As a college chaplain, I have grown committed to the engagement of the Church in college life. I am convinced that college campuses are uniquely important places for Jesus Christ to be in His fullness. The Catholic Church offers that fullness of Jesus Christ in the world today, preeminently in the Blessed Sacrament. (My secret ambition is to help foster a diocesean campus ministry program -- shh! Don't tell the Bishop just yet!) I really like college campuses, not just ones like Vanderbilt, where I am now.
Anyhow, I recently spent a little free time on the campuses on Fisk University and Tennessee State University. Both are historically African American universities -- Fisk being one of the most historic African American universities in the country. Both are located within blocks of Vanderbilt. On the other side of campus is Belmont University. Throughout the city and around the diocese are many more campuses, with young people coming to form their lives. How can we fail to be there for them?
I am very blessed here at Vanderbilt with an amazing student organization and with FOCUS missionaries. They are the most effective apostles on campus -- much more so than I am. But I hope I say this without pride: I believe that I am necessary. There needs to be a priest in campus ministry for it to reach its full potential. This is one of the reasons we need more priests because not only Vanderbilt but Fisk, and TSU, and Belmont, and MTSU, and Tennessee Tech, and Sewanee, etc. need some degree of priestly presence on campus! I believe that it is no coincidence that Vanderbilt not only has a priest on campus but also the most vibrant student and lay campus ministry as well.
We actually need more priests for so many of our various Catholic apostolates to flourish as they should. Why? A faithful priest brings Jesus in a way that no one else can. With Jesus, especially in the sacraments, all other apostolic work can flourish. Without Him in that fullness, not so much.
So I look around at some of the brightest and best young men that there are today, and I cry out for you to ask the Lord if He is calling you to be one of His priests. St. Francis Xavier looked around in his day at some of the brightest and best at the University of Paris and ignited the hearts of many of them with apostolic zeal for souls. Not that I compare myself to St. Francis Xavier, but perhaps the voice of the Good Shepherd will speak to the souls of young men even through so weak a vessel! Maybe Jesus wants to make Himself present through you. It's not such a bad idea!