New Campus Ministry group seeks to answer student questions
With a new semester comes new opportunities for students to get involved around campus. Cross Examinations: Investigating the Catholic Faith, a new initiative by Campus Ministry, is giving students the chance to ask the questions about Catholicism they have always had in mind.
With weekly gatherings in 7 different locations around campus, and even one off-campus site, the Cross Examinations meetings take place in a group discussion format. The idea is that students from any and all faith backgrounds can come together and bring any questions they might have about Christianity in general or Catholicism specifically. Through conversation and dialogue, Cross Examinations hopes to provide students with a deeper understanding of the faith.
Senior Marco Cerritelli, a student intern with Campus Ministry working to organize Cross Examinations, shared his excitement for the future of the initiative and its promise of rich, diverse exploration. “We expect questions will range from the hot button issues like gay marriage, contraception and premarital sex, all the way down to the Protestant student who comes and says, ‘What’s Marian devotion?’” he told the Rover.
Each group is made up entirely of students, with two student leaders per group to help guide discussion. With no imposed agenda, each group’s conversation is entirely dependent on the wishes of the students and can cover any topic they want to address.
Cerritelli also spoke to the relaxed atmosphere of the group meetings. “It’s really there for the students. These groups are sponsored by Campus Ministry, but it’s really more of a student-led, grassroots sort of movement,” he explained.
The idea for Cross Examinations was born out of a recognition of many students’ varying degrees of familiarity with the tenets of Christianity. Cerritelli said, “A number of years ago, Campus Ministry, in conjunction with the Sociology department at Notre Dame, did a survey of students and their experience of faith life on campus.
“One of the things they learned from the survey was that it seems like Notre Dame is a great place of faith for students who come already knowing their faith and having it figured out, but that it can be a tough place for students who are still considering their faith.” With this in mind, Campus Ministry sought to meet this need with a program in which students can actively cultivate their own understanding of the Catholic faith.
One key aspect of Cross Examinations that distinguishes it from other campus groups is the role of the student leaders as facilitators in conversation. As Cerritelli explained, “Campus Ministry is promoting [the groups], advertising them, supporting them, forming the leaders and helping in whatever way possible, but really once it comes to the actual group meetings and the actual interactions with the students in the groups, it’s going to be entirely between them and their student leaders, and the other students who come, of course.”
Junior Shane Giles, co-leader of one of the Cross Examinations groups, echoed this sentiment, describing his role as, “more of a referee than a teacher. We feel that finding an answer on your own is a better way to learn something than to just be told what that answer might be.”
Though the conversations each week are conducted at the discretion of the student leaders, the leaders themselves are not without guidance, especially when tackling tough questions. By choosing which questions to address for each meeting a week in advance, the student leaders, as well as all of the participants, have time to do some research on their own.
As Giles explained to the Rover, “Between meetings, part of our job is to research the questions we’re going to be talking about so that, should it come down to us needing to contribute, we can do so from the platform of knowing what the Church says in regard to the question being discussed.”
Though many of the topics brought up might be complex and challenging to talk about, Giles shared his excitement about the opportunity for growth. “Despite the fact that we were invited to be leaders, that’s not to say that we have all the answers,” he said. “I have questions too, and that’s the coolest part about this. It’s a conversation, not a lecture.
“I’m interested to see what other people have to ask about, because maybe they have a question I haven’t thought of, or maybe I’ve been through an experience and have fought with a question that they’re looking to find an answer to. Everyone involved can get something out of it.”
Cerritelli touted Cross Examinations’ contribution to the university’s mission of educating the whole person—the mind as well as the heart. “This new Campus Ministry initiative helps fulfill that goal of the university by having people’s educations stem outside of the classroom, and it makes the university a place where people can discover the Catholic faith and, God willing, enter into the Catholic faith, and be strengthened in it.”
Michael Infantine is a junior PLS major and theology minor who is looking to hire an unpaid personal assistant. You can send in résumés at email@example.com.