"Rise Again" was the theme for Vandy Awakening 8 this past weekend. At two Awakening per year, "8" means that we have been through the full cycle of an undergraduate career. Vandy Awakening is now older than undergraduate institutional memory! No undergraduates can remember a time before Awakening. That makes me happy.
The same is true for FOCUS at Vanderbilt: 4th year here. I believe that the FOCUS missionaries are essential allies for reaching and forming students. They work from the inside...of their own hearts, which have been radically committed to the Lord Jesus. They share His mission for souls, and they help me in my mission at Vanderbilt. I love them!
Our student board has just completed its third transfer of servant officers. This is another group that has developed impressively. The new chair pulled me aside last night to offer some great constructive criticism after she had led the weekly board meeting on how to reach out to more students both broadly and deeply. The student leaders have become the most enthusiastic promoters of our mission statement: to propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples at Vanderbilt. They have structured the student organization to promote our four pillars of formation: spiritual, intellectual, human, and apostolic. It's beautiful.
And there is even something new at Vanderbilt Catholic, actually someone new: Chad Michael Cunningham, officially Director of Campus Ministry and Development. Chad is a brilliant and zealous young man, who is the founder of iFacts (Institute for Advancing Catholic Thought and Studies). He will lead the students in intellectual formation as well as serve them as our development officer. Chad is a tremendous blessing to Vandy Catholic and to me.
And I am becoming more of a priest. I hear more confessions, work harder on my homilies, offer more spiritual direction, lead more retreats, etc. Vanderbilt Catholic is coming together well! Please pray for the next thing: Communio. We want to promote ways to live and pray together in community. Talk about a sign of contradiction to the culture of radical autonomy and to "cafeteria Catholicism"!
I remember five years ago in my first year here. We were planning our first group to visit Texas A&M for Aggie Awakening 79 (yes, 79) over spring break. We came back for a small retreat that we had already planned here. I call it Vandy Awakening .5! It was one of those transformative and memorable moments. We really have not turned back since. Verso l'alto!