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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

McCormick reflects on plans for Campus Ministry

In the past several years, Fr. Pete McCormick has become one of the most recognizable figures on campus.

He was formerly the rector of Keough Hall, a DJ at Legends and director of Campus Ministry’s freshman retreat program. Currently, he’s finishing an MBA in the Mendoza College of Business and serving as chaplain to the men’s basketball team. All of his past roles have a common theme, he said — connecting him with students and giving him a better sense of student needs, which he plans to use in his role as the new director of Campus Ministry.

“I’ve had the benefit of working with students in all that I’ve done, so from my perspective, the focus of the director of Campus Ministry is really to be thinking about students first,” he said. “I really hope to be able to use that mindset as a way to give back. This office and the opportunities that I have are wasted if they’re not used every day to think about how we can care for students better."

McCormick said he sees Campus Ministry’s mission as a three-part process: first, an invitation, then a “content-rich place of formation” and finally, a mechanism for leading people to prayer.

“I think that Campus Ministry should be a place that constantly invites people into what we are doing,” he said. “It shouldn’t be seen as exclusive or as a club, but a place that is welcoming to all.

“And once people are here and feel comfortable, we can teach them about the things that matter most. I think all too often on campus and in our lives, we spend a lot of time talking about things that are important but are not necessarily what’s going on in the depth of our minds and hearts. We want to be a place where folks can ask hard questions about their lives and what they hope to be about.”

The liturgical and folk choirs are one area where Campus Ministry has historically done well, he said, as are leadership development programs such as Anchor and Compass. This semester, Campus Ministry is beginning a spirituality study to evaluate current programming and brainstorm improvements for the future.

“We need to know, what are we doing that’s good, what are we doing that’s not so good and what are we doing that could possibly be discontinued?” McCormick said. “Starting now, we’re going to do a benchmarking episode where we look at other universities to see what they’re doing and also begin to look in high schools to see what our future students look like now. We’re going to get some good information from those that are here, but I’m also interested in hearing about what the class of 2022 looks like so we can start to come up with new and creative ways to begin to build new opportunities.”

He cited the relatively new pilgrimage program as an example of pre-planning done well — in the past few years, it’s become “one of the most exciting things that we’re doing,” sending students to Hawaii, the Holy Land, France, Mexico and beyond.

“To think that four years ago, five years ago, we weren’t doing pilgrimages at all makes me think about what the next step will be now,” he said. “It’s always driving in the same direction though, as an invitation, a deepening of formation and a leading to prayer.”

Ideally, Campus Ministry’s boundaries would blur fluidly with those of the Center for Social Concerns and other faith-based action opportunities on campus, he said.

“You have to have both a spiritual and social component,” McCormick said. “If we’re not giving people the opportunity to actually practice their faith, then in my mind we’re not doing our jobs.

“I just think that you can’t keep faith contained all in one self, so certainly we’re going to provide opportunities for retreats and reflection and the enhancement of knowledge, but yet my sincere hope is that students will take what they’re doing out into campus or to their halls, giving it back in different ways.”

McCormick said the director of Campus Ministry position has been a dream of his for a while, inspired partially by his mentor and predecessor in the office, Fr. Jim King. McCormick will finish his MBA in May and continue as basketball chaplain, but he said he’s leaving many possibilities open about the future of Campus Ministry.

“I’ve learned that things that are worth doing oftentimes require a little bit of risk,” he said. “Sometimes we’re tempted to play it safe, to stay in our comfort zones. My approach to Campus Ministry is going to be to have a little bit of risk that we enter into with our programming, a little bit of risk when it comes to our invitation to formation.

“I just think that leaving that space open to a bit of risk is where God finds his way in. And it’s too tempting to be controlling to our own environments, but it makes it really difficult for the Holy Spirit to work if we have no interest in trying something new.”

Despite a new office and a staff of 30 working under him, McCormick said he sees this role as a chance to continue what he’s always done — working with students and getting out in the community.

“I’ve got great people who are working here, so I’m excited to go out and see the retreats. I’m excited to go and listen to a concert. I’m excited to go hear confessions for people on a pilgrimage or whatever the case may be,” he said. “It’s really going to come down to getting invested in the people that are here, and that’s going to lead to all different sorts of possibilities.”