MCMULLIN: Virtual communication, the new reality for ministry

June 9, 2020

We are told we are made for communion, for community, for relationship. Jesus Christ incarnated shows us how crucial human touch and interaction are to our embodied, fleshy selves. Working as a college campus minister, nothing makes my day more than when a student walks into my office to tell me about their day, update me on life since our last discussion, needs prayer or a listening ear. Face-to-face in-person communication is the foundation of what I do. It is how I serve Christ!

In the past two months, everything has been turned upside down. Our Newman center is closed. The university is closed; students no longer have the opportunity just to walk in. Sunday Liturgy has been recorded with the obligation to receive Eucharist lifted. Our usual ways of gathering as a Church are not there. However, the call to evangelize and accompany has not been lifted. The fact that we have been created for community has not changed. College students still need someone to talk to, and I still need to hear from them. God’s love has not been closed.

This is where technology has been vital. Using Zoom, FaceTime and Google hangouts, we have been able to provide space for evangelizing small groups, students to gather for the Rosary, or pray together during livestream adoration. We also get to meet up, not in person, but definitely face-to-face. I work from home, but my schedule is full, more so than ever with Zoom one-on-one discipling, FaceTime check-ins, and virtual spiritual direction. These sessions serve as times for us to catch up and even ponder the meaning of all that is going on and, finally, to pray.

Being cut off from so much has brought about a new realization. Up until very recently, our lives have been overburdened with busyness. Perhaps we’ve gotten so busy that we had forgotten each other. There’s an increased desire to seek Jesus and spend time with Him; students want to learn to pray, so we spend time together in Scripture. Students who previously didn’t pray the Rosary are now turning to the Rosary more than once a week for nourishment. Yes, there have been sacrifices and difficulties, but with the elimination of commuter time and classes moved online, we get to ask, “What is important now?” with more freedom to answer.

In all of this, we see that the Trinity, not bound by human limitations, shows us how to be present to be the Church. The Father cares for us through each other. The Holy Spirit guides us towards new, creative ways of evangelization. Jesus Christ our Savior is truly made present when we engage with each as the body of Christ. Even on a Zoom call.

Claire McMullin is the campus minister at the University of Houston Catholic Newman Center.