Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A University in Wisconsin With a Vital Catholic Ministry (not Marquette)

A few days ago with blogged about the very vital Catholic campus ministry at Texas A & M University. A commenter on that post pointed out yet another public university with an active and successful Catholic presence.
The St. Paul’s center in Madison has daily Masses, some of them in Latin, daily Rosary, long lines for confessions, uses Gregorian chant in some of the liturgies, etc. The homilies are frank and address topics like moral relativism, salvation, etc.

Most kids coming to college never got any of this in their Catholic childhoods at home, they are having an encounter with stuff they had only heard about (and were often told was bad, old-fashioned, backward, rigid, judgmental etc.) Sure this may turn some people off, but it attracts others, at St. Paul’s they are experiencing growth.

Kids don’t want to be patronized, they want to learn something.
We wondered whether this was in fact all true, and e-mailed Scott Hacki of St. Paul’s and asked him to comment. His response:
The campus ministry at St. Paul’s is indeed thriving. I wouldn’t necessarily say there are long lines for confession. We have two daily Masses and four Sunday Masses with confession heard thirty minutes before Mass every day. There is a line everyday but it depends on what you call long. Usually it’s about 5-10 people waiting in line before each Mass. On Ash Wed and Good Friday we have priests in the confessional the entire day and students coming in and out the entire day as well.

On a better note we also have about 300 students involved weekly in our bible studies all over campus and a Thursday night weekly program that usually brings in another 200 or so. St. Paul’s is truly a very exciting Catholic place that has experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Ten years ago we had one Bible study with ten students, now we have 72 weekly studies with 300+ involved. I would say the rest of this persons comments are accurate.
So why is it that public universities can have a more vital and active Catholic campus ministry than the nominally Catholic Marquette?

We would suggest it’s the “established religion syndrome.” The bland assumption is that since Marquette is “Catholic” evangelism is really out of place. Somehow not needed. And besides, who would want students to be the sort of traditional Catholics who might want to celebrate a Latin Mass, or might actually believe church teaching on sexuality?

But it follows from this that a job at Marquette is a rather bland sinecure. It is not the sort of place where people with any missionary zeal would particularly want to be.

But places like Marquette are attractive to people whose agenda is more political than spiritual. Thus Marquette’s campus ministry seems more interested in opposing Church teaching on homosexuality and demonstrating at the School of the Americas than in gaining converts. Or deepening the faith of merely nominal Catholic students (unless “deepening” is interpreted in terms of leftist political activism).

But ironically, the percentage of entering Marquette Freshmen who call themselves “Catholic” has declined to the point that (among the class entering in the fall of 2010) only 44% will claim to be Catholic.

Ironically, for parents who want a Catholic college experience for their children, Marquette and similar institutions may be about the worst places to send them, inferior not only to newer, smaller schools that take their Catholicism seriously, but to public universities.

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Blogger Churchill's Parrot said...

We would add that a considerable factor in this phenomenon is the distinct and profound difference of culture between the Madison Archdiocese (traditional Catholic)and the Milwaukee Archdiocese (still wandering in the relativistic and ammoral post Vatican II fog embodied in the person and actions of one Rembert Weakland.) One need only attend a Mass in each diocese to experience the difference. One, reverent and inspiring, the other, a circus.

12:47 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

wandering in the relativistic and ammoral post Vatican II fog

You may well be right about this, but I have to point out that there is the real Vatican II, and then there is what 60s-types wanted it to be, and convinced themselves it was.

So I don't think Vatican II per se is the problem, but rather a certain cultural ambiance is.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since the 1970s many schools haven't been too concerned about what the Bishop says. Bishop Burke (arguably one of the most traditional minded Ameican church leaders) had a hard time with the Jesuit Univ. in St. Louis.

Of course St. Paul's in Madison is directly under the control of the local Bishop (Morlino.)

As you say we are probably dealing with "Established religion syndrome." (Compare say the Church of England in 1988 with the Catholic Church in communist-ruled Poland.)

At Marquette there are still some kind of rules about opposite-sex visiting in dorms (like a curfew.) Also unlike most public university's condoms and the birth control pill aren't passed out like candy on halloween. On the other hand, one would seem very hard pressed to find a way students can learn anything about Church teaching on sexuality (John Paul II's theology of the body, etc.)

Indeed maybe rather than drum circles this is the sort of thing that "Mission Week" should be about

However since that sort of learning just isn't there, a student is left with the impression that Catholicism is a (small) set of old-fashioned, mean-spirited, arbitrary rules.

Campus ministary establishments should devote themselves to teaching an authentic and orthodox Catholic faith.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Really goes to show you that things can get messed up in a diocese a lot quicker than they can get fixed.

Archbishop Dolan was certainly a quality, orthodox bishop and I don't think Archbishop Listecki is really too different from Bishop Morlino when you get right down to it. But only time will heal some of the things that Archbishop Weakland did.

Unlike some I do hold out hope for the Jesuit universities, that they might one day become thriving places of Catholic orthodoxy once again. St. Paul's was pretty heretical during the 80's and early 90's, as well.

Marquette, Dayton, B.C., Georgetown, etc, do have this thing called "tenured faculty," which will make the process slower, but with God's grace, things will get better.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

I've met one of the St Paul's priests and he's crackerjack. Solid, but not a "all is lost" guy--not by a long stretch.

Ironically, Bp. Morlino is Jebby-trained, but tough as nails on the issues--and he's right on them, too.

10:15 AM  

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