By Andy Costigan
Campus has been refreshingly quiet this summer. Recently, my desktop has been filled with pop-up Outlook calendar reminders for first-year move-in day, first day of classes, and other important upcoming events, signaling that summer is quickly drawing to a close. As I prepare for the start of another academic year, my fourth as a Campus Minister at John Carroll University (JCU), I have taken these final, hot, yet peaceful August days
to reflect on what it means to hold the role of Campus Minister, and to hold it well.
Today’s readings highlight, for me, two important values that are critical for success both as a Campus Minister and as a faithful “living person”: humility and hospitality.
While contemplating Jesus’s call for me to “humble myself” and open my doors to strangers, I was immediately taken back to the neighborhood of Monte Sinaí, Ecuador, where I traveled this summer for ten days with thirteen others from the JCU community. Amidst the blazing heat of the Ecuadorian sun and some of the most extreme poverty I have witnessed in the Western Hemisphere, our group encountered neighbors who practice humility and hospitality in a simple, yet radical way. Each day, as we were welcomed into a different home, our neighbors not only extended us the courtesies of a polite host or hostess--greeting us (strangers) with kind smiles, offering us seats when there was hardly much room, sharing with us what little food or drink they had.
They also demonstrated humility and hospitality by generously sharing with us the truth and fullness of themselves.
One neighbor in particular--Carolina, a small but feisty woman well known in the neighborhood--stole our hearts with her charming personality and inspiring vulnerability. Carolina beamed with pride and fought back a waterfall of tears as she shared with us the joys, sadness, and immense challenges of raising her family in Monte Sinaí. Her story touched us all to the core. Near the end of our ten days, as our group was reflecting on our experience, one of our quiet yet insightful group members shared that of all the neighbors we met, she was most inspired by Carolina because she was “unashamed of her own truth.”
Indeed, my time in Ecuador showed me that this lies at the core of humility and hospitality;
being at home with the fullness of ourselves and naming, with honesty, our truth allows us to be open about the God-given gifts we do have, and how we can share those gifts with and for others. Most importantly, by humbling themselves in our presence, our neighbors in Monte Sinaí allowed us to truly see and encounter the face of Christ, living and breathing in this very world.
As I think about incorporating the humility and hospitality so beautifully modeled for me in Ecuador into my daily life, specifically in my role as a Campus Minister, I find myself both energized and overwhelmed. I believe in these values so deeply, yet often get frustrated with myself for failing to practice them perfectly. My constant busyness and running from one thing to the next, nonstop, keeps me from demonstrating the hospitality needed for students looking for someone to talk to. My desire to always be right and perfect at all aspects of my job causes me to lose sight of humility and naming my own (imperfect) truth. When my frustrations with my own shortcomings mount,
I find that being in the presence of those who practice humility and hospitality helps--and I always turn to my students.
I am heartened by the hospitality of Laura’s friendliness and the hospitable nature of Nick’s humor. I am inspired by Dan’s humble commitment to intentionality and the humility present in Marina’s passionate work for justice. In watching these students and so many others, I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite mentors, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, that
God sees us exactly as we are – and delights with joy in this truth.
As we begin our next endeavor, whether it be a new academic year, a new relationship, new job, new city, or strive to more faithfully live into our existing commitments, may we do so with a genuine spirit of humility and hospitality. “Conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God” (Sirach 3:17-18).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy proudly serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at John Carroll University where he coordinates Ignatian retreats and immersion experiences. He considers the opportunity to minister to college students in this capacity one of the greatest blessings of his life. He enjoys traveling, laughing, and eating his grandmother's cooking. Andy fully supports The Living Person's mission of living every day with deeper intentionality.