"Membership Renewal: Sort of Like Registering for Fall Classes!" by Mary Ellen Haupert
June 23, 2016
June 23, 2016
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL is like REGISTERING FOR CLASS!
Freshmen registration at UW-L, Viterbo, and WTC usually takes place in the months of June and July. New students and their parents come for orientation and tours, department presentations, and have time with faculty members to register for the first time. Jon sets up a “God Table” in Cartwright Center and we’ve added “go to” buttons on our Newman website for incoming Catholics who are looking for a place to practice their faith. Our presence on this campus can’t be underestimated, so it is important to praise the work that we’ve done as “campus ministers,” as well as take stock of our membership before the students arrive in the fall. We are one of three campus ministry churches in the diocese of La Crosse, yet we’re the only one that is self-sustaining. I (Mary Ellen Haupert) have visited several of them in the USA (and beyond), and have yet to find one that yields so many inspiring youth (Religious vocation, JVC, Peace Corps, FOCUS, etc.), who work alongside so many mission-inspired stationary members. So, why is membership renewal so important for the continued mission of Roncalli Newman Center?
FRESHLY MINTED LEADERS for the CHURCH
This past week, I visited Andrea and Adam Koester in their new home in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. You will remember that Andrea directed our YOUTHSING program and coordinated the music for the Thursday evening Adoration/Masses while UW-L was in session. You will be pleased to know that she will assume the role as Assistant Music Director at the UWSP Newman Center on July 1st. We talked about many things related to church and family, but spent a good deal of time haggling over the constitution and identity of the local church as part of the universal church. Adam shared some of the research that he had done as a graduate student at St. John’s University, while I found myself comparing the paradigm to university teaching.
CHURCH vs. ACADEMIA
Many of our university professors, myself included, teach one of several sections of a particular course. Each section fulfills the same university requirement for that course, but each class is distinct because of the academic freedom that professors have in delivering the material. In the same way (and for very practical reasons), each parish has its own building, staff, and members, but is still part of the universal church. The style of worship, personality of the pastor(s) and his/their preaching, and parish programming are unique to each parish. We can even compare church shopping (which is sort of like RATE MY PREACHING or RATE MY CHURCH MUSIC) to the way students base their class registration on RATE MY PROFESSORS! (Have you noticed how many people come through our doors? Have you asked them their names, where they’re from, or why they’re here?)
WHO GIVES THE GRADE vs. WHO EARNS THE GRADE?
Some students are quick to blame their professors for their own poor performance. “S/he gave me a D” rather than “I earned a D” is more and more and more common. In the same way, many Catholics blame pastors for shortfalls, without claiming a share of parish responsibilities closer to home. Teachers feel the same sting when they read negative evaluations by failing students, all the while knowing that it’s the student’s work that makes the grade. (Have you heard fallen-away Catholics complain about the Church; have you extended an invitation to be part of ours?)
A CHURCH FULL of CAMPUS MINISTERS
The good news is that we have many new members, along with an increase in both giving and pew count numbers (which is required by the diocese). The response to special ministries (Casa Hogar, for example) has been remarkably generous, and participation in programming (i.e. Soup and Sustenance, Youth Ministry, Campus Ministry & FOCUS Ministry, Social Justice, Music Ministry, etc.) shows much life and vigor. As a “local church,” we have a membership that identifies with and promotes the mission of campus ministry; we are a parish of campus ministers who are hospitable and welcoming to each other and our student body. (Did you know that your membership and active involvement in the parish can be a springboard for welcoming students this fall? Invitations to be part of a social justice activity, choir, or serving at the Salvation Army are easy ways to connect to our students.)
FOR the RECORD
In order to know the strength of our stationary membership by the beginning of the school year, Fr. Peter Raj and Fr. Billy Dodge would like to start our membership renewal this July! Pastoral Council is working on ways to electronically renew membership; paper materials (and computer tutorials between Masses) will be available to those who might struggle with the new format. Pay attention to announcements and bulletin articles inviting you to renew!
AND SO MY HUSBAND ASKS….
Why are you doing this, Mary Ellen? Simply put, I have had a nagging whisper to put something on paper – both thanking members for giving of themselves so selflessly over the years and encouraging others to do the same. It was the same nagging whisper that motivated me to apply for this job 18 years ago. Thanks for your time and talent.