Father Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., university chaplain and vice president of ministry and mission, traveled to the Vatican in late November and extended his best wishes to Pope Francis on behalf of the entire community at The Catholic University of America.
“It was a blessing to meet and speak with university chaplains from around the world,” Father Aquinas said. “There are graces unfolding on campuses everywhere, but I couldn’t help coming away from the conference grateful for the evangelical zeal that fills our campus. CUA is unique among Catholic universities.”
He was in Rome representing the University as part of a recent meeting of university chaplains and pastoral workers from around the world. But the University has a special place among those in the United States. Catholic University is the nation’s only Catholic university established by the bishops of the United States. It is also the oldest Catholic research university in the nation. Campus Ministry touches nearly every aspect of campus life through faith and service. Masses are celebrated daily on campus and regular eucharistic adoration opportunities are also offered. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff participate in the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, mission trips, and the national March for Life.
Father Aquinas is in his second academic year leading the University’s Office of Campus Ministry. Three months ago, University President Peter Kilpatrick appointed him as the first vice president of ministry and mission. In this capacity, he articulates and promotes the University’s Catholic mission, spirituality, ministry, ideals, principles, and charisms to all community members.
Father Aquinas had previously met Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, but this was his first encounter with Pope Francis. He was honored to have the opportunity.
“It’s always a grace to be in the presence of the successor of St. Peter,” Father Aquinas said.
During the address to campus ministers at the Vatican, Pope Francis emphasized accompanying young adults on their faith journeys with patience. He explained ministering to each unique person from different backgrounds and cultures brings unique challenges, but also unique opportunities to share the faith.
“In the educational challenges that you encounter every day in contact with individuals, cultures, situations, affections, and thoughts that are greatly diverse and at times problematic, do not grow discouraged,” Pope Francis said. “Care for all of them, without seeking immediate results, but in the sure hope that, when you accompany young people and pray for them, miracles spring up. Uniformity does not make them flourish; they flourish precisely in the differences that represent their richness.”
Toward the end of his address, the Holy Father asked the chaplains to extend his greeting and blessing to their campuses: “I ask that you greet the students entrusted to your care, as well as the academic authorities and the staff of your universities and your local Churches.”