Does UMAC spelled backwards = FUBAR?

Okay, the letters don’t really match, but with the way things are going in these meetings, it might as equate into the spelling.  Last night we had another UMAC meeting, and as always, lived up to it’s regularly scheduled drama and excitement, even more-so because we went over.  The meeting’s scheduled to end at 9pm, but I didn’t pull into my parking lot until 10:15pm.  So yeah, one of those nights.

I’m not really sure where to begin, I don’t think my thought-process or your reading experience would not be well-served by recapping the entire 3-hour meeting, but there are a few points & statements that spoke out to me:

The University Ministry "core" staff (for lack of a better term – which consists of the two University Ministers and the FOCUS campus director) drafted a mission & vision statement, along with a 1 year plan and solicited UMAC for feedback (the main topic on the agenda for this evening)  The reasoning surrounding creating a Mission & Vision was based on the UM Staff’s perception that there was not a smooth transition between our former Campus Ministers and our current staff, resources were not available and a Mission/Vision statement did not exist

The mission statement frankly reads more like the FOCUS mission statement, then anything that was part of the institutional memory at John XXIII.  The statement includes words like "the Magisterium and all of her teachings" and "The commission of evangelization", not only that, but the lone reference to the "Empowered By the Spirit" document which has shaped our Campus Ministry program, was referenced incorrectly, calling it the NCCB when it should be USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).  While reading it to us, the Campus Minister actually needed help with the acronym, which leads me to question just how much they’ve read the letter.

At this point concerns were raised specifically to the process of how this document was drafted – that it was done between only three people without any collaboration or buy-in from stake-holders.   Additionally many people had problems with the wording (which I specified above).  At this point the meeting started getting a little out of control, with the discussion somehow off-track to topics like Church Teaching & the Infallibility of the Pope and pornography in CSU libraries (don’t ask me how we got to that topic).  It was definitely getting out of hand.

I tried to do what I personally could to shift topics back on track, offering my feedback, expressing my disappointment that the 6 Aspects of Campus Ministry in Empowered were not better incorporated, that their document virtually had no mention of Social Justice issues (which are two of the defined aspects!) or much in the way of forming Christian Leaders for the Future.  I then tried to offer an alternative suggestion and threw out possible utilizing the Campus Ministry Leadership Institute as opportunity to structure their visioning & planning.  I didn’t wordsmith their document or tore it apart, and I was careful not make any criticism that could perceived as a personal attack.  But I fear that my suggestions, along with everything I said that night fell on deaf ears.

As the meeting progressed things got more out of control, which resulted in one of the Campus Ministers becoming outwardly emotional.  Somehow this got back to the well-told tale of "We never wanted the staff there, we never wanted FOCUS and now we’ll never trust them."  The reason I use the term "well-told" and seem apathetic is because this discussion has taken place at more than half of our UMAC meetings, and it seems that we always go back to re-hashing the same points.  We have to assure the UM Staff that it’s not the fact they were chosen (or "brought here"), but the frustration lies with the process in which it happened (developing multiple search committees, soliciting feedback from all of these advisory groups, only to later have the Pastor completely break down this process, take matters into his own hands).

I may be cold, but it’s really time to grow up and move on.  First off, I have no idea how the Pastor could ever think it’d be a good idea to tell his staff that no one wanted them there.  Maybe he was trying to go Coach Boone in Remember the Titans, motivating his team with "No one thinks you can do it, but I believe in you.  Prove them wrong."  But obviously this has done more harm than any good it could have ever done.

As for the campus minister that got emotional – I’m sorry, but you need to find some way to heal and move on.  I remember the first time he cried, and I felt bad for what he went through (probably the same way some UMAC members felt last night), but when this is the 8th time I’ve seen him get emotional, and all I could really think was "Here we go again!".  I’m not completely heartless, but my patience has completely worn thin.  Someone I listen to on the radio always says "There’s no crying at work.", and that could be more true.  Obviously there are exceptions to the rule (like a death in the family), but the reason this is a rule is because you need to find some productive way to release your emotion.  If you keep crying it work, you need to stop taking things so personally…

…which I think is the heart of the matter.  The UM Staff at this point cannot take any form of criticism.  Last night they were literally asking for it, drafting this statement and asking for feedback, but when people even try to frame it in the most constructive manner, it’s still taken personally.

I’m not a therapist – I just play one on TV – but the UM Staff’s problem is that they’re ignorant and arrogant – and you can’t be both.  You can be arrogant about a situation if you are the authority of your topic and know what you’re talking about – we’ll give you room.  You can be ignorant if you approach a situation with humility and are willing to learn – we’ll be patient. You can’t be both – which is what I think in many things the UM Staff does, is happening.

I have problem with the fact that they always play the victim card and get defensive.  They constantly play their fiddle about "the rough transition" between UM Staff and that "they walked in with no vision or resources in place".  You guys built the house you’re living in.  While you only had a week to knowledge transfer with the previous University Minister (the short time-table was dictated by the Pastor to begin with), you had a wealth of knowledge available in myself, other members of Spirit Fire (2 which have been intimately involved with UM programming), as well as many former student leaders who were passionate about University Ministry at John XXIII.  The leadership’s inability to hear criticism or suggestion (ignorance + arrogance) has been the undoing of University Ministry at John XXIII.  The unwillingness of the UM Staff to learn from the institutional memory has driven that resource away, to the point of virtual extinction.

During these last few months I’ve worked hard to shape my feedback so it can in no way be perceived personally, and I’ve also made it a point to not offer any criticism without an alternative solution (i.e. "You don’t incorporate Empowered aspects, but here is a program that could really help you.").  Nothing helps!  My comments are still largely ignored, and from my perspective I’m dismissed because of who I am.  The majority of my campus ministry knowledge came from my experience with our former Campus Minister.  I feel like I’m seen in some circles in the staff as "the Pegge-incarnate"- any comments are make must be comments she would have made.  They don’t understand the intentions of the previous program, and because they don’t understand they fear it, which is why I’m ignored.

The meeting ended with another pearl of wisdom from the Pastor, basically stating "When it comes to staff & advisory groups, I’ll always side with the staff and support them."  In reflection I could see what he was trying to convey, but he failed miserably and I left the meeting feeling like our advisory group adds no value.  If the Pastor will always side with the staff and the staff does not listen to the advisory group, then what does the advisory group have to contribute?  I don’t blame the Pastor for necessarily feeling that way, but does he really have to vocalize it in front of the advisory groups?  Basically what I heard is "If you disagree with us – the Pastor and staff – then you don’t matter."

Why do I keep going to these meetings is beyond me…  I’m not sure how this group will contribute to the bottom line University Ministry at John XXIII, right now I don’t think those contributions offered by this group are welcomed, which ultimately makes me feel unwelcome.  With the group possibly being obsolete, what gifts do I have to offer to this group?