Episode 5: Reflections on the Newman Centre and other Unsung Heroes – my experience in campus ministry at McGill
Tuesday November 28, 2017 started out as an ordinary day for me. Follow-up emails and phone calls to parish leaders in the morning, and a series of meetings with my vitality advisory committee in the afternoon. But then after work I was treated to a very special evening at a very special place.
Members of the board of directors, staff, and students of the Newman Centre of McGill University held a pot luck dinner in honor of the completion of my six years of service as their campus minister.
It was a night of delicious food, and reminiscing on all the memories that we have built together as a community. Especially touching were the testimonies of former students and friends from many years ago who came out to show their appreciation for me and for the Newman Centre.
People who work in pastoral ministry I’m sure will agree with me that we can sometimes feel a bit like farmers. We scatter seeds of God’s word in people’s lives, and sometimes we are not always around to see those seeds grow into plants that bear fruit.
This is especially true in campus ministry where most of our students are in and out in four years. But nights like Tuesday remind us that our labours are not in vain and that God does bless his servants’ efforts with fruit on His own time.
The 11 years I spent frequenting that cute early 20th century era mansion house on Peel street that is home to the Newman Centre and my interactions with all its staff that preceded me have had a massive impact on my becoming the committed Catholic and the missionary disciple of Jesus Christ that I am today.
Her bible studies helped me to gain a mature appreciation of the beauty of God’s word in sacred scripture. Her Saturday Night Suppers and student socials allowed me to build lasting friendships with other young Catholics that I still cherish to this day. Her lectures and academic events gave me a taste of the rich theological tradition of the Catholic Church. Her social justice events allowed me to experience the joy that comes from living out Jesus’ call to love even the least of our brothers and sisters. Her retreats helped me experience the power of contemplative prayer and learn how to speak to God as a friend. Her Faith Study small groups helped me to encounter Christ in a personal way and build my relationship with Him. Her catechesis and RCIA helped me to take a closer look at my specific questions about the content of our faith and the moral teachings of the Church. Her ecumenical events allowed me to experience both the beauty of fellowship with other Christians, as well as, the pain caused by the divisions in the Church that persist to this day. Her liturgies and accessible sacraments helped me worship God with unconfined joy and remain close to Him event amid the craziness of school.
But above all else, Newman Centre, from my time as a student, through my years on staff and up to this day, has always been for me and many others, a home away from home.
Today, while I no longer work directly for the mission of the Newman Centre, I do have the unique privilege of working for arguably the greatest of the unsung heroes of the Newman Centre, the Pillars Trust Fund. That long list of good works that I mentioned above that so affected my life personally and the lives of many other young adults would not have been possible without the consistent reliable support of the Pillars Trust Fund.
From its inception under the leadership of the late Bishop Crowley, the Pillars Trust Fund has been committed to supporting the Newman Centre, notably by assuming responsibility for a significant portion of its operating budget through its annual fundraising campaign. It is this support that has enabled the Newman Centre to do all the things that she does to enrich the lives of the students and faculty at McGill, one of Canada’s leading universities.
So while on Tuesday night I personally received the applause and edification of the Newman community for my brief contribution to her life and mission, today I would like to take this opportunity to raise my glass in toast to the men and women of the Pillars Trust Fund, who have worked so hard over the years to raise and manage the funds necessary to keep the Newman Centre open, permitting her (and other organizations like her) to actively build up the Church in the English-speaking Catholic community of Montreal.
So I invite you to please pray for the new pastoral team at the Newman Centre and for all the past and present Board members of the Pillars Trust Fund who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make Newman’s mission possible.
Our lady of Ville Marie,
Pray for us!
If you’re excited by the work you’re seeing in your community, especially through those efforts of the Pillars Trust Fund, please consider donating to our campaign: Click here