As this past academic year came to a close, so did my time serving as a student minister. I’ve written about student ministry a handful of times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), so if you’ve been following the blog I’m sure you’re at least slightly aware of what I’m talking about – in fact, my first post ever (#6) was about student ministry. So here I am two years later, and “student minister” is no longer a title that goes into forming my identity.
From the outside, my time as a student minister ending seems like a natural occurrence that came with graduation. It has a clear end as a chapter in my life – there was no decision made, no discernment of action or anything like that, rather it was simply the end, the right time for this job or ministry to come to a close. Moreover, it was an end that I clearly knew was coming, I was not blindsided by this – student ministry has always had a clear start and end date.
So why then, as the end drew closer was I a consistent ball of emotion who wanted to savor every second left and who wanted to postpone it as much as possible? Let me tell you, it was not the hours it took to clean up from CUA on TAP, or the chicken nugget grease that we could never get off of those cookie sheets after cellar night, it was not the late night Wednesday bed time or early morning Thursday Mass wake up call, it was not all of the situations I found myself in that training did not prepare me for or all of the moments of ministry that we still can’t figure out how to put on a resume….no. Rather, it was all of the beautiful faces you’ll see in the photos below.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…my community stole my heart from the very first week of ministry this year. They challenged me and shaped me in ways I never expected this year. They stripped me to the core of who I am and taught me how to love without counting the cost. And about three weeks from graduation, I realized that in a short while I would no longer be gathering with these people almost every day. No longer would we be one cohesive community who all share the singular vision of serving our campus and serving each other. No longer would I be able to walk into the campus ministry lounge or House or Cellar and undoubtedly find one of them there and be welcomed with a smile that radiates pure joy. Every Sunday we would no longer gather for community dinner, or join each other for House Mass every Tuesday, or have Prayer Time (which was essentially share time) or Fun Time (which involved Conor’s British (?) Mafia voice, Sarah’s trampoline, late night basketball games,journeying to the Dominican House, and rat hunting adventures) once a week; we would no longer praise our Lord together or host 150 people in our living room every Wednesday, and we would no longer participate in the most intimate Mass I’ve ever experienced every Thursday morning or get jokingly yelled at by Father Jude at every pastoral staff meeting (Brian and Jonathan, get your feet off the coffee table).
I knew that our friendship would continue, but I also knew that it would never take its current form again. This community existed in a time and place that will never happen again. And I became deeply aware of the fact that in each interaction with my community, I experienced a unique moment in history that I could never get back. At times I was overwhelmed by sadness at this reality and couldn’t understand why I was, in the words of another community member, “being called to detach from something so good and so clearly God’s will.”
Meanwhile, as I’m processing a million emotions a day and trying to understand all of this, it is still the Easter season in the life of the Church and we are getting closer and closer to the Feast of the Ascension. The weeks leading up to the Ascension are filled with Christ trying to explain and prepare His Apostles for His departure. In this season, you’ll find things like:
“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
– Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Easter
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’”
-Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter
It eventually hit me that this season of the Church was very fitting for the season of my life. Just as Jesus was preparing the disciples for His own departure, so too was He preparing me, and our entire community, for our departure from each other. The more I prayed over this, the more I realized a few very important things:
First, it was Christ who formed our community, who animated it with love, and who served as its foundation. It was Christ who I fell in love with within each and every community member – and despite the end of our time as a community, Christ will continue to be the foundation of any relationship that carries forth from it. Moreover, Christ should be the foundation of my life, and any time I feel myself aching for community or fulfillment, I am really aching for Him. As much as I could say this community has been like a “heaven on earth” for me, it could never compare to heaven itself.
Second, Christ designates specific times and places to form community and fulfill His people through it. Despite how good the time He spent with His disciples here on earth was, it was within the divine will for that time to come to an end – likewise, as much work as God did in my life through this community, I had to trust that He will continue to be present to me and work in my life through this community coming to an end and in the various places He will lead me hereafter. Moreover, God’s work is not bound by a calendar schedule and relationships built on Him are not either. If the Apostles could handle Christ leaving them through the gift of the Holy Spirit, then I should be able to handle this shift of my life as well.
Third, the Ascension is proof of Christian hope. Ascension Sunday fell on the first day of Senior Week (one week from graduation), and the homily given very fittingly pointed out to all seniors present that as Christians, we do not despair. Because of the Ascension, and because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we no longer have room to fear the future – if we believe what Christ said, then we do not dare despair over the end of our time as friends here, but rather we are to be filled with hope that God will fulfill His promises to us.
So here’s to living in a spirit of Hope – of Joyful Anticipation, for all of the ways God will work in our lives and all of the ways He will bring us back together.
& Dear Student Ministers,
for celebrating countless birthdays and milestones as a community,
for all things Papal Visit related,
for each one of you ladies (and the massive clumping that occurred on women’s retreat),
for baseball games,
for playing a ridiculous prank on Father Jude,
for the best Luau ever,
and for every moment in between,