Pastoral Care of Students
Alumni of St. Thomas More College often share their memories of the “White House” – the building that originally housed STM. In the White House, and later in the current building, the Basilian Fathers offered hospitality to students who were often leaving the farm for the first time and seeking a “home away from home.” STM became that home for generations of students.
The Basilian Fathers were dedicated to both the spiritual and academic formation of their students and would have seen their relationships with young people as an opportunity not only to share knowledge, but also to offer pastoral care. Each Basilian was expected to be a chaplain and to minister to the young adults who came to be in his care. Today, that tradition of pastoral care continues. Faculty and staff, and indeed the students themselves, create and foster an environment where all members of the community feel a sense of being cared for and belonging.
John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae defines pastoral ministry as “that activity of the University which offers the members of the university community an opportunity to integrate religious and moral principles with their academic study and non-academic activities, thus integrating faith with life.”1 Integrating faith with life, responding to the needs of the whole person – spiritual, intellectual, emotional and social - is a core facet of our Catholic identity at St. Thomas More College.
The Campus Ministry team is charged, in a special way, with providing pastoral care to students, faculty and staff. They are professional pastoral ministers trained in the art of spiritual direction and faith formation. However, the call to offer pastoral care to students goes beyond the Campus Ministry team. Each person engaged in the life of STM is challenged to take on a “ministry mindset,” having the good of the whole student in mind when accomplishing her/his tasks. Members of the Student Services team, for example, demonstrate this commitment when they provide not only academic advising but also opportunities for students to get involved in the arts through Newman Players. Other examples abound within the College.
Another aspect of the pastoral care of students is the creation of a culture of vocation, allowing students to discover their own callings in life. Author and theologian, Frederick Buechner, defines vocation as that place “where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”2 Helping students discover their own giftedness and give name to their own deep gladness, thereby allowing them to respond more fully to the hungers of the world, is part of being a caring community, of answering our own collective call to offer pastoral care to our students.
Pastoral care is not restricted to students, however. STM strives to be a compassionate workplace, allowing its members to also develop to the “full measure of their humanity.”3 Pastoral care offered and given among faculty and staff, and even reaching out to the wider community, remains a hallmark of the STM experience.
Questions for Reflection
Have I come to know at least some of the students with whom I have crossed paths? In what ways have they left an impression on me?
Where my work at STM calls me to do so, do I stop and find ways to ask students how they are (beyond academics)?
Faculty/Staff: How might I consider my work here a ministry?
How do we respond to the diversity of students we encounter?
How do we enable students to come to “the full measure of their humanity”?
1 Ex Corde Ecclesiae, 38.
2 Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1973), 95.
3 STM Mission Statement.