Have you ever been somewhere or been a part of something where you just kept looking around and thinking to yourself “Is this real?”
That was my experience at the opening Mass of this year’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) in Washington, D.C.
I was born and raised Catholic, went to a Catholic high school and university, and currently work at a Catholic university. So naturally, I’ve been to my fair share of Masses.
But this opening mass at CSMG was by far the most inspiring, edifying, and enriching mass experience I’ve ever had. That’s not to take anything away from other Masses that I’ve been to, this one was just that good.
The music brought me to my feet time and time again. The readings and petitions were read in several different languages and were read beautifully and with conviction. And, the community of people from different cities, states, and countries, all “gathered” (pun intended) on behalf of a shared passion for faith-inspired social justice work, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been a part of. It was awe-inspiring.
I was fortunate enough to be present for this event because of my role as Coordinator of Social Justice Education at Lewis University. I work in University Ministry, where I get to work with students who, inspired by their faith, have answered the call to work for peace and justice.
This year was my first time at CSMG and I was blessed to accompany three outstanding sophomores from Lewis University – Lauren, Julio, and Savannah. Julio has a particular passion and interest in peace-building and conflict resolution in war-torn countries, and Savannah and Lauren are both incredibly passionate about criminal justice and sentencing reform.
It was a tremendous honor for me to walk with them throughout this experience, as they had the opportunity to hear a number of high profile keynote speakers, participate in small group discussions, be a witness to two amazing masses, and talk with legislators on Capitol Hill about issues such as immigration and mass incarceration. They were also blessed with the chance to meet up and interact with over 100 other college students from around the country, as part of the emerging Young Leaders Initiative (YLI).
After participating in CSMG and YLI, and returning back home to Lewis University, Savannah, Lauren, and Julio were kind enough to provide me with some feedback about their CSMG experience. I will leave you with some of their own words about this incredible experience:
“The visit to Capitol Hill allowed me to truly express my passion for social issues as well as apply all of the knowledge I had learned from the workshops. It was an amazing feeling to be able to voice my opinion on something I’m so passionate about to a person who is capable of making a difference. It assured me that my ideas mattered and that justice is more tangible in this country than many believe.”- Lauren
“I was blessed enough to be a part of an event so powerful that I can say that I wholesomely felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.” – Julio
“CSMG was truly an unforgettable experience. I attended the most culturally diverse, beautiful Mass of my life. The gathering allowed Julio, Lauren, and I to network with other college students across the nation and discuss things we can improve or introduce to our campuses… From this gathering, I have realized that it is our duty to change the injustices we see in the world.” – Savannah
Sean Ruane is a University Minister and Coordinator of Social Justice Education at Lewis University.