You are aliens no longer. Ephesians 2:19
Two of the greatest blessings of my life have been the opportunity to work with young adults and people from other cultures. The former, I believe, has kept my mind young and the latter has kept my mind open.
For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to be the Catholic chaplain in the campus ministry program at Bellarmine University, which I believe has given me exposure to the best of the best of our Catholic young adults.
Around them, I tend to absorb their age appropriate focus on future events and tend to forget my age appropriate focus on past events. When I do forget, they tend to make me snap out of it with their “Father, we weren’t even born yet” comments!
I am there to encourage them in the faith, but often it is the other way around, as well. No matter how tired I am on Sunday night, when I see them enthusiastically arriving at the chapel to serve generously and dependably as choir members and ministers at the altar, my own spirits are lifted and my faith is strengthened.
At an age when many of their peers are determined to distance themselves from their parents, siblings and church attendance, it is not uncommon to hear one of them say, “I can’t wait to see my family.”
“I really miss going to Sunday morning Mass with my family back home.” Or “I love my mom and dad. I miss them so much.”
Paralleling my ministry at Bellarmine University has been my ministry at Saint Meinrad Seminary. An old priest cannot be around would-be priests without one of two things happening.
Either telling them of your wounds and disappointments will rub them the wrong way or their enthusiasm and idealism will rub off on you.
They remind me that their only interest in me talking is to tell them the great things that await them, which in itself reminds me that my own ministry history is richer than I imagined.
Because I hitched up my courage to go backpacking to Taize, France, five times in the 1970’s, I have made friends with people from all over the world. In those days, I camped out with 3,500 students from 70 countries a week. Several have visited me over the years.
At Saint Meinrad, where I worked for the last 12 years, there are 22 nationalities on campus. At the 100-plus presbyteral convocations that I have led in six countries, especially in the United States and Canada, the percentage of priests born outside the country often tops 30 percent.
Without traveling to their home countries, I now have friends from all over the world.
In an age when people are discouraged by the obnoxious behaviors of the young and fear the noxious presence of immigrants, let me state simply and emphatically that I have been tremendously blessed by my exposure to both!
Father J. Ronald Knott