  I know that it's because of your work that these kids arrived at college and sought out the Catholic community.  Their strong faith, devotion, and missionary zeal is a result of the formation provided to them in your parish.  Thank you!  

There's no doubt that the numbers of young people seeking out the Catholic Center here and in other places are much fewer than they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.  I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.  At the same time, the young people who arrive today are really a miracle!  They come not because it is the cultural norm.  They come because of a profound love for Christ and His Church and with missionary zeal.  

One of the things that I have always loved about being a priest is that even after 18 years of priesthood, I still feel like a kid.  I'm still learning every day about being a priest.  During the past two years on a college campus, I have learned in a deeper way just how critical it is to have very strong Catholic parishes.  For the most part, the kids who arrive at college and participate in Catholic life are the kids who showed up here with a strong Catholic life already.  Of course we want converts!  But, as St. Paul says,
"But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" (Romans 10:14).  The awesome and well-formed young people that you send to us are the one's who draw others on campus to Christ.

For what it's worth, I appreciate your priestly work and efforts.  The parish priests from all over the United States who are sending us these great kids are doing something right.  If you are a parish priest who is forming young people to love the sacraments, to worship God at Mass, to go to adoration, to carefully examine their consciences and to frequent confession, to pray, to love Jesus and to follow him, to love their brothers and sisters and especially the outcast, and to zealously share the Gospel with others, then don't ever get discouraged!  Those are the kids who show up at the Catholic Center when they go off to college.  They're here--in large part--because of you.  They're living the Catholic life and sharing the joy of the Gospel with others because of your ministry.  Thanks for being a good priest!

1 comment:

  1. You are good. And your gratitude in recognition of the work of parish priests' is wonderful. And, I do believe, your attitude will keep you always feeling "like a kid." I remember when you were!