See UD's plans for teaching, learning and research this fall with measures to promote safety and lessen the risk of COVID-19 spread. See UD case dashboard here.

Skip to main content

Campus Ministry

CSMG-Young  Leaders Initiative Lives Up to Its Name 

By Nick Cardilino

The Young Leaders Initiative of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering began in 2013 as organizers realized that a new generation of Catholic leaders need to be involved in learning about and acting on Catholic social teaching. Another goal of the YLI is for students to network with their peers from around the country and with professionals focused on the social ministry of the Church. This year’s Gathering from January 25-28 in Washington, DC included over 100 young leaders from over 40 different colleges and universities. Thanks to a generous foundation grant, the University of Dayton sent the largest delegation: 11 undergrads and two campus ministers.

Nicole VanVoorhis, a sophomore at UD, described the CSMG-YLI as “an experience… like no other I’ve had with the Catholic Church. I’ve never been in a space filled with so much passion and drive to help change the world we are living in. And to have it be filled with so many people who value and live out Catholic social teaching on a daily basis was really incredible.”

Sophomore Andrew Buchanan found networking to be the most valuable aspect on his second time at the CSMG-YLI: “For me, just rubbing elbows and having conversations with individuals who are leaders in national organizations doing incredible work is worth the trip.”

The first three days of the Gathering were filled with opportunities to learn more deeply about Catholic social teaching in general as well as what it has to say about specific issues. Keynote speakers such as Cardinal Cupich and David Brooks, expert panels and breakout sessions provided an excellent and moving learning experience for students. “It was so powerful when, in a session on immigration, a woman who was a DACA recipient stood up during the Q&A part,” recounted sophomore Reiley Harrington. “Through her tears, she talked about the fear of not knowing whether she will be sent back to a country she has never really known.”

There were many opportunities for prayer as well. The Eucharistic liturgies were jubilant thanks to a choir with a diverse membership and great preaching from the bishops who presided. The UD group also spent an evening on a prayerful pilgrimage to remember Pope Francis’ “Four Americans”: Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln Memorial), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK Memorial), Dorothy Day (Basilica) and Thomas Merton (Vietnam Veterans Memorial).

Most of the UD students were initially apprehensive about the final day of the Gathering, the day to meet with Senators and House members or their legislative aides. But their confidence was amplified during the previous three days as they learned about the Church’s teaching on the four specific issues for which they would be advocating. Their leadership also grew as they learned what to expect and how to build a brief personal relationship in the upcoming meetings. Although a bit nervous at first, VanVoorhis said, “My favorite part was the day we went to Capitol Hill and had meetings with State Representative offices and Senator offices from Ohio. This experience interacting with those working on the Hill made the gap between citizen and politician a lot smaller for me.”

Since returning, the group has plans to engage their peers on campus to be more politically involved from a faith perspective. A day trip to the Statehouse in Columbus is in the works as is a meeting with Rep. Turner’s office in Dayton. Both are on the issue of gun violence, one of the four issues the group focused on in meetings on Capitol Hill. Two of the young leaders are coordinating two different social justice film and discussion events--one on capital punishment and one on Catholic education. 

The campus ministers were overwhelmed by the students’ laser-like commitment to Catholic social action from early morning until late in the evening each day. Although some of the students have expressed some frustration that their actions didn’t result in any major changes that could be seen in the short term, all of them were grateful for the opportunity to learn, network, take action, reflect, pray, and grow in confidence and leadership.