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.