Friday, February 15, 2008

Catholicism in Texas

John Allen is writing a piece on Catholicism in Texas and he came to St. Mary's on Sunday to visit. He heard that we were a "must see" and asked to talk to Fr. David and some of our students. He also happened to come during our Busy Students' Retreat - where 17 religious and priests were in town to help our students grow in prayer.

He puts some of his thoughts about his Texas tour up on his blog, which you can read here. Below I will put a few highlights.
He is especially discussing the fact that the strong Evangelical Protestant presence in TX has influenced Catholicism.

"Evangelical transfer" can be glimpsed in ways large and small. For example, Fr. David Konderla, director of the sprawling St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, says it sometimes shapes the way Texas Catholics pray.

"At our student group meetings, ask a Catholic kid to pray and rather than reciting the 'Hail Mary' they're probably going to say something like: 'Father, we really just thank you Lord, we just want to give praise to you,'" Konderla said. "It sounds very much like what they hear from their Protestant friends in the dorms and sororities."

He cites St. Mary's again when he discusses our vocations.

St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University is among the biggest and most dynamic campus ministry programs in the country. It's a vocations powerhouse, having produced 112 priests and religious so far, with 39 more Aggie alums currently in formation. Each year the center averages 8-10 vocations to the priesthood and religious life; last year's total was 16. By itself, St. Mary's therefore generates more vocations than many dioceses. The center's six weekend Masses regularly draw around 4,000 students. (Roughly 25 percent of A&M's student population of 45,000 is Catholic.) Konderla says that the unique ethos of A&M -- drawing students from rural, intensely religious parts of Texas -- is part of this picture. Paul Holub, a 22-year-old health education major who's considering a vocation to the priesthood, told me that it's not uncommon for Catholic and Evangelical undergrads to get "sidetracked" during study sessions talking about their faith -- pivoting especially, he said, on what it means to be "saved."

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