A Vision for the Alignment of Student Affairs and Campus Ministry
On October 23, 2017 a Change.Org petition was started related to a series of impending office moves on campus.
The Mission and Ministry area has been in transition since March 2017 when the VP for Mission and Ministry was eliminated and the reporting structure for offices located in the Mercy Ministry Center was restructured. The Campus Ministry and MercyCare Offices were moved to the division of Student Affairs under my direction. The Office of Mission and Heritage and the liturgical life of the University remained within the Office of the President.
While I'm delighted that community members are engaged, this petition needs historical perspective and we offer the following responses:
- "In 2000, the McDonough Chapel of the Mother of Mercy was introduced to the campus. Shortly thereafter, a Campus Ministry team was built, and a community was formed."
Response: Actually, in 2000, the existing Campus Ministry team and MercyCare moved from its location in the Student Affairs area to the newly-opened Mercy Ministry Center. The implementation of this vision of alignment is a restoration of the Campus Ministry team and MercyCare within the soon-to-be configured space within the Student Affairs area again.
- "On a daily basis, students enter the Chapel to study or complete homework in the community conference room, attend retreat meetings, talk to peer ministers and graduate assistants, and go to mass."
Response: We checked usage of the Conference Room with those present in the building, and it was clear that usage by the University community has diminished over time. There are other places available for such student meetings across campus. Further, the welcome area in the current Office of the President has also been offered as a replacement space for meetings, making t-shirts, etc. The space offered is similar in size to the conference room in question.
- "Recently, changes from SXU's administration have counteracted the purpose of the chapel."
Response: This move does not impact the purpose or availability of the Chapel to the entire University community and beyond, nor does it impact the regular worship activities of the Chapel. Since 2010, the McDonough Chapel and all liturgical functions are part of the operations of the Office of the President.
- "Before school began, the Director of Campus Ministry left, leaving the graduate assistants and peer ministry team to lead the department."
Response: Campus Ministry and MercyCare has reported to Student Affairs since March 2017. The graduate student ministers and the peer ministers have not directed the department.
- "Without the direction of a director, we are powerless, and as a result, we are suffering the consequences. In the beginning of the semester, it was decided by the current President of SXU, Dr. Laurie Joyner, that she would transform the community conference room into an office for herself."
Response: The Conference Room was designed to be available to the entire University community for scheduled meetings and served as a classroom for the University Academic Ministry programs. For 15 years, this space served these functions and only over the past few years with staff transitions has the Conference Room and offices been used informally by students. Prior to space decisions being made, usage patterns were examined.
- "The destruction of the conference room is the destruction of the community."
Response: Campus Ministry is not about a place, it is about relationships. Pastoral care is about relationships between people; it's less about the location of an office.
- "Now, she has decided that our volunteer from the Sisters of Mercy, Sr. Carol, must move out of the Chapel with others in the department. For eight years, Sr. Carol has served our students with love and kindness; she embodies the Chapel and Mercy values...Without her there can be no Mercy in the Chapel."
Response: Sr. Carol's ministerial activities will continue to take place in the Chapel and Reconciliation Room. Those are the locations where she has offered her volunteer services for eight years. By moving her office of MercyCare and Campus Ministry to Student Affairs, they will both get greater attention and be further integrated into the life of the campus.
- "No students will want to visit (PMs) peer ministers or (HMs) graduate hall ministers in the Warde Academic Center."
Response: We believe the newly-configured spaces will provide a warm and welcoming environment.
- "Furthermore, Campus Ministry is rooted in the Chapel."
Response: Campus Ministry is university-wide, serving all members of the community. Nothing is being changed about the availability or purpose of the Chapel which also serves the entire university as well as the local community.
- "Since President Joyner has arrived, she has not followed mercy values."
Response: While we value critical thought, it is not helpful for members of our community to assign motive.
- "Where is the mercy in overtaking a sacred space?"
Response: The sacred space in the building is the McDonough Chapel. Nothing is changing in the operations of the sacred space of the Chapel. The offices in the Center are offices and will be used as such.
Sister Carol Mucha has assured me that we will work cooperatively to implement the vision and the moves faithful to our commitment to Campus Ministry.
In conclusion, we have great hope and faith that through the upcoming moves that the vision of greater alignment between Student Affairs and Campus Ministry as well as an affirmation of our continued commitment to our Catholic and Mercy identity will not only endure but flourish.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students