Reflections of a Freshman Chaplain

Let me begin by telling you a bit about who I am and where I have been.  Six days after graduating from college, I entered the Dominican Order.  After a year of novitiate (boot camp for religious life), I began my philosophical and theological studies at The Aquinas Institute of Theology.  I was ordained in 1979 and, in 1980, received Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees.

I was part of a team of Dominican friars in 2005, which assumed responsibility for the Catholic campus ministry at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  I served there for 7 years.  IU was my first campus ministry experience, and I immediately fell in love with it.

Comparing my former ministry at IU to Aquinas is akin to comparing apples with bowling balls.  IU is a state university of 43,000 while Aquinas, as we know, is a Catholic college of just over 2,000.  While my formal responsibilities at IU covered 7,000 catholic students on campus, my pastoral ministry at Aquinas serves every student, staff, and faculty member.

The first months were, for me, a time to learn the joyful sound of Dr. Marko laughing in the distance, as our conversations began 20 feet apart and continued until we were at least 20 feet past each other.   I now know the place I really want my office is not in Browne, but The Moose.  (I’m sure Latoya expects me to set up a desk and bookshelves outside her office at any moment).  I have learned to expect Dr. McDaniel wandering around in a blizzard with short sleeves.  I have come to celebrate the person who best personifies the heart of Aquinas, who serves as sentinel to Brian Matzke and Jennifer Dawson.  Dee Wagner has been my guardian angel from day one, and it is my deepest and sincerest desire to grow up to be just like her.

My first Aquinas semester was a time of joy.  But it was a honeymoon, and honeymoons end.

The deeper I go into Aquinas culture, the greater awareness I have that I myself am an object of both curiosity and concern.  By some, I have been warmly embraced and eagerly welcomed.  For others, I have learned that my arrival was a cause of deep suspicion and uncertainty.

Prior to my coming, Juan Olivarez was very open in our initial conversations that being engaged as chaplain is part of a concerted effort on the part of Aquinas College to reclaim its Identity as a Catholic school, under the auspices of the the Dominican Order.

Those who fear might wonder what a reclaimed Catholic Identity will entail.  Regardless of preconceptions, there will certainly be an increased emphasis and expectation of engagement in dialogue, as the true liberal arts tradition calls for the cross-fertilization of thoughts and ideas.

In the meantime, let the word go out that I am supremely contented to be part of the AQ community as I grow toward being a Saint.


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