However, on Feb, 20, the York Room was transformed into worship space as Archbishop John J. Myers celebrated the Eucharist with more than 50 members of the college's Catholic Campus Ministry group-Catholics at Ramapo United (CRU)-and members of the school's faculty and administration.
The celebration on that sunny and blustery Wednesday afternoon signaled the formation of a stronger link between the Ramapo campus ministry students and nearby Immaculate Conception Parish in Mahwah-a strategic, spiritual bond that may become a model for other archdiocesan campus ministry programs.
Concelebrating with Archbishop Myers were Father William P. Sheridan, the pastor of Immaculate Conception and the campus minister at Ramapo, and Father Michael A. Andreano, archdiocesan Vice Chancellor and the secretary to the archbishop.
It was the first visit of its kind by Archbishop Myers to a secular college within the archdiocese-an important, engaging event for the small but growing Catholic student group at Ramapo.
"It was exciting to meet with him," said Dan Grossano, a junior at the college and president of CRU, referring to the archbishop. "We wanted to thank him for all that he has done for campus ministry. We also wanted him to see how we here at CRU are working to share and deepen our faith. And just as important, it was a chance to recognize Fr. Bill and all that he has done for both the campus ministry and the parish."
Father Sheridan said the archbishop offered to celebrate Mass with the group during a meeting he had recently to discuss progress with his ministry.
"Last April, as we were discussing campus ministry in general and at Ramapo, the archbishop had suggested that the CRU forge a stronger link with the parish of Immaculate Conception, which is only a minute or so away from the school," Father Sheridan recalled. "This is a model that he knew worked well in the Midwest, where the parish and the local campus ministry have close ties. He wanted to try it here. Since I was named pastor of Immaculate Conception recently, we've been working even more at building the connection between school and parish."
Practical examples of this unfolding parish/campus bond already are evident. The weekly bulletin at Immaculate Conception, for example, now includes a page on activities at CRU. Students are encouraged to attend Mass on Sundays at the parish just "down the road" on Route 202, and CRU is even scheduling activities and events at the parish as well. Students also are encouraged to participate in other parish activities and ministries as well.
Even with this closeness and linkage, much of CRU's efforts are directed on campus. "During Lent," Dan Grossano said, "we have Mass here on campus at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, as well as adoration at 8:30 p.m. After Sunday Mass at 9 p.m., we meet and discuss different books on Catholic teachings. We even have Christian men's and a Christian women's groups centered on prayer and discussion of spiritual issues."
As Mass began on Feb. 20 and the community sang the words: "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow," smiles were evident as the Archbishop entered and greeted the community. This feeling of closeness and community carried throughout the Eucharistic celebration.
"We offer ourselves to one another, as Jesus did," the archbishop said in his homily, citing St. Augustine. Referring to the purpose of Lent, to prepare and change our lives, the archbishop spoke very frankly to the group. "When we get into a relationship with grace, with God, things change. We have to stretch ourselves. We have to surrender our lives as Christians. We offer ourselves to one another, knowing that Jesus has given us the example of his loving self-surrender. He asks us to follow his way."
As Mass ended and the CRU members began to leave the York Room, some students commented among themselves that Archbishop Myers did not have his crozier or mitre, as they had expected.
"He was very informal and approachable," one young woman said later, "and at the end of Mass, he stayed and spoke with each of us individually. When he said in his homily that we need to stretch ourselves, like Jesus did, to embrace the condition that we are in, it made me think about what I need to do. We have to allow ourselves, as the archbishop said, 'to become what God wants us to be.' That's a great message for Lent, and for any time."