- FIRST AMENDMENT DISPUTE
- GREEK LIFE: A RICH FIELD FOR EVANGELIZATION
- EDITOR’S NOTE ON A MINISTER’S VIEW OF FRATERNITIES
- Update on AEPi’s Case Against CSI
- PRIMER ON SET ASIDE PROCEDURES
- LOCAL SORORITY SUES CHICO STATE UNIVERSITY
Newsletter > March 2006 > "GREEK LIFE: A RICH FIELD FOR EVANGELIZATION"
GREEK LIFE: A RICH FIELD FOR EVANGELIZATION
Rev. J. Friedel, Director of Campus Ministry, Southeast Missouri State University
“The eye of faith discerns campus ministry where commitment to Christ and care for the academic world meet in purposeful activity to serve and realize the Kingdom of God.” These words from Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future, encourage a continuous examination of the campus culture in the light of the Gospel, seeking areas where the kingdom has become a reality or where it is painfully absent. Too often, Greek life is summarily dismissed by many administrators and campus ministers as an area that seems to be “more trouble than it is worth.” Granted, the approachability of a campus Greek system can be measured by its relative health or disease; however, my experience has taught me that campus ministry can engage with Greek life in ways that are mutually beneficial for all parties concerned.
In my 13 years at Southeast Missouri State University I have come to admire much of what I have experienced in working with the men and women of the various fraternities and sororities represented on our campus. In working with the members of these Greek letter organizations, I began to notice a pattern emerging. Most of them were highly idealistic, extremely committed and seriously community-minded. Moreover, I soon noticed that an extremely high percentage of these students were Catholic, even if I had never seen them in Church. In short, I could see some of the characteristics of the kingdom being embodied in the life of the Greek community; however, the involvement of many of their members with the Church was negligible. Was there a connection that was being overlooked?
Like Creatures: The Connection
Following many inquiries and much reflection, I was able to make some clear observations. First of all, it should be no surprise that those who were steeped in the values of the Gospel would be drawn to an idealistic life of community, gathered around a common vision and goals, supported and challenged by those who share the same. Greek life, at its best, embodies this; so does our life as Catholics.
Second, many young adults are looking for a deeply intense, radical way of expressing their beliefs. For myriad reasons, these expectations are not always completely met by the Church, leaving some young adults to look for other contexts in which to live out their dreams for a fuller expression. Neither Catholic life nor Greek life will ever be able to fully attain the ideals for which they strive; both embody such lofty ideals that there will always be a certain amount of frustration in reaching toward the standards set. Still, for both Catholics and for Greeks, this becomes a life-long process of continuous growth, and should not be abandoned because the goals are not perfectly attained by us or other members of our community.
Third, it is vital to recognize that Greek life and Catholic life can be totally compatible. I am convinced that to be a good Catholic will be a tremendous blessing in fulfilling the ideals and goals of any fraternity or sorority. I am further convinced that to live out the goals of any of the Greek letter organizations will help to make any young woman or man a better Catholic. We are like creatures, albeit with different starting points. We have much more in common than most people think.
Special Challenges and Opportunities
I am still continually amazed at the number of Catholics that I find in the Greek system. I am also amazed at how many of them do not regularly practice their Catholic faith. Catholic Greeks need to be challenged to remember that they have been initiated into two communities, both of them lifetime commitments. Perhaps the Catholic initiation was not made personally, maybe as an infant; however, the initiation was still valid, and they have been asked to renew that commitment each and every Easter and at each and every Eucharist in which they have chosen to participate. Somehow this connection is not being fully realized.
Greek Catholics need to be reminded of how their fraternity or sorority would suffer if they stopped celebrating their ritual week. Each time this situation is presented the response comes back, without fail, “We would fall apart!” Many of the Catholic members of fraternities and sororities are failing to see that reality in connection with our weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Why do we celebrate our ritual as Catholics every week? Simply put, we need to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Unfortunately, there are many Catholic Greeks who have gone “inactive,” without ever having thought about it. The Church has suffered because of it, as would any sorority or fraternity. Both the Church and Greek letter organizations are filled with members who simply “go through the motions” or “wear the letters” without ever really embracing the life. The integrity of both groups demands a better response from its membership.
There is one other aspect of fraternity and sorority life which warrants some attention in the lives of Catholic Greeks. Most of the founders of Greek letter organizations were heavily involved in various types of ministry. It seems that the same ideals that inspired them to form their particular groups later led many of them to lives of public service and/or ministry. Despite much rhetoric about modeling their lives on those of their founders, it is notable that ministerial vocations arise with no greater frequency among Greeks than the general population. It seems that some connection is being overlooked or ignored; moreover, I am convinced that many of the Greek Catholics with whom I have worked would make excellent candidates for ministry.
Benefits Outweigh the Risk
There is a danger in working with some of the “rowdiest” people on campus; many would question the wisdom of doing so. I can’t help but wonder, though, whom Jesus would be spending his time with if he worked on a college or university campus today. Greek life is an opportunity ripe for evangelization.