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Campus Ministry

Fall Semester: Be Like a Brook

By Nick Cardilino

Change. Uncertainty. Apprehension. 

What will Fall semester look like at UD? When will we find out about decisions being made? Who is making those decisions? Will it be safe enough on campus for everyone’s health? Too safe? How will physical distancing affect our sense of community?

We campus ministers are asking all of these questions too.

As we think about how retreats, service opportunities, Masses, etc. will happen based on current recommendations, we also have plan B, plan C, etc. Campus ministers sit on several committees that are wrestling through the complexities of a reality with physical distancing, masks and extreme cleaning. With input from a panel of medical experts, the CDC, state and county health officials, a student survey and suggestions from town hall meetings, committees of faculty and staff are mostly at the “strong recommendations” stage as of mid-June.    

Most members of the UD family think of “community” as the most essential part of a Marianist education, but this family spirit is only one of the five equally important aspects. Education for “adaptation and change” is one of the other major characteristics. In the midst of the French Revolution, the founders of the Marianists were forced to adapt and change. Their faith community depended on it. Their lives depended on it. While the Reign of Terror is very different from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a number of lessons we can learn from the founders about how to adapt and change in the midst of upheaval.

like a brook

Bd. Fr. Chaminade described how he worked: “I am like a brook that makes no effort to overcome obstacles in its way. All the obstacles can do is hold me up for a while, as a brook is held up; but during that time it grows broader and deeper and after a while it overflows the obstruction and flows along again.“ This idea of patience in the midst of obstacles is insightful for us. Chaminade waited three years in exile in Saragossa, Spain until he was allowed to return to re-ignite Christianity in France. Bd. Mother Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon wanted to be a nun from the age of 11, but had to wait until the age of 27 partly because the government had kicked all the convents out of France. We may have to wait a couple of weeks until final decisions are made about schedules, policies, and protocols for the fall semester, and we will have to wait months for a vaccine. Let’s allow our faith to grow broader and deeper as these obstacles hold us up. 

Silence of words 

In Fr. Chaminade’s “System of Virtues,” a method of spiritual direction, he outlines something he calls the “Silence of Words.” This is not about speaking, but about using words. He advises us to "speak only when you will it, and will it only when necessary." We know it’s tempting to anticipate what the fall semester will look like and to share this with friends. Fr. Chaminade’s spiritual guidance can be a helpful reminder for us all to spread only what we know to be true.

New times demand new methods

In describing his creation of the Sodality of Mary and the smaller sodalities (faith sharing groups) within it, Fr. Chaminade explained that society is now different; thus the Church needs to be different: “New times demand new methods.” The mission and vision were the same, but it took a new approach in order to be effective at ministry in Bordeaux, France. This creativity, which evolved out of necessity, blossomed well beyond the French Revolution. As a teen, Bd. Adèle started what she called the “Little Association.” Young girls would write each other letters of encouragement in their faith journeys. Despite its name, it quickly became a large association. Perhaps the creative adaptations that we come up with together during this pandemic time will result in some great service project, retreat, small group or prayer experience that we never could have imagined doing before. 

Faith of the heart

Venerable Marie Thérèse de Lamourous was a collaborator with Fr. Chaminade who helped to create the Sodality of Mary. He depended on Marie Thérèse a great deal and didn’t want her to take over the Misericorde, a safehouse for young women trying to get out of prostitution. She didn’t want to do it either, at first. Yet they both had what Fr. Chaminade called a “faith of the heart.” that enabled them to trust in God’s call. That faith of the heart led all three founders to create the Sodality, the Misericorde, the Little Association, and the vowed Marianist religious orders. They had faith that God helped them to bring goodness out of their frightening, uncertain, life-threatening experiences. May their faith in God give us hope in trying times. 

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