Thursday, September 17, 2009

Discouraged

In moving forward with the book club, I emailed our club's contact at Campus Ministry, and he requested to meet with me. I was half expecting to be given a tour of CoMo and handed a sheet of guidelines for reserving rooms on campus, but he actually wanted to talk with me about my idea.

Basically the gist of the conversation is that most efforts to do something like this for grad students have fizzled out, because they don't attract enough interest and students who are interested get pressed for time and quit coming to meetings. It was more than a little discouraging. He was very nice about it but I was really surprised at some of the things he said to me. I mentioned that we are thinking about reading an encyclical and he just sort of smiled and said he didn't think too many people would be interested in that. Really? At a Catholic university nobody wants to study Catholic doctrine? (I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at that considering what the events of last spring revealed about Catholic identity at ND, but still.)

We did throw around some useful ideas but frankly, where he wants to go with it seems a bit far afield of my original thoughts. For example, he thought my group wouldn't be marketable if I put a "Catholic" label on it, and that I should publicize it as a "faith sharing" group for graduate students. Frankly that seems a little deceptive considering my intent for the group. Of course everyone would be welcomed, but I want a group that studies Catholic doctrine and thought, not some vague, nebulous spirituality. And I am not into "faith sharing"...ugh. I don't want to sit around in a circle talking about my personal image of God, I got enough of that in my pre-Cana.

I understand the need to cast a wider net...but I do feel a little discouraged right now. I do want our group to be unabashedly Catholic, and I do want the kind of people who are interested in going deeper with their faith and aren't afraid of an intellectual challenge. I don't want to cater to the lowest common denominator and water things down to make them inoffensive. Are there really so few graduate students on campus who would be interested in a group like that? It makes me a little sad. Time to go back to the drawing board...

4 comments:

Mary Liz said...

Don't give up hope. One thing you could do is start the group informally and then once it's been established, turn around and ask for formal recognition. That's how a lot of clubs start.

In the meantime, have you looked into joining any of the existing clubs? I'm thinking specifically of the Orestes Brownson Counsel. They are a staunchly Catholic book club - their emphasis is largely on the relationship between Catholicism, America, politics and society. I'm not sure how closely that aligns with yours. They meet Wednesday at 7:30pm -currently in LaFortune.

I know a lot of times grad students miss out on the "undergrad" clubs, but the fact of the matter is all clubs are open to all students and love having grad students participate.

Christina said...

Mary Liz, thanks for the tip on the OBC. I will check it out.

Yes, I plan to forge ahead with the book club! We will meet off-campus instead, and very informally in order to accommodate people's schedules. If it fails, it fails, but I am an eternal optimist. :)

I appreciate what you've said about the clubs also. Sometimes we graduate students tend to have "tunnel vision" and I really hope I didn't sound like a snob. It's not that I'm unwilling to meet undergrads, just that I'm not sure of my welcome, being that I'm old and married and in a different place in my life than most undergrads. But your comments are reassuring!

James Garrison said...

There is a certain truth to the toughness of getting together a group of graduate students to do anything. We are all busy, and many of us may perceive, correct or not, that we just don't have the time to commit to a group.

Now, I really think that the office of Campus Ministry basically ignores graduate students. This is likely due, in part, to the much smaller population of Catholic grad students, as compared to Catholic undergrads, and to the lack of success in the past.

TAS has had moderate success in the past with the occasional catechism studies they have had, I've been to all the ones my schedule permitted. Some of us just need that extra nudging to do those sorts of reading that we should be doing anyway.

There is nothing wrong with an unashamedly Catholic group, and if you are talking about reading/studying "Catholic" books/documents, the sort that will be attracted will generally be that type.

I too must vouch for the "undergrad" clubs. The few I associate with are good, and though I often feel like a "token grad student", I find that I, for the most part, can fit in.

That all said, I really liked what TAS was first introduced to me as, a group focused on Catholic fellowship among grad students.

Don't lose hope, and don't worry about what Campus Ministry has to say.

Christina said...

"Now, I really think that the office of Campus Ministry basically ignores graduate students."

Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was just me, but I did get that vibe too, and it was only reinforced by my conversation today. Like I said, the man I talked to was very nice and polite, but the message I walked away with was, "Campus Ministry doesn't even try to do anything for grad students anymore because it never works/nobody is interested." I mean, they have black ministry, Latino ministry, even groups for Protestant students, and they can't do even one single thing that is graduate-student-oriented? Something's wrong with that picture.

I think there is some truth to the statement of "not enough interest." I mentioned that the Law and Business schools had grad student oriented retreats but there was nothing for the other schools. He told me that CM tried to organize a graduate student retreat once and not one person signed up. Now that's tragic. But I don't think it justifies neglecting the spiritual needs of a large part of the Notre Dame community. I think it's good that ND is undergrad-focused, but I feel like sometimes people here forget about grad students.