Mercy Fits Perfectly with Ministry at College

Cleveland native Br. Rob Reuter, C.PP.S., is a professor of philosophy at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. Professed in 2003, he had the unique experience of going through religious formation as a college professor. Br. Rob has also been involved in the leadership of the Congregation.

When you first heard about the Jubilee Year of Mercy, how did you see it working with your ministry?

I was delighted that Pope Francis was taking the Church in the direction of a central gospel message, rather than focusing on doctrinal or institutional issues. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back, our Community has always focused on mercy through reconciliation (by bringing people together who might otherwise be divided). So I saw a year of mercy fitting in perfectly with our ministry at Saint Joseph’s College, which, as our mission statements says, is to promote the “values of justice and love and . . . commitment to human solidarity.”

Is the concept of the Father’s mercy one that resonates with young adults?

Yes and no. We live in a culture that seems only to promote competition and reward “winners” and where the current political climate is an “us-versus-them” mentality. Those attitudes are not lost on young adults.

On the other hand, I very often see young adults volunteering their time for service, or choosing service-oriented careers. I was visited last semester by a recent graduate who is now in optometry school. She said her career goal is to make eye care affordable to the poor. She did not explicitly link her goals to Francis’ message of mercy, but of course living that message is what counts.

How do you see yourself celebrating/participating in the Jubilee Year of Mercy?

Besides classroom teaching, I’m excited about two ministries I do that help me live a life of mercy. Once a month, I take a group of student volunteers to a food pantry, where they interact with people of a social status they probably didn’t see much of during their often middle-class upbringing.

Also, a couple of St. Joe staff members and I recently started an outreach ministry to the LGBTQ community (or “gay community” for short).  This community is an often neglected and marginalized group on small college campuses, not to mention society at large (and often the Church too).

These two ministries, along with teaching, are probably the clearest ways I see myself participating in the Year of Mercy.

Do you routinely see acts of mercy on the college campus? Among the students? Between students and faculty/staff? In other ways?

Definitely. It’s very common for faculty and staff to come in on weekends and evenings to help students, do an emergency repair, or do whatever is needed to keep the college running. The faculty have not had a raise for at least three years, yet they remain very dedicated to the mission of the college. Recently, an athletic team donated the money they would have spent on their evening meal in the cafeteria to the Sorrowful Mother Food Pantry in Wheatfield, Ind. They raised $500 dollars.

I could supply many more examples like this, but you get the point.

Previous page: Laying Members to Rest is an Act of Mercy

Next page: Confirmation Class Made Meaningful