College Campus Ministry

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Opening a Space for Faith - MIT

No one ever said MIT students were boring. Whether it is a solar-powered phone charger installed on a backpack, the ISBN number of a favorite book engraved in a class ring, or a self-built motorized skateboard zooming down long hallways, Tricia Lester says that she has seen it all among MIT students. But the school's well-known strength in sciences and engineering can lead to some challenges as well. Lester, a FOCUS missionary on campus, notes that the competitive spirit and heavy workload can leave some students feeling isolated. There's also the danger of developing a skewed sense of self-worth based solely on achievement.
 
The Tech Catholic Community brings the light of the Gospel to these challenges by creating opportunities for relationships rooted in faith. In addition to the Catholic campus ministry office which runs much of the programming, MIT is also one of a hundred colleges across the US where the Fellowship of Catholic University Students places missionaries. Lester is one of four FOCUS members here who embody a discipleship model to share the Good News with the campus through personal interactions.
 
 
The uniqueness of the MIT environment is evident in some students' hesitation to give credence to anything that is not empirically proven. Where can faith find a place in a modern world where even love can be explained as "just a chemical reaction"? The challenge for Lester and other FOCUS missionaries is often simply to invite students to consider the possibility of belief in God. Lester does so by sharing her own story of encounter with Christ and also by encouraging people to see what happens when they sit in Christ's presence, especially at Eucharistic Adoration.
 
"That experience can help people to understand prayer as 'being with another,'" she says. She hopes that being in Jesus' presence will lead students to the same realization she has come to about Him: "You are real, and You love me."
 
Students respond in different ways based on where they are on their faith journey. Some deepen their already-existing Catholicism and become Bible study leaders. Others who are still not sure what they believe come to events as a way of continuing to honestly seek the truth. In addition to multiple Bible study groups that encourage community-building, the Tech Catholic Community also has plenty of regular events that create space for devoted believers or new seekers to connect with the Church. Mondays offer faith discussions over dinner. Wednesday evening activities include Adoration, Reconciliation, Mass, and fellowship. Friday nights mix devotion and fun, beginning with Adoration and guided reflections, and concluding with dinner and games or movies. Sundays, of course, the community gathers for Mass, with a praise-style band providing music for the evening liturgy. Catholic campus ministry also meets the needs of specific populations through offerings such as a children-friendly wives' group.
 
Whatever the event, Lester says that it is the personal impact that is the true goal: "It's those individual moments more than any program in and of itself that make me excited--those individually changed lives." In a unique academic environment at MIT, Catholic campus ministry is inviting students to find the truth not just in the solution to an equation, but especially in the very person of Christ.