NCSC – J23 Meeting Locker Room Reaction…

I am literally writing this on the heels of my NCSC/J23 meeting, and I’m basically processing my meeting on my blog while in my head.  You could say that you’re getting the "locker room reaction".  I base this analogy off of football games, where the media goes into the locker room right after the game.  At that point adrenaline is high, emotions are rampant and every once and a while you’ll get an outburst of emotion.  It could be anger, to exuberant joy, to crying (unless you’re Kansas City Chief’s coach Dick Vermeil, who cries after every game).  Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn on the faucets today, but the point I’m making is that right now I’m led by emotion, and after reason sets in I might feel differently…

The meeting went about as I expected – which isn’t necessarily good.  It could have gone better than I was hoping for, but then again it could have gone worse.  However, I did leave disappointed with the result.

Good Things: I think I did a pretty decent job of going in with an open mind.  I didn’t make any personal attacks or belittle their opinions by any means.  I think they made an honest effort to listen to what I had to say.  They asked some very good questions, made some very challenging statements; and I manged to give them an appropriate response for each of them.  As far as discussions go, I think it was quite effective.

Bad Things:  Well the worst thing – I went in there hoping that there would be some change, and I left believing that there won’t be a significant change any time soon.  I really didn’t hear any logically objective concerns about our church’s involvement with NCSC.  All of the concerns I got were emotionally-led subjective concerns that namely one of the campus ministers had.  This person went to NCSC last year as a student, and I think when they went they had the expectation that the conference was going to be more like the FOCUS Conference.  While he was making his case he drew direct comparisons to the FOCUS Conference, alleging that the NCSC Conference was not as "spiritual" as FOCUS.  This person went home with a "bitter taste in his mouth" about the Conference and felt that his time would have been better spent attending the FOCUS Conference rather than the NCSC Conference.

Both Campus Ministers spoke about the fact that they didn’t know much about NCSC, and because they didn’t know much about it they didn’t feel comfortable "endorsing" NCSC with our campus ministry’s membership.

I responded with both of those concerns, conceding that perhaps the Conference didn’t meet the Campus Minister’s expectations of what "spirituality" meant.  I told him that I think that he connects with spirituality through catechises and liturgical sacraments, and while both were present at NCSC (there was daily Mass, two "big" Masses, Reconciliation, praise & worship, etc.), they were also integrated with all six aspects of Empowered By the Spirit.  There was so much more diverse programming available: from the opportunity to network with students from all over the country – with a variety of Campus Ministry programs and types, there were opportunities for students to have discussion about various international and social justice issues, there were opportunities for students to discern for leadership and connect with Campus Ministries more on a regional and national level, and I went on and on.  The point I was making that just because that particular student/campus minister didn’t get much out of the experience doesn’t mean other students took away much more.  It also doesn’t mean that this may be an unique opportunity to involve students who may not normally be involved in programming at J23.

In regards to their concern that they may not know much about it – I was deeply challenged by their sentiment in this statement.  Our campus ministry’s affiliation with NCSC was there before I came around to Campus Ministry, and was there long before any of the current campus ministry staff came around.  I struggle because they’re leaning too much on the inclination to fear something that they do not necessarily understand.  I attempted to draw some comparisons between our campus ministry’s affiliation with CCMA (Catholic Campus Ministry Association) and NCSC.  They hardly know anything about CCMA programming, yet somehow it’s very important that they become and remain members of CCMA.  Yet they use the same argument against the NCSC, even though these two groups are partner organizations.

I could go back and forth on points and counter-points, but I think that would be too tedious. However, I think that this issue is broken down in two ways: Methodology/Programming & Financials.

In regards to Methodology/Programing, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to come to a common understanding, or if they even want to.  The campus ministers speak about their lack of knowledge and experience in NCSC, yet they do not want to take the time or resources needed to learn more about it.  It was to my dismay to find that they actually had quite a bit of literature about NCSC, as well as all of the copies of the Collegian, the NCSC newsletter, yet they didn’t appear to read them or make their student leaders aware of those materials.  If you’re not going to break open the materials, it’s pretty hard to find value in them!

I think they feel threatened because 3 of the 4 students going to NCSC Conference are students that don’t regularly attend their weekly programming..  At the same time I would venture to say that all of these students who "got something" out of NCSC remain actively engaged in Parish life, are strong members in the Catholic Church, and through their NCSC involvement still have a strong connection to Campus Ministry.   There is part of me that is tempted to think that they’re prejudging the NCSC, simply based on the affiliation of myself and other students like me, who are no longer part of their programming.

I struggle with this because their role as Campus Ministers is not only to provide transforming and life-giving programming for college students, but to also identify and utilize resources and opportunities that would serve ALL students in their Campus Ministry.  This is a tried & true resource for Campus Ministry that has been around John XXIII for 15 years, yet they want to close the door on this because "students who are currently involved probably won’t get much out of this".  This is incredibly short-sighted and goes against what it means to be a campus ministry – you’re turning students away because you’re not willing or able to offer programming that serves them.  I’m not a relativist, two years ago John XXIII was a very life-giving, nurturing and challenging place, but now it’s no longer that for me.  Granted, I have changed over the years, but I think our faith community has been doing most of the changing.

Finances – this one should be a no-brainer but somehow this is a big issue.  Simply: THERE IS MONEY IN THE BUDGET FOR THIS!  There has always been, and unless they’ve made drastic cuts, there should be money for it this year.  Yet somehow they pedaled me this story about how they need to raise money for everything that they do – and they cannot do an activity if they don’t have a way to fund-raise for this.  I simply countered by asking them where their money to pay for CCMA dues comes from, do they have to fund-raise for it?  They didn’t have an answer to that question.  I asked them to discuss this with the Pastor and truly explore if there’s funding available.

I’m pissed because I’m lobbying heavily for our church to find $100 to renew our NCSC membership, yet someone behind the curtain can whip up $40k+ to keep FOCUS here.  Give me a break!

The finances are the least of my worry because I was graciously offered money to pay for the NCSC membership from our previous Pastor, who is now at another church.  While it’s very generous and a testament to how important experienced Campus Ministers consider the NCSC, it’s strange that another church is giving their offertory money to fund something that our church should automatically be doing.  At the same time this isn’t so much about money as it is about principle.  Truth be told, I have money from my Christmas bonus that I could use for the CM Membership renewal – but what’s the point if I (or another church) give our hard-earned money if the people receiving it aren’t willing to understand why it’s important enough for us to do this.  It’d be one thing if they couldn’t understand – education can fix that – but for them not willing to understand is the heart of the problem.

I guess they’re now going to go talk to the Pastor to see if they have the money available, but they indicated that they’d want to meet with me (and it would be great if "I could bring students that actually got something out of NCSC") to discuss this further.

I really don’t know where this is going to go…  Something tells me that NCSC will have Colorado State University membership in Lafayette, CO or we may end up forming the "Colorado State University Catholic Student Coalition" before this is all over.

Perhaps more to come as emotion subsides…