Editor’s note: An estimated 211 students are signed up for leadership positions in Campus Ministry this year, and nearly all DSHA students will likely participate in Campus Ministry activities — from attending Masses and retreats to cleaning the chapel sacristy and running service initiatives. Leading those students will be seven DSHA seniors, known as Campus Ministry Officers, who are poised to take charge of Campus Ministry’s prayer, service and communications work. This is the first in a series of stories introducing this year’s officers.
Maura Brennan, DSHA ’19, offers a poignant metaphor to describe one of her latest service projects.
“Jesus can indeed make the mute speak,” Brennan recently told the roughly 200 classmates who’ll be joining her in helping lead Campus Ministry programs this year at DSHA.
The senior spent part of this past summer volunteering at a nursing home in Indiana, where Brennan said she met and got to know a man who’d lost his ability to speak following a stroke. The pair managed to bridge the communication gap using simple gestures, smiles and input from some of the man’s friends.
“By the end,” Brennan said, “I’d say we were pretty close.”
“It really showed me that, in order to affect others in service and to touch others, you have to let yourself be affected and let yourself be touched by the experience and let yourself get to know God and others,” she added, “even if it does seem like there’s a boundary as large as speech.”
Advice like that will come in handy as Brennan and fellow Dasher Nora Bauer, DSHA ’19, work together to serve as Campus Ministry service officers at DSHA this year — roles both girls said will require helping their classmates become more involved in other people’s lives.
“I really want to see younger students become excited and empowered about doing service because I think as long as we create an atmosphere of loving and enjoying service, then it’s easier and it’s fun and people get more involved and seek out new opportunities to serve,” said Bauer.
DSHA’s faith-infused Campus Ministry programming runs a wide gamut. Students regularly attend faith-formation retreats and also attend regularly scheduled student Masses and prayer services.
Besides liturgies and retreats, though, faith-formation programming also features numerous direct and active service opportunities. Students, in fact, contributed nearly 25,000 hours of service last year to community organizations. Seniors each year also attend a two-week “Vocare” service immersion retreat.
The Campus Ministry service officers won’t coordinate the Vocare retreat, which happens at the start of the second semester. But they’ll have a bigger role in planning other service projects throughout the year.
As an example, Bauer pointed specifically to a project she and other Campus Ministry leaders are already planning to tackle during Lent. The project will involve helping Catholic Relief Services construct a birthing facility for a clinic in Ghana, a nation in West Africa where the World Health Organization has noted stagnantly high infant death rates.
Campus Ministry teams are also planning this Advent to work closely with immigrants in the Milwaukee area.
Like her colleague, Bauer pointed to projects she’s been involved in to help explain her growing passion for serving others. The senior spent part of this past summer at a Milwaukee-area intergenerational center, where she worked alternately with disabled adults and young infants.
“We learned a lot about what there is to see within Milwaukee and what need there is within Milwaukee,” Bauer said.
Campus Ministry Director Kathleen Cullen Ritter, DSHA ’05, said the officer-level Campus Ministry positions are prestigious and demanding, and involve weekly meetings and working with the entire student body.
“I love working with students in many capacities each year,” Cullen Ritter said, “but this group of students has already demonstrated their passion for their faith and ability to connect with the entire DSHA community.”
Bauer and Brennan said they’ve spent the past few years looking up to DSHA’s Campus Ministry Officers. Brennan said her predecessors had been role models for her own developing faith life, and noted she’s hoping now to become the same sort of inspirational role model for others.
“Throughout my freshman and sophomore and junior years, service at DSHA has brought me so much closer to my faith,” Bauer said. “So last year, when we were applying to be officers, I felt compelled to give back to the community because I was very grateful to all the people who had helped me develop my faith into what it is now.”