Campus Ministry Leadership Institute

By Sara Angle
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Campus Ministry Leadership Institute at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia invited students and campus ministry directors to spend a long weekend working on an existing project idea that they hope to bring back to their home campus.

Tom Sheibley, the institute’s director, told Catholic News Service that a lot of “networking and sharing happens here to enhance that.”

This year the annual four-day event was offered twice – June 2-5 and June 9-12. About 180 campus ministers, students and facilitators from 30 different campuses across the United States attended the institute, the largest turnout in its 14-year history. {{more}}

Groups attended presentations on the history of campus ministry in the United States and how to use “different gifts people bring to the process” as tools for creating a campus ministry project. They also were given an overview of a Church document on campus ministry.

Over Sheibley’s four years as director of the institute, he said he has noticed groups come with similar projects each year because schools move at different paces. While one school may have a very advanced campus ministry program, others could be in the early stages of developing one, he explained.

Each group faces obstacles unique to its campus. Smaller campus ministry centers often struggle with recognition, access or funding, “whereas at larger Catholic schools, like Villanova, it’s more built into the system,” Sheibley said.

The biggest challenge of campus ministry groups that Campus Ministry Leadership Institute addresses is that “student time and energy are often dispersed, and to be able to pull people together for collaborative leadership can be hard to do.” But the institute gives groups structured time to complete their work.

“On the last day, we have them spanide in smaller groups and give presentations on their projects, and then they take a turn presenting and offer feedback, so this year we tried to group them according to similar programs,” Sheibley said.

JoAnn Jorgovan, assistant director of campus ministry at St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Missouri at Columbia, said that listening to the other groups present their projects always sparks ideas in her students’ minds, “even if it’s a little phrase that someone said. It gives them a broader idea of campus ministry outside of what they have just experienced.”

The majority of the groups’ projects trended toward recruitment and retention, leadership, retreats, service and social justice.

Jorgovan brought two groups from the University of Missouri at Columbia; one worked on constructing new vision and mission statements and writing a constitution, and another team developed a curriculum for a new sophomore “Catholic Life Community” or CLC.

The campus ministry program already operates two “Campus Life Community” programs for freshmen and upperclassmen, but Jorgovan explained that “the jump to the upperclassman CLC for sophomores was a little large,” so having a separate group would help sophomores to “transition into a more mature faith.”

Catholic campus ministry at the University of Missouri at Columbia already has a strong presence on campus, so the needs of the two groups attending the institute were specific, but others had broader and larger goals.

A small group from Shepherd University in West Virginia concentrated on building campus ministry. Campus minister Siobhan Bertone said her group wanted “to gain insight and to learn from others who have built successful programs before us.”

“We came home with an excitement about our faith and about ministering to those on our campus, as well as a good plan of action to go forward into this upcoming year,” she told CNS. “We gained new friends and a feeling of comfort that comes with meeting others who are setting out on a similar mission.”

The Idaho State University group focused its project on outreach and welcome programs for new students, while Midwestern State University in Texas also focused on outreach by beginning a peer ministry program.

Spring Hill College, a Jesuit school in Alabama, wanted to improve its campus ministry-run service immersion trips by developing structured guides for trip leaders. The training manuals would be designed to help students reflect on the trips.

Next year the Campus Ministry Leadership Institute will be in Philadelphia and at another location in the United States to allow more groups to attend.