POWELL: Growing in love

November 22, 2022

When I started as the director of campus ministry at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville this past August, I did not know what to expect. I had felt a calling to campus ministry but felt the heavy weight of responsibility for such a task. This was not a decision to take lightly.

As an introvert and a father of two college-age boys and a daughter in high school, I was not sure if this would help or hinder my effectiveness in ministering to other students.

During my discernment for the position, I was encouraged by Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.” I realized that by staying humble and listening to the Holy Spirit, I would be able to do the Lord’s work.

I also reflected on the calling of Moses in Exodus and was reminded that God does not call the equipped, but He equips those He calls. This gave me the courage I needed to accept the position.

Now, as I come toward the end of my second month on the job, I feel blessed to be involved in campus ministry. I have seen students’ relationships with Christ deepen and grow.

During our recent Bearkat Awaking retreat, the love of Jesus was reflected in each participant. For some students, this was the first time they truly felt Jesus’s presence. It was amazing to feel and share in their experience.

While working with students at different points in their faith journey, in each case, I was inspired by their earnest search for God. There is a great thirst in students to grow closer to God. Community has been an important part of my experience so far, serving as an expression of God’s love for me and as a source from which I draw love and light.

In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes hell as a dreary, sprawling, abandoned town in which no one can stand being around each other. Growing a community of faith has the opposite effect. As people enthusiastic about their faith start drawing together, others are attracted to join rather than remain apart. Seeing this work before my eyes has been a transformative experience for me.

However, what has surprised me the most during my first two months of ministry is how my own personal relationship with Jesus has grown and strengthened. As I continue learning to see God in all my students, I feel the presence of God more clearly in my own life.

As I do my best to help others draw closer to God, I am simultaneously being pulled closer to Him. The best way to describe this feeling can be found in Luke 6:38: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

I have experienced the reality of this truth. As I grow more in love with my students, I am growing more in love with Christ. They are helping me at least as much as I am helping them.

In “The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales,” written by his friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley, St. Francis de Sales is quoted as saying, “You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving.”

I now understand exactly what he meant. I am continuing to grow in love by loving more. While I still have a lot to learn, I feel confident I am doing what I was called to do. My reward has been of immeasurable wealth, a sense of peace and solid confidence in the transformative effect of God’s love.

Simon Powell is the director of campus ministry at the Sam Houston State Catholic Student Center in Huntsville.

(Photo by Dylan Gillis/Unsplash)