As you probably have heard, a couple of weeks ago Bishop Joe Vasquez announced that he has decided that the Campus Ministry at the University of Texas at Austin should be under direct pastoral care of the Diocese of Austin. This means that as of July 1, the University Catholic Center (UCC) at UT will no longer be staffed by the Paulists, but by priests of the Diocese of Austin.
This came as a total surprise and shock to the Paulists. Having founded the campus ministry there, and served for well over a century at the UCC, that ministry has been an integral and important part of our self image. To have it removed so abruptly feels like the loss of a limb.
Certainly this has happened before in Paulist history. We have chosen, usually because we have declining numbers, to leave several foundations that were important to us, including campus ministries. We have also been ejected from campus ministries before (e.g. the University of Minnesota) by a bishop who wanted campus ministry in his diocesan portfolio. And in all these cases, regardless of the reason, a sadness and a kind of hole in the Paulist corporate heart, remains. So it will be for the ministry at the University Catholic Center in Austin.
However, our Patron, St. Paul, was himself thrown out of many places. He also moved on from others when he felt his job was done. In this, St. Paul continued to be an example for the Paulists.
The Paulists have no intention of leaving St. Austin in any foreseeable future. But the time may come in another century or two, when the Paulists will decide that our work here is done, and it will be time for us to move on. This is core to the identity of a missionary community.
I hope that several centuries from now, the Paulists will move on from St. Austin’s to another dynamic parish on some other planet, circling some other star than our Sun, and continue our mission of evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism. I regret that I will not be there to see it.