This is a blog.. When I started this blog, I had no idea who would read it (or if someone actually would take the time to read it), so I’ve always written with my own intentions in mind – and essentially with an audience of one – myself. I have so many random things floating through my head all day that sometimes I need to "Open up my head and let me out" as Dave Matthews would say. I’m not a wannabe columnist, nor am I writing an manifesto over here, I’m just pouring out my thoughts, so please take everything that I write here with a grain of salt. You’re welcome to reflect and offer your comments, but I’m not here to convince anyone of anything – simply just to express my thoughts and what’s going on in my life.
That said, I’m pretty frustrated this evening, and it comes back to an all-too-common topic that never seems to escape me – FOCUS and specifically the impact it has on things in campus ministry that I hold dear. I’m frustrated tonight because I’m not really feeling like my experiences with this matter are being seriously considered when discussions about how to deal with FOCUS are raised. And I get frustrated trying to understand why.
On one hand, I’m pissed that people don’t appreciate the situation and perspective that I offer. They aren’t the ones that had their thriving, life-giving campus ministry gutted the way ours has been. They didn’t have their wholesome, professional staff replaced by a shrink-wrapped, out-of-the-box ministry replica. They haven’t had to watch their own faith community transformed from self-thinking, strong, quality student leaders – into a " ‘Yes’ man" system, where students are formed more through peer pressure and heirical authority.
I don’t think that people who disagree with me are being naive, but I do believe that this situation just simply is not close to them. When it comes closer, and they watch their life-impacting and trans-formative ministry change before their very eyes – they’ll get it. My fear is that it’ll be too late, and I pray that it doesn’t happen to anyone. I don’t think that any students should have to go through the drastic changes that students in our ministry have.
And I still believe that FOCUS is a serious concern for NCSC… When I see what I’m going through in my own campus ministry. On Thursday I have to meet with my campus ministers to convince them that we need to renew our NCSC membership, as well ask humbly ask that they retract their request to stop receiving NCSC emails (and hope that they’ll pass them onto our student leadership team). We’ve been members for years, long before our last campus ministers were there, and I have records of members from J23 serving on past regional teams. It’s hard to believe that this would ever be an issue at our church… And yet I don’t believe this is a coincidence. I think what’s happened is that our campus ministry staff has become so immersed on FOCUS programming, that they feel comfortable in closing other windows of opportunity.
Additionally the was FOCUS works – they don’t really have student leaders. They do have their students that lead bible studies, but when it comes to any visioning/programming it’s all done by their FOCUS missionaries. I struggle because their vision of leadership is self-sustaining to the group. I believe when they speak about developing leaders they talk about grooming people to some day become FOCUS missionaries and help feed their organization. I don’t think there’s much discussion about how to be a well-rounded Catholic lay-person. I’ve watched students who went through the FOCUS program (and not become missioners) struggle with trying to integrate into Parish life, and years after their FOCUS time they’re still looking for their place in the church.
The point I’m trying to make is that they’re not ministering to the type of students that can really dialog with the student-led NCSC, and for us to try to work with them on a grass-roots level is not going to produce much fruit. FOCUS runs a pretty tight ship, and I’ve found they keep a tight grip on their programming and who interacts with their students. I think the key is to work through their leadership to identify and make connections with their student leaders. Only by getting their leadership to understand will we be able to have a productive relationship with FOCUS.
On the other hand, I’m really questioning whether my contributions are meaningless. I’m wondering if I’m so immersed by this experience, and have been harmed so much by this whole situation – that I’m to bitter to stay partial about this. I don’t trust this organization (which I feel is for good reason), but should that really allow other people to look at those in the same way? We should go into this situation with an open mind, and are my prejudices preventing this group from doing this?
This adds a level of complexity in my discernment for NCSC Leadership and this next year… I’m seriously wonder if I’m one of those people that should be carted off to one of those islands that bitter and old people go and "retire". I wonder if my feelings about this situation will never change, and thus I cannot make any meaningful contribution regarding this subject. More so, I wonder if my presence in the discussion would actually hinder a meaningful dialog between the two groups. I always thought that I had an insight that I could offer from my experience, but now I’m wondering if I was wrong…