CUA · Faith · Relationships

CUA Students, I need your help! [College students & Marriage]

Hello, friends. This blog post is primarily for CUA students, however I’m open to any and all comments and suggestions!

A few months ago, when I was still at the Bishop’s Conference as the Marriage and Family Life intern, I was working on a project called Marriage in the Church. The initiative’s goal was to find out why people choose – or do not choose – to get married in the Church and how we can encourage them to do so. I complied a lot of survey results and spoke with family life leaders whose work was particularly successful in their areas.

We asked how they encourage Catholics to marry in the church, especially young Catholics. There was one response that really stuck out to me, it came from a college campus ministry office. They host events and programs that, as they said, “show people how awesome marriage is when it is lived out between a couple fully embracing the Church’s teachings and living them out happily and with enthusiasm.”

This got me thinking about the various ministries that CUA’s Campus Ministry offers our students. We have a lot of “vocational discernment” ministries; however, from my experience these ministries largely focus on discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We hardly ever talk about marriage. I have rarely seen marriage presented as a vocation: one that is discernible and that someone can start preparing for now (dating or not).

I also know from my own experience as a college student that our culture sees marriage as pretty irrelevant or impossible. We only ever hear about the struggles facing marriage and family life today – and as a Church, we all too often only speak about how we can minister to those in need. While this is absolutely true, we also need to hold up the example of good marriages, who are happily faithful to the Church. I was not the only one who felt like our ministry is lacking – as a Student Minister, I got to talk with a lot of my residents and they echoed my thoughts.

So I took this to Pam Tremblay, our wonderful Women’s Ministry Director at CM. I told her what I had been reflecting on and the need I felt our campus has. Pam’s response to me was “I want to do this – and I want to do this well.” Praise God for campus ministers who are willing to hear out students, work with the Holy Spirit and creatively plan events. We met last week to brainstorm some ideas and try to give ourselves a direction to go in.

We asked the following questions: Why would college students care? Is there an interest in this type of ministry? What do they need from us right now? How can we practically provide that? What is the culture telling college students about marriage, and what is it that we hope that they hear?

In our conversation we kept circling around the words marriage, sex, hook up culture, pinterest, weddings, preparation, discernment, witness, etc. We played around with the idea of having a reflection day on the question of “what is marriage?”, which we could invite a panel of married couples to. Then we considered whether or not a series of talks on topics related to marriage and its discernment might be a better option. Overall, we were trying to figure out how to give college students the skills they need to discern marriage.

But I kept feeling like we weren’t getting to the heart of what I feel our campus needs. It dawned on me, we cannot give people the skills to discern something that they do not see…CUA does a great job on giving college students the opportunities and skills for discernment. Another discernment ministry is not necessarily what this campus needs. What we need is to show people what it is that they are actually discerning, we need to show them real ( & catholic ) marriages that look far different from what our culture says marriage is all about. What we need is a witness to marriage on this campus.

So I offered Pam this thought: once a month dinners with married couples. We could invite married CUA staff or faculty to host a dinner on campus. The couple would be given the opportunity to witness to the graces of marriage in their own lives, reveal to college students the reality of the blessings and struggles in marriage, and offer any advice they might feel called to.

Later this same day Catholic News Agency published an article called “How to Get Millennials to Marry? Start by sharing your story.” I kid you not, this article echoed exactly what Pam and I were discussing. It began by discussing the influences that discourage young adults from marrying and all of the culture’s messages about marriage being impossible.

The article responded however, by saying

“Society’s bias against marriage does not have to go unchecked: married couples and others have the ability to show the fullness of marriage and the family. ‘Nothing tells the story of true married love better than the witness of enduring human love,’ Cardinal Wuerl urged.”

Meg McDonell, founder of the I Believe in Love Initiative, furthered this in stating:

“Those who are married – young or older – may want to intentionally reach out to single and dating young adults with a listening and supportive ear and a willingness to share what worked on their road through dating and to marriage. We need to revive a culture where those who are dating and married are sharing ‘best practices’ to finding and keeping love and commitment.”

This is the goal of what I am trying to put together within our CUA Campus Ministry office. Our college culture needs to see that the faithful marriage isn’t only “real, but verified everyday.” I want to bring forward examples of beautiful married couples and allow their marriage to witness to the desires and confusions within the college culture.

So….long story shot, what do you all think? Would you be interested in something like this? Do you want to talk about marriage, explore how having a faithful marriage is possible, and get to know married couples on our campus? What kind of events would you want (dinners, talks, reflection days, etc.)? 

Please, please, please tell me what you think in the comment section below.

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9 thoughts on “CUA Students, I need your help! [College students & Marriage]

  1. I like the idea of having healthy marriages more present on campus. Especially because living as an undergrad we are so surrounded by only our peers that we become distanced from the ‘real world’ and from people who are not between the ages of 18-22. Hearing about the struggles couples have faced in marriage and having students be more exposed to how marriage is both difficult and wonderful, and to have examples of healthy and faith-filled marriages would be beautiful because it can be often hard to find happy and faithful couples.

    I think this is a great idea for a program at CUA. My only caution is that while marriage is a beautiful vocation, that many are called to, most college students are not currently called to marriage, rather they are called to live as students, friends, and some as boyfriends/girlfriends. While seeing beautiful Christian marriages up close is helpful for all people no matter what their vocation, my experience at CUA is that many students who attend Campus Ministry events is that many are ‘marriage crazy’, living a single life but wishing to be on the marriage track. This leads to dissatisfaction about where one is in the present moment because one is always longing for what they want to have in the future and not finding joy in their time living their vocation to being a student.

    A suggestion I would make is that perhaps part of the program could focus on how growing in virtue is an important aspect of being prepared for and living out any vocation. That how you treat friends and family now, is how you will likely treat your future spouse. That preparing for your vocation to marriage happens best when you are discerning marriage with a specific person, your potential spouse. Before you are with this person your vocation focus should be on your primary vocation, namely holiness. The best preparation for your secondary vocation is by living out your primary vocation in the way that God is calling you to in this moment.

    1. MB, thank you for your comments and suggestions! You are absolutely right. One thing that Pam and I talked about during our meeting was the fact that we wanted to provide a space to talk about the vocation of marriage that wasn’t “vocation pressuring”. We don’t want, in any way, to make college students feel like they need to figure out their vocation NOW, or that if they don’t know what they are called to by the time they graduate they have done something wrong.

      And you’re right about “living a single life but on the marriage track” and the struggles that can come with that. In fact, I actually just published a new post about that struggle in my own life. Check it out if you’d like.

      So we are going to try to focus more on talking about the skills that all of the vocations demand, and how they can be formed in our lives now rather than trying to make people feel like they absolutely must figure it at this time in their lives.

      Again, thank you so much for your feedback! If this ministry does happen, we will be sure to take your cautions very seriously! 🙂

  2. I think this is a great idea. I think the idea of meeting married couples in a dinner setting is much more personal and engaging (and inviting) than sitting through another talk (not that talks are bad, our campus just has a lot of them each semester). I think both young and old couples would be good to hear from, and I would love to see some recent CUA alumni give these witnesses, in addition to faculty and staff. From my experience, I think some people need to hear from married couples that a lifetime, committed relationship can work out and can bring good things to their lives. I think it would also be good to hear advice from them on how they navigated their college years with the hope of getting married, and how they balance careers, children and marriage, and whatever struggles they may have.
    I was actually thinking about inviting a couple that are CUA alums for a Redefined event focused on married life this year (Ryan was right about the overlap)!

    1. Good call on the recent alumni! Pam and I were already brainstorming some couples that we know! The topic of how couples spent their time in college both living their vocation as a student and in some way preparing for the vocation of marriage is one that we really want to focus on.

      Jackie, if you want to work together on this and maybe do a collab with Redefined please let me know! Feel free to contact me! Seriously, I think thats a great idea.

  3. I think the idea of allowing students to witness holy authentic marriages as part of a discernment process is a beautiful one; however I think the main vocation I *rarely* hear discernment discussion about is the call to the single life! Singles called to a life of service to the church and greater community are also so needed in today’s society, as they can immerse themselves fully (without obligations of children/husband) in giving as a member of a religious community would, except perhaps in different ways and in secular settings as means of witness and evangelization (as married couples are also able to). I really only hear about single life as a “last resort” if someone does not enter religious life or isn’t able to find someone to marry…when are we ever able to hear about people talk about this beautiful and necessary vocation through the lens of Catholicism at CUA? I would love both of these vocations-marriage and single life- to become topics of greater discussion for future students:)

    1. Claire, you are so right. And this is something that Pam and I discussed as well. It is definitely something that we are going to bring to further meetings as we try to meet the needs of this campus!

      Thank you so much for your input!

  4. Love love Love it. My only concern is overlap with other orgs. When I was president of LOL we ran into that problem often and it was pretty detrimental to us and other groups. Try working with REdefined on it.

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