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home : opinion : perspectives

6/9/2011 3:18:00 AM
BISHOP MAGINN HIGH
Chaplain reflects on his first year
BY REV. JAMES FITZMAURICE


Last fall, I received a phone call from Rev. Ronald Menty, the diocesan administrative advocate for priests, asking if I would consider serving as chaplain to Bishop Maginn High School in Albany. I was busy enough as pastor of Christ the King parish in Guilderland, but I also felt drawn to the opportunity to serve the high school community: I was a high school social studies teacher for six years before I began studies for the priesthood, and much of my ministry since ordination in 1984 was as a school chaplain or campus minister.

I have combined teaching and chaplaincy at Siena College in Loudonville and at high schools in St. Paul, Minn., and Boston. I'm also a graduate and former faculty member of Cardinal McCloskey High School in Albany, one of the schools from which Bishop Maginn High came.

When meeting with the school administration last fall, I admitted that I didn't have a lot of time to devote to the school, but would do the best I could to get to know the students and faculty. I began by visiting each religion class to introduce myself.

It was a great two days; I felt welcomed at Bishop Maginn from the beginning and ever since.

One of the main objectives for a chaplain at the school was to have someone to celebrate school liturgies on Holy Days of Obligation. The students help to plan each liturgy and assist as lectors, altar servers and members of the choir.

What a blessing it is to celebrate the eucharistic presence of Christ with these young people!

It's also important for the students to understand that Christ be made present not just in the Eucharist, but in their daily lives, and that they can be that presence for one another. I like to stress the importance of a "ministry of presence."

The role of the chaplain is different from a faculty member. The ministry takes place not in the classroom, but all over the school and at various school events: being present in the cafeteria during lunch, attending sporting events, visiting classrooms when invited, and being available to meet on a one-to-one basis with any student who is having a difficult time.

These are all opportunities for me to share the joy of Christ with the students.

As in many pastoral situations, those of us who are ordained find that we are ministered to, as well as ministering to others. I began my classroom visits by asking the students if there was ever anything they wanted to ask a priest.

We had some great discussions, and I felt that my ministry to everyone would be strengthened by my experience that day. The students were full of questions that truly made me reflect on who I was and what was I doing. My priestly vocation was enhanced by this.

I truly felt accepted when, after the Christmas liturgy, a student whom I had met only once gave me a simple Christmas gift.

My experience this year has made me look forward to the next school year with enthusiasm - and a determination to make more time to be a high school chaplain at Bishop Maginn.





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