The bridge between the home parish of Catholic college students and their new campus has often been washed out at each end: On the parish end, no one seemed to be tracking the graduating seniors who were going off to college. On the campus end, no one seemed to be tracking the newly arriving Catholic freshmen.
And the results are nothing to be proud of: Fewer than 20 percent of Catholic college students attend Mass after their first year.
And now, some good news: Enter the "College Connection for Catholics" (CCC) program, whose goal is to help the 1.25 million U.S. Catholic students who graduate from high school each year to find their way to greater participation in the life and mission of the Church during their college years.
Mrs. Judy Cozzens, chair of College Connection for Catholics, is dedicated, and realistic, "We're trying to increase the faith participation of young people in the Church, and in order to do that we have to fight for their attention, just like everybody else has to fight. We have to make sure we're in the game."
This past spring, members of a dozen Serra Clubs throughout Minnesota gathered graduating seniors' names, addresses, and information on the colleges they were planning to attend from their parents, parishes, and schools. The Serrans then sent each student a packet with information about the Newman Center, campus ministry, Catholic student groups, and parishes on or near that student's campus.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the "bridge," student information was compiled on a database set up through National Evangelization Teams ("NET") Ministries in West Saint Paul, Minnesota, and then was sent to the campus ministry or parish at the student's new college.
Hats off to Judy Cozzens (proud mom of Fr. Andrew Cozzens), to the ever-inventive Serra octogenerian, Mr. Donald Traxler (651-699-7827, firstname.lastname@example.org) and to all of the folks with Serra and NET Ministries for this pioneering effort.
As I noted in my blog posting yesterday, there is a brief window of spiritual opportunity during a Catholic freshman's first days on campus. Let's pray, in these crucial opening days of the fall semester, that hundreds of thousands of Catholic college students will join with good Catholic classmates and organizations and, most importantly, will stay joined with Jesus Christ, His Church and His Sacraments.
(See Susan Klemond's article in The Catholic Spirit, "Serra program keeps college students connected to faith": www.thecatholicspirit.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3275&Itemid=134)