College ministries prepare for new school year

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

Michael Huynh, director of campus ministry at SUNY Oswego, has been preparing for the new school year in earnest. The ministry, based at the Hall Newman Center on campus, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Huynh was appointed August 2005.

College chaplains strive to form a searching, believing, loving and worshiping presence on their campuses. They respond to the spiritual need of the community through providing catechesis, pastoral counseling, personal development, spiritual development, spiritual direction, vocational discernment, justice education, service and retreat opportunities. They also coordinate the diverse gifts of students within liturgy, programming and interaction between the campus and local community.

Huynh is promoting a Catholic presence on the Oswego campus and has planned many activities for the upcoming school year. “These activities are fun and provide opportunities for getting together in faith,” said Huynh. “We’re going to have a ‘welcome back’ picnic soon and we will provide pizza after Mass.”

On Sept. 18, new students will attend a retreat at Alverna Heights in Fayetteville with students from Syracuse University and SUNY Cortland.

Huynh listed the many ways in which the students are involved in the surrounding community. They regularly serve breakfast at the Salvation Army, teach religious education to the children of SUNY Oswego’s faculty and staff, participate in the annual Crop Walk and facilitate many retreats for high school students.

Next semester, the young people will travel to Nazareth Farm, a rural outreach center in Salem, W. Va., to lend their service for one week. “It’ll enable them to witness the Gospel being lived out,” said Huynh.

Six ministerial functions reflect the Church’s general mission on campus and the distinctive situation of higher education today. They are the following: forming the faith community, appropriating the faith, forming the Christian conscience, educating for justice, facilitating personal development and developing leaders for the future.

Campus ministers have a unique responsibility to enhance the presence and the ministry of the church within higher education and to influence the future of the church and society with the message of the Gospel. This challenging ministry requires talented and gifted people to serve this mission.

A campus minister is expected to have a basic understanding of Roman Catholic teaching.

A Catholic campus minister should be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church, nourish his or her faith through participation in a worshipping Catholic community and a commitment to prayer and spiritual growth, publicly adhere to church teaching and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association Code of Ethics and demonstrate a balanced lifestyle, showing concern for the emotional, intellectual, physical, psychological and spiritual components of one’s life.

At the present time, campus ministers are faced with challenging opportunities to build up the faith community on campus and to promote the well-being of higher education and society.

The church’s support of campus ministry began with the Newman Movement, a lay initiative that began in the U.S. in 1883. Farsighted leaders, recognizing that the growing number of Catholics attending public institutions needed support and instruction in their religious heritage, responded by establishing clubs for Catholic students.

The second stage began with the 1908 establishment of the first association of Catholic clubs in state universities.

In the third stage, beginning after Vatican II and continuing until the present, the church has grown in appreciation and support of campus ministry.

“This is a very vital ministry to the church,” said Father James Lang, Vicar for Parishes and former campus chaplain. “We need to let people discover what God-given gifts they have and that they can use them wherever they are.

“We have some great ministers out there. Huynh is doing a phenomenal job.”

Father Lang served as college chaplain at SUNY Oswego from 1981 to 1991. He then went on to serve in the same capacity at Syracuse University for eight years. He describes it as “the most favorite time of my life.”

“I’ve always worked with young people and loved the academic life,” said Father Lang. “I find the atmosphere enlivening. I think young people are deeply spiritual. They are looking to make a connection to the theory that is being taught in the classroom and how it applies to their life.”

Father Lang said he finds it most rewarding to encourage young people to develop the potential they don’t see themselves.

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