Asian Pacific Islander Student Ministry enters its second semester
Last fall, Campus Ministry Anchor Intern Angela Ly launched the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Student Ministry, a new multicultural ministry dedicated to sparking conversations and cultivating friendships centered on the Christian faith among Asian students.
Anchor Interns work for Campus Ministry as paid student leaders and formators in the areas of Sacramental Preparation and Catechesis, Bible Studies, Multicultural Ministry, Compass Freshman Fellowship, Liturgy, Retreats and Pilgrimages, and Communication and Design. API operates within the Multicultural Ministry sphere and is unaffiliated with the Asian American Association (AAA).
Through her involvement with the Vietnamese Student Association and AAA, Ly saw the opportunity and the need to create a new community of both Christian and non-Christian Asian students seeking to address fundamental questions about the Christian life and a meaningful life more broadly.
“When I was talking to my [Anchor Intern] supervisor [at the time], she said that we don’t really have a ministry for the Asian population … She was describing how she has been praying for a person for five years [to minister to the Asian community on campus],” Ly said.
Ly continued, “A lot of Asian Americans are either nonreligious or Buddhist; there [are] not a lot who are Catholic or Christian. I wanted to start this ministry because I wanted to create a space where those who are Catholic and Christian can grow in their faith, but I also wanted to create a space for those who were nonreligious just so they can start questioning things, if they are unsure about their Catholic faith or just questioning bigger life questions, like ‘What is my purpose in life?’ and ‘Is there a God?’—deeper questions.”
Sophomore Taylor Batilo, a member of API, described the mission of the ministry: “In general, what we hope to achieve is more interest in this outward expression of the faith in that interest group, and getting people together who want to learn more about the Catholic worldview who can understand it in the lens of their background and their history and their personal circumstances.”
Last semester, API sponsored two events. The first was a Grotto prayer service followed by food, an opportunity intended to build community. The second event was called “Light Your Faith on Fire.”
Commenting on the latter, Ly told the Rover, “We focused on the theme of forgiveness and we read a few Scripture passages about forgiveness as well as a Zen parable, connecting the cultures. As an activity, we painted stained glass candle jars … and then we had every person write something that they still needed to forgive, either from themselves or others, and then we went outside to burn it, to mimic that feeling of letting something go.”
This semester, Ly developed a team to discuss ideas and plan events together, hoping to get more input on how best to minister to the Asian population on campus. The team will plan events each month and gather together for smaller activities, such as for meals or for Mass.
The goal, says Ly, is for the entire group to become a self-sustaining community and continue after Ly is no longer an Anchor Intern at the end of this academic year. In the meantime, the group sponsored a teaching Mass last Friday with Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C. as their first event of the semester. During a teaching Mass, the priest occasionally stops and explains the meaning behind the different parts of the liturgy.
Sophomore Andrew Acunin, another member of Ly’s team, spoke about the importance and fruits of the ministry: “If I could be a part of that and help [Ly] in any way that I could, then that would be a big blessing for me to help facilitate that community, that foundation of faith … It’s exciting to see how [our] relationships will form and grow based on faith, and how moving forward we can plant the seeds for this API ministry to grow and continue growing as time passes.”
Charly Pine, a participant in the Inspired Leadership Initiative and a white American who lived most of his adult life in China, is a member of API. (The Inspired Leadership Initiative gives individuals who have completed their career the opportunity to spend an academic year at the university.)
Pine observed that there is difficulty ministering to such a diverse group: “Asian Pacific Islander Student Ministry covers such a spectrum [of cultures and nationalities].” He continued, “I see the challenges of where do you focus with such a broad range.” As an expansive continent, Asia comprises a few distinct regions already, contributing to a variety of cultural traditions.
“It’s not exclusive, by any means,” Pine said, “API does a really good job of blending both serving this target audience while at the same time creating an environment where those who are curious, want to learn, are also welcomed into [the community].”
Ly emphasized that API is not an exclusive ministry, and that all are welcome to participate in events and enter into the community although it is geared toward people of Asian descent.
Batilo concurred, saying, “It is still a budding ministry and it is pretty young. I guess really what we wanted to achieve was this efficacy when it comes to spreading the ministry of the Catholic faith in the interest group. Obviously, we are not exclusive. We stress that anybody is free to come … Catholicism, and Christianity in general, is supposed to have an evangelical touch to it, and it is important that we reach those groups. It is not like we are closing everybody out; rather, we are just giving a higher level of focus and availability and accessibility to those in that interest group.”
API is always open to new participants, whether or not one is of Asian descent. More information about this group can be found in the Campus Ministry email newsletter, the Asian American Association email newsletter, or one can contact Angela Ly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the API GroupMe.
Maria Keller is a senior PLS and Medieval Studies major who loves smoked salmon, Brideshead Revisited, and po-ta-toes. If you ever want to talk about Augustine, Platonism, or the unshakeable desire to leave your studies behind and become a Desert Father, she can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Angela Ly – “API Student Ministry participants at their ‘Light Your Faith on Fire’ event in November 2021.”