06 May 2011

Paprocki considers Newman Centers and asks intercession of St. Monica

In Bishop Paprocki's column in the Catholic Times this week I received an honorable mention as he talks about the good done by Newman Centers.

The text of his column follows, with my emphases:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In my conversations with parents, one of their most painful realities is when their grown children stop practicing the Catholic faith. This often happens despite tremendous investments of their time, energy and personal resources to make sure that their children are brought up properly in the church. In such cases, parents often feel responsible for their children’s abandonment of the faith. They sometimes even feel guilty or like failures as good Catholic parents, accusing themselves of not doing enough for their children’s religious upbringing.

To such parents I urge them not to be so hard on themselves. There are many factors at play here. The most basic is that everyone is endowed with a free will to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed to be happy in the Garden of Eden, yet they disobeyed him. That did not make God a bad Father. It just meant that human beings were weak and not perfect like God.

Moreover, it is not uncommon for young adults to go through a phase or stage in their lives when they are feeling their independence and are trying to assert their own identities apart from their parents. Ironically, this often involves a rejection of the things that are most dear to their parents, including their religion. Fortunately, this stage of life does not last forever and as young adults move into a more mature phase, they often come back to the values that they learned in childhood and adolescence.

Another very powerful factor is the strong influence of the secular culture which now pervades our society. This secularism is especially pronounced on the campuses of colleges and universities, unfortunately and regretfully even in some Catholic institutions of higher learning. The pain of watching children who go off to college where they will abandon the faith is aggravated by the fact that parents are paying thousands of dollars for college tuition, room and board in the hope of promoting the education and best interests of their children, only to see a very negative and undesired outcome, at least in the practice of religion.

The situation is not without hope, however. As I write this, I am on my way home from celebrating Mass and administering the sacrament of confirmation at the Newman Catholic Center at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston (don’t worry, my master of ceremonies, Father Daren Zehnle, is driving). Our Mass began on Sunday night at 9 p.m., yet the late hour did not dampen the energy and zeal for the faith that was evident among the college students in attendance.

The presence of a Catholic group on campus has been an important part of the life of the university community for over 70 years. Mr. Roy Lanham has been the director of Campus Ministry for the past 25 years. The chaplain is Father John Titus. With over 4,000 Catholic students enrolled at Eastern Illinois University, I am grateful to them for their fine work in keeping the flame of our Catholic faith alive on campus.

Similarly, we have the Catholic Newman Student Union (CNSU) at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (SIUE) in order to build the Catholic community on the SIUE campus.•Of the 15,000-plus students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, more than 3,000 are Catholic.•If young adults are to become full and active members of the church, then the church must be present to them during this crucial time of their lives. CNSU provides opportunities for students to develop relationships with God and others, through Catholic Mass, retreats and prayer services, social justice initiatives and social activities. Sister Claudia Calzetta, SL, serves the community as the Catholic Campus Ministry director and Father Tom McDermott, OP, is the celebrant for Sunday evening Mass.

There is a Newman Catholic Community at Millikin University in Decatur, and Catholic campus ministry is also provided at Blackburn College through Ss. Mary and Joseph Parish in Carlinville and at Illinois College and MacMurray College through Church of Our Saviour in Jacksonville.

In addition, there are two Catholic universities in our diocese: Benedictine University at Springfield, where Father Steven Janoski is campus minister, and Quincy University, served by Brother Edward-Marc Abrambosich, OFM, director of Campus Ministry, and Father Joseph Zimmerman, OFM, chaplain.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, Catholic mothers should also take hope from the example of St. Monica, whose son, Augustine, strayed from the faith for many years. She never gave up on him, however, and through her persistent prayer and persuasion, Augustine not only became a fervent Christian but also one of the most famous and influential saints in the history of the church.

My prayer is that St. Monica will intercede for all Catholic mothers whose children have fallen away from the faith, that they will return one day to full and active participation in the life of the church.

May God give us this grace. Amen.


  1. I think sometimes parents do an okay job on explaining what we believe as Catholics, but totally leave out why we believe what we believe. Then, whenever a teenager's faith gets challenged, they haven't got the slightest idea how to explain the logic behind their faith. After that, either they do countless hours of research and make their faith their own and begin to understand it, or totally reject it.

  2. I agree with the basic thrust of what Bishop Paprocki says, and fully agree with what Gabby says. I can also speak from the perspective of a professor whose students occasionally tell him they don't know what to believe as a result of his World History I class. It's not just the historicization of monotheistic religions, which probably doesn't even faze Catholics that much, though it clashes with the pre-existing beliefs of those Protestants dedicated to Biblical literalism. It's the very plurality of religions, all of which make sense on their own terms.

  3. To continue in a new comment, many students seem to have grown up in a completely Christian bubble, and college is the first time they leave it. The world, however, is not a bubble. A retired, non-traditional student commented on the change he's seen in his life. It used to be other religions were completely foreign, and now there's a Buddhist temple in his sleepy, mid-sized central Pennsylvania city. I suspect a lot of Christian cultural anxiety comes from these sorts of changes and the general adjustment of the culture to accommodate them. Christians who have always taken their faith for granted, and even equate "Christianity" with religion in general, try to salvage and old world by using the power of the state to promote their beliefs.

  4. To bring this back to the point, I grew up hearing that Christianity was true because, for example, the apostles performed miracles and gave witness to the resurrection. The existence of God was also taken as given. But then you eventually enter a world where you learn that other religions believe in their own miracles, and have different explanations for the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Of course students go exploring. It's human. And then too often, the authority figures who tried to promote their Christianity don't know how to deal with the ideological competition.

  5. Yes, the inability of a great number of Catholics to answer even the most basic questions of their faith lead to no small amount of difficulties.

    In terms of religious pluralism, the Church makes her teachings known in the document Dominus Iesus, available here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html