Seek the ‘Heart of Campus’

Our high school seniors have graduated, and our college students are home for the summer. For many families, this is a special time together for a few months. It is exciting to see all that our young people have accomplished and the ways they have learned more about who God has created them to be.

Nonetheless, there are times when our hearts are worried for them, especially as worldly influences try to shake the foundation that has been given to them. We do not belong to the world; we belong to Christ. However, the prevailing culture too often rejects the good and the beautiful, the message of hope that only Christ and His Church can offer.

Some will argue that the contemporary university has capitulated to this culture, having lost her heart for pursuing truth. I do recognize the effects of this culture on college students, especially the ways they are encouraged to reject the truths of the faith and the goodness of the human person as created by God.

However, I did not find these years to be devastating to my faith. As an undergraduate student at Kutztown University, I had the St. Christopher Catholic Newman Center as a “home away from home.” On Kutztown’s campus, the Newman Center sits across from Old Main – quite literally, at the heart of campus.

It was a place where our chaplain, faculty advisor, and volunteers provided for us a solid community centered in our shared Catholic faith. We formed authentic friendships there. We had real conversations about values, our dignity as human persons, the lures of the world, and the teachings of the Church.

Many times, St. Christopher was an oasis for me from distractions, especially at a time when I seriously was considering entering the seminary to discern a vocation to the Priesthood. Most importantly, it was a place where we had access to the Sacraments and to a peaceful, quiet chapel where the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament was reserved. In short, our “refuge” was more than a place. It was a Person.

Each time I acknowledge the toxicity of some of the influences college students face, I am reminded of this holy ground where the Lord drew me closer to Him. I am reminded of the growth I experienced in my faith. The Person of Jesus Christ, from His very Heart, continues to invite young people to seek Him on university campuses, even sometimes amid chaos and confusion. Our Lord wants our young people to see that their desire for purpose will be fulfilled in Him, no matter how far they have walked away from Him.

I am indebted to my university’s Newman Center during this formative, exciting chapter of my own life. If you or a loved one is heading to college this fall, do a little bit of homework over the summer. Look up your school’s Catholic Campus Ministry. See if there is a Newman Center or a nearby parish with Mass and confession times for you.

Check out organizations like the Fellowship for Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) that provide great opportunities for you to grow and take ownership of your faith. In short, seek the true “Heart of campus.”

And for those of us who already have closed that chapter, let us pray for our young people. In this month of June, entrust them to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Amid many voices, Our Lord’s Heart desires to clearly speak truth and love to theirs. May His Heart be their refuge and their strength.

By Father Matthew Kuna, assistant pastor of St. Catharine of Siena, Reading and chaplain of Berks Catholic High School, Reading.


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