Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future
A Pastoral Letter on Campus Ministry Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The book Empowered by the Spirit is out of print. Order copies of ‘Empowering Campus Ministry’ at the online bookstore. The short booklet touches on the key aspects of campus ministry outlined by the bishops in the pastoral letter below.
(The URL to order the booklet is:
"I pray that he will bestow on you gifts in keeping
with the riches of his glory. May he strengthen you inwardly through
the working of his Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith
and may charity be the root and foundation of your life" (Eph 3:16-17).
For over a century, Catholic campus ministry in our country, empowered
by the Spirit, has been forming communities of faith which witness to
the presence of the risen Christ. Now we are at the beginning of a new
era filled with opportunities to build up the faith community on
campuses and to promote the well-being of higher education and society
as a whole. In this pastoral letter addressed to the Catholic Church in
the United States and especially to the Church on campus, we offer our
prayerful support, encouragement, and guidance to the men and women who
are committed to bringing the message of Christ to the academic world.
In preparing this letter, we have consulted with many of them and have
come to a deeper appreciation of their dedication and achievements, as
well as their concerns and frustrations. This new era, which is filled
with promise, challenges campus ministry to respond creatively to the
promptings of the Spirit for the well-being of the Church and higher
2. Our 1981 statement on Catholic higher education
concluded by noting "the excellent intellectual and pastoral leadership
of many Catholics engaged as teachers, administrators, and campus
ministers in the colleges and universities which are not Catholic."1
We said at that time that "we hope for a future opportunity to speak of
their invaluable contribution to the intellectual life of our country."2
In this pastoral letter, we fulfill that hope and turn our attention
primarily to the ministry of the Church on these public and private
campuses, where each year millions of Catholics are being prepared as
future leaders of society and Church.3 We are mindful of our
previous comments on the crucial importance of Catholic higher
education, especially the distinctive task of campus ministry on
Catholic campuses to call the total institution to spread the Gospel and
to preserve and enrich its religious traditions.4 In
addition, the suggestions for this document made by those who serve at
Catholic institutions affirmed that all who minister in the world of
higher education have certain common concerns and similar desires for
cooperation. Collaboration among all colleges and universities within a
diocese enhances the Church's ministry to higher education. Mutual
support, joint sponsorship of programs, and sharing of resources improve
the total efforts of campus ministry. Many of the perspectives,
suggestions, and directions in this pastoral letter should be helpful to
those who serve so well in our Catholic institutions of higher
3. Campus ministry is best understood in its
historical, sociological, and theological context. Thus, the first
section discusses our hopes for the Church on campus in the light of its
previous history. The next section locates campus ministry within the
relationship between the Church and the world of higher education,
highlighting the need for renewed dialogue. Campus ministry derives its
life from the persons who bring the Gospel of Christ to the academic
world. Therefore, the third section focuses on the members of the Church
on campus, emphasizing the call of all the baptized to collaborate in
the work of the Church, as well as the special responsibility of
professional campus ministers to empower others for this task. The
fourth section examines six aspects of campus ministry that flow from
the nature of the Church and the situation on campus. Here we state
principles and suggest strategies for carrying out this ministry. The
epilogue notes our own responsibilities as bishops to serve the Church
on campus and calls the Church to an exciting new phase in the history
of campus ministry in our country.
"Catholic Higher Education and the Pastoral Mission of the Church," in Pastoral
Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops
4 vols., Hugh J. Nolan, ed.
(Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic
Conference Publishing Services,
1983-1984), vol. IV, 1975-1983, no. 64,
footnote 32. (Hereafter all pastoral
letters will be cited from the
There are more than 3,300 institutions of higher learning
in the United States.
The 1985 fall enrollment was 12,247,000 of which
approximately 9.6 million attend
public colleges and universities and
2.7 million attend private institutions. In the
population, 43 percent are 25 or older and 45 percent attend
In recent times, Catholics have constituted around 39 percent of the
freshmen class. For these statistics, see Chronicle of Higher Education
September 4, 1985.
"Catholic Higher Education," nos. 45-46.
Issued by NCCB/USCC, November 15, 1985. Copyright © 1985, United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved.