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...