As I dial in to the school’s PA system, I hear my voice echo in the loud speaker: “Attention Villanova, Campus Ministry will now be praying the rosary at the Grotto. If you would like to join, please meet at the Grotto now.”
I hang up the phone, grab my rosary, and walk with purpose toward the heart of campus, where the Grotto stands, shining in the fading light of the afternoon sun. As I approach, I see that the space around the Grotto is unoccupied. I wait several minutes, and when nobody comes along, I begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My demeanor is a far cry from the first time that I prayed the rosary at Villanova Prep. In the beginning, I approached this weekly Thursday ritual with an equal mixture of hesitancy and reluctance. It bothered me, to be seen praying so publicly, right in the middle of campus. I remember the uneasy, self-conscious feeling perfectly. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. As people walked by, both students and faculty alike, I wondered, what do they think?
Learning to be more open and honest about my faith has been one of the most significant, yet rewarding, challenges I’ve faced in my AV year. While the importance of my faith is no secret to those who know me, my position as Campus Minister at Villanova Prep has pushed me to express, explain, and at times, defend, my faith in ways that I never have before. While I don’t want to force it on them, I also can’t shy away. Part of my job is to (gently) challenge their way of thinking, to coax them out of their comfort zones so that they can be stretched and molded. In order to reach kids, sometimes it requires a certain amount of awkward moments and uncomfortable conversations. Sometimes they go well, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it feels like they aren’t listening or “getting it,” and that’s okay. As Mother Teresa once said, “God does not call us to be successful; he calls us to be faithful.” We are workers in the field, and we may never know the fruits of the seeds we plant, be we still must plant them.
Sometimes I wonder, what am I doing here? Who am I to these kids? What kind of impact can I make, only being here for one school year? What reason do they have to listen to me? But I realize that I have to plant those seeds, and just trust that someone, somewhere, will cultivate them. That is part of having faith. I cannot hold back because of the fear of being judged, rejected, or dismissed. Why should I be embarrassed by my faith? It is important to me. It is real, and true, and it is who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and neither do the kids that I serve. What better way to encourage them in their faith then to be confident and unabashed in practicing my own?
As I move to the last decade of the rosary, a freshmen boy approaches me. “Miss Thompson, can I pray with you?” he asks. “Yes,” I reply, handing him a rosary. My window of opportunity may be small, but that’s all the more reason to make the most of it.
Ventura, CA 2013-2014