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Walking In Faith as a Carroll Saint

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Carroll Magazine and has been adapted for the web

by Patty White | Class of 1982

 

Walking In Faith as a Carroll Saint

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or over forty years, Carroll College’s Campus Ministry program has been central to the Carroll experience—challenging students and shaping lives—so that whatever path we may take, we know there is a purpose in our lives and a grounding in our identity as part of something much greater. Through the years, students and staff have come and gone, programming and events are updated or added, and now with the addition of All Saints Chapel, how we gather to worship has changed. With these changes, you may wonder if the essence of the faith experience at Carroll is something altogether different than your own experience as a student. As an alum who has had the privilege of being on campus for many of those forty years, I believe the answer is both “yes” and “no,” and is one that reflects who Carroll is as a Catholic, diocesan college.

The opening of All Saints Chapel last fall (in what was formerly “Old North”) provides a location at the center of campus that has become the hub of Carroll’s spiritual life. The ability to worship together in a singular space—dedicated to the sacraments, holy in its reverence, and surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation—has had a profound effect on those who worship together each Sunday night in All Saints. However, the sense of community and the opportunity to “rest our hearts in God” is a constant theme that most Carroll students have experienced through the years. It is at the core of Carroll’s ministry to its students and can be found far beyond the walls of the new chapel.

“The heart of our program,” shared Fr. Marc Lenneman, Carroll College Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, “is the encounter with Jesus Christ. That encounter shapes everything—giving us our identity and our mission. Whether receiving Him in the Eucharist, hearing Him speak through the Scriptures, contemplating His beauty in creation, or discovering Him in others, especially through acts of service, everything we are about as a Catholic campus ministry moves from and directs us toward Christ.” Through their experiences in Campus Ministry, students can discover the unique calling God has placed on their hearts, thereby living lives of profound purpose marked by radical generosity. When leaving All Saints Chapel, the words of Jesus can be seen etched into the wood of the balcony as a reminder of this calling—“Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8)

For decades, Carroll’s Campus Ministry program has provided retreats for students to step out of their day-to-day concerns and find space to listen to God, to look deeply within themselves, and to embrace the adventure of life lived beyond themselves. Students today have many opportunities to experience this through a very personal journey, one that is different for each student who decides to participate.

Starting in the fall, freshmen and sophomore retreats are held at Legendary Lodge on Salmon Lake, 94 miles northwest of campus. Here, surrounded by Montana’s natural beauty, students of all faiths begin their faith journey at Carroll with one another or are reconnected with their classmates after the summer break. Each semester, students have the opportunity to participate in Search weekend, a retreat that has been a part of the Carroll experience for over 45 years, or to venture outside and enjoy God’s creation during the February ski retreat.

Over spring break, Campus Ministry embarks on excursions across the U.S. to locations such as East Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and Rochester, New York, as part of the Headlights immersion trips. While each community provides very different experiences, each trip focuses on an understanding of Catholic social teaching and provides opportunities to meet people whose lives are dedicated to social justice, to encounter people who live in the reality of poverty and homelessness, and to interact with immigrants.

Over winter break, Headlights students are provided a similar immersion experience closer to home, traveling to Browning, Montana, to spend time with the Blackfeet people as well as the Christian Brothers and the volunteers at the De La Salle School. Participants come away with a better understanding of the realities and needs of the Blackfeet people and the economic, educational, cultural and social challenges they experience, as well as the beauty and wisdom that they have to offer the world.

Retreats and immersion trips are all grounded in the day-to-day experiences of Carroll students on campus. Through their daily interactions with one another, seeking the counsel of a peer minister, or discussions about faith in Cor and Via—the men’s and women’s groups—students are welcomed and challenged to grow in their faith through dialogue, prayer and the sacraments.

Many students come from other faith or non-faith backgrounds and yet find a place to explore a deeper expression of their faith while they are at Carroll. As Fr. Marc reiterates each year, “We offer a radical openness to everyone. We meet them where they are at with openness and freedom.”

When contemplating the question of the faith experience at Carroll and if it has changed through the years, I find myself returning to my original response of both “yes” and “no” with Fr. Marc summing it up perfectly,

“Conversations and programs may change as we attend to the needs of those living in a given time and culture but the love of God made manifest in the life of Jesus Christ is constant and unchanging.” Fr. Marc added, “Our desire to encounter the living God and be transformed by Him remains the same so that our restless hearts may rest in Him.”

Kelly’s Story

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Kelly Taft, who graduated this past May, led Carroll’s Family Promise activities this summer. Family Promise is a partnership with local churches to provide meals and housing for homeless families as they work with advocates to secure homes and employment in the Helena community. This fall, she begins a year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps in Savannah, Georgia. Kelly shares her experience with Campus Ministry here.

The inscription in All Saints’ Chapel,

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give,” reminds me that I have received God’s love without cost to me (John 3:16); now, it’s up to me to spread God’s love to the world.

The funny thing is oftentimes we seek to serve others, but what happens is we get served ourselves. One of my favorite Campus Ministry activities is the spring and winter break Headlights trips. I went on my first Headlights trip my junior year to Los Angeles with our campus minister Dan Thies, who had each student share every night where we saw Jesus during the day. He said, “It’s really cool because at the beginning of the trip you might be stumped thinking about your day, and then by the end of the trip you’ll be actively seeking Jesus out every day.” I think that is the mission of every Christian—to actively seek Jesus out every day. In 2017, I had the opportunity to volunteer in a refugee camp in Greece, which was a dark time for me because I saw so much suffering and trauma that I questioned God’s goodness.  Fr. Marc says that in time of hardship, we go back to the level of our training. At Carroll, I was trained to find Jesus every day. In the middle of my volunteering stint, I realized I had lacked in seeking out Jesus, so as I was sitting on the beach praying one day, I asked Jesus to come sit with me. Lo and behold, a young man came up to me and I thought in my mind, “that’s Jesus, right there.” He was a 20-something-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who, not wanting to stay in the former military prison turned refugee camp, was living in an abandoned building known to have fights every night. Who would’ve thought that Jesus would come to me in the person of a refugee? I realized in the midst of my desolation, Jesus wants to meet me right where I am and love me for who I am. That’s the beauty of service, too, that in trying to do good for others we find profound love in the craziest places.

Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” During Headlights preparation we always pray with this passage and Dan says something brilliant like, “Jesus is clearly among the poor.”  However, I realized during my time at Carroll that Jesus has a special option for the poor and vulnerable, and I have found this most prevalent in our society with the elderly. During my time at Carroll, I had the privilege of caring for an 83-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s. One day, her neighbor was struggling to eat her food during lunch and immediately I saw Jesus saying, “I was hungry and you gave me food.” So, I spoon-fed her, and it was a beautiful experience because I did not visit my elderly friend with the agenda to feed Jesus; Jesus just shows up in the most unlikely places. Carroll taught me why we do what we do: we serve and we love because we are loved. We find Jesus everyday, even when we have tests and papers. Finding Jesus and serving Jesus in our society brings a deeper love and joy as we fulfill our vocations.

“You have made us for yourself, Oh God; And our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

-St. Augustine

Baird’s Story

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aird Linke, class of 2017, served in the Peer Ministry program during his junior and senior years. Peer ministers are a group of 15 students who live in the residence halls as part of Campus Ministry’s outreach. These students carry on the tradition of fostering fellowship and goodwill on campus, work on building community on the floors, and help in creating a positive campus atmosphere for students. Most importantly, these students are available to be a presence on campus, encouraging students to make their relationship with God an important part of their journey. Following graduation, Baird completed a year of service in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is returning to the states this fall to serve as the Innovation Coach at the Riverside Innovation Hub at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and will enter the ministry program there. Baird’s journey as a student at Carroll, and now as a graduate, was and continues to be influenced greatly by his time as a peer minister.

As a Lutheran attending a Catholic school, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been so welcomed to share and grow my faith at Carroll. I was impressed by the way Campus Ministry starts with meeting people where they are, and they were there for me with my questions and took my experience seriously. I admired the openness and attention they brought to their work and I wanted to be a part of it. I was a peer minister from 2015 to 2017, and in the span of those two years my faith-life developed into something I wouldn’t have been able to recognize before. I learned to love and be loved in ways I’d never experienced. The program pushed me to make my life an expression of my faith and invited me to learn and love different traditions to deepen and widen my relationship with God. Walking with people with different gifts, joys, and struggles during my time at Carroll challenged me to know myself first and foremost as a child of God and let everything follow from that. Campus Ministry didn’t make me into a different person, it empowered me to be who I’ve always been. That has led me to Argentina for the last year to walk with the Church here and meet God in unfamiliar faces and places, including myself. Without the faith Carroll nurtured in me, I would not be able to meet the challenges here but for the gifts they carry, and I know that same faith will continue to support and lead me in the future. That’s not surprising, of course. Like everything else at Carroll, faith is not for school, but for life.

Note: Alumni, we’d love to hear stories of your experiences with Campus Ministry at Carroll College and how those encounters have formed your journey in faith in the years since you were a student. Send us an email (editor@carroll.edu) or post a story or photo on one of our many social media channels. Campus Ministry welcomes all prayer intentions. Send these to mlenneman@carroll.edu. You can learn more about Campus Ministry at www.carroll.edu/campus-life/campus-ministry.