Identity in Ministry

August 07, 2012

Newburgh, NY -

Fr. Francis Amodio

Fr. Francis Amodio speaks about his faith

I’m a Carmelite friar serving as director of campus ministry and chaplain at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY. I’ve been working at the Mount for nearly two years, after having served in my province’s newest community in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mount Saint Mary College was established 50 years ago by the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh.

Before our current president, Fr. Kevin Mackin OFM, a Franciscan friar, the last Dominican sister to occupy the position of president was Sr. Ann Sakac, O.P.

I tell you this because I work at a college with a Dominican spiritual tradition, a Franciscan president, and now a Carmelite campus minister.

Answering the question about how I live out my Carmelite charism within this context is both interesting and challenging.

Two things I automatically did upon arriving at the Mount was wearing the Carmelite habit and placing of a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in my office. At different solemn occasions wearing the white cloak, the full Carmelite habit, also expressed externally my Carmelite identity.

It is difficult to pinpoint ways of expressing Carmelite spirituality in one’s ministry. Being a Carmelite and living out the life of a Carmelite are two aspects I would like to address. The fact that I belong to an Order with an 800 year tradition brings with it certain values about the world, self, and relationship with God.

As Carmelites we look at the world through the Jesus who went off to commune with his Father in the desert or on the mountain or some deserted place. To be alone with God, to hear his voice in one’s heart and then act upon it is what we do.

Our charism of prayer and contemplation is the root of who we are. Our community and ministry are defined by the quality of our contemplative life as the Carmelite Constitution states.

As I encountered the expression of Dominican spirituality on campus, I began to realize how different the Carmelite approach is. In understanding another tradition you begin to articulate your own and have a renewed appreciation for this discovery.

Celebrating mass on campus for the staff, facultym and students is a concrete way to express Carmelite spirituality. The Carmelite themes of listening, being alone, walking in God’s presence are spoken from the pulpit.

Celebrating the Carmelite liturgical calendar is an attempt to teach spiritual values and Carmelite history.

For example, on the feast of St. Therese, roses are blessed and given to people in different departments on campus as a way of making our presence known.

Pastoral counseling or offering spiritual direction is a time I see “the Carmelite” come out.

Young people are in search of something that has lasting value. They want a spirituality which is deep, real, and gives meaning to their lives.

The values of our spirituality, I find, are exactly what students need to heal and grow in their personal and spiritual lives.

I notice people in general do not know how to pray in a deep way. Their prayer life usually consists of memorized prayers and going to mass.

Offering a deeper way through silence is attractive to many young people. For example, campus ministry introduced Prayer and Praise, praying the Liturgy of the Hours before the Blessed Sacrament.

Students have commented on how the silence in front of Jesus Himself is moving. Helping people to pray with depth to become aware of the presence of God in their lives is what I can offer them.

This contemplation, the charism of Carmel really does help students to know themselves and therefore grow as a mature person. Any psychologist will tell you that without silence one cannot grow in love of self. It is this basic understanding of the contemplative life which can benefit the students I come in contact with.

Another way of expressing “the Carmelite” is the course I teach twice a week, Introduction to New Testament.

The hermits on Mount Carmel lived, prayed, and meditated on the Word of God as our rule tells us “night and day.” It was the tool they used to listen to God and purify their hearts.

Teaching the scripture is an occasion to model for the students the meaning of listening to the Word of God, through the use of Lectio Divina.

Modeling how to interpret the spiritual meaning of the parables, the teachings of Jesus, helps students see the Gospels as living rather than words on a page. This sensitivity toward God’s word has been taught to me by the Carmelite tradition. So I not only teach about the history of the text, but how to reflect on the Word of God.

And at the end of the day, living out the Carmelite charism as a campus minister is basically one of presence: Being present to those I see, to those I teach, helping people articulate that God is real and active in our midst.

God bless.