There's nothing quite like a night in the desert in late August. A mild monsoon breeze accompanied the rising moon this past Sunday night as I stood gazing up at the old steeple on the red-bricked St Mary's Church at Arizona State Universitsy in Tempe, AZ.
As I bid goodnight to the last of many students after the late Sunday Mass, I caught my breath and thought with joyful astonishment: "I can't believe I'm here!"
My second pastoral assignment as a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix has taken a few months to sink in. Joining Fr Rob Clements as one of two full time priests at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center, I find myself with an assignment that didn't even exist for diocesan priests in Phoenix for decades.
In April of 2000, before I entered seminary, I interviewed for a position with an organization dedicated to Catholic evangelization. With a gut sense that it just wasn't time back then, I didn't accept the position. But apparently the good Lord just wanted to give me a good ten years of preparation for such a noble task--ministering to college students and all others at the University level.
Somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000. That's an estimation of the number of "Sun Devil" Catholics at Arizona State University. It's Notre Dame and Georgetown rolled into one.
People occasionally ask me if I feel overwhelmed by the immense task that lays at our feet at the Newman Center. The answer is, "Yes!" How many young persons at ASU don't know God! How many are imprisoned in one of the countless counterfeit promises of happiness that our culture imposes!
But like the warm refreshing air of an evening Arizona monsoon breeze, the grace of God blows from the deep lungs of the Church--especially when we humbly beg the Holy Spirit to come to us, and to renew the face of the earth.