St. Vincent Pallotti, the Missionary of Rome, was a Roman Diocesan priest of the 19th century whose life, works, ministry, and witness offer the best models for modern lay ecclesial ministers, especially lay college ministers. Pallotti was a theologian ahead of his time, founding the Union of Catholic Apostolate and Society of the Catholic Apostolate to propagate and revive the faith among practicing Catholics while fostering a more profound devotion of love by rekindling charity. The implementation of this ideal is still needed in today’s Church, and here is where lay ecclesial ministers come in. When ministers work for Pallotti’s goals of reviving faith and rekindling charity within a Cenacle or community-based mindset, countless people in the larger Church community can be touched and impacted. I have worked in college ministry for two years now as a peer minister, and Pallotti’s ideals have led to my ministerial community’s most fruitful work since we sought to help the needs of the greater college campus community through intentional accompaniment.
St. Vincent Pallotti—much like saints Francis, Dominic, Thérèse—sought to help mend the gaps in the Church by giving all Catholics more ways of achieving holiness. Pallotti founded the Union to help Romans become better Catholics, and modern ecclesial ministers continue this. On college campuses today, many students who identify as Catholic can be lost in the cracks of campus life if they are not actively seeking faith formation and development. Pallotti and his contemporaries went out, looking to meet people where they were and teach them along the way. College ministers must do the same. Instead of forcing program after program (whether Bible studies of social events) onto their students, ministers should instead meet people one on one, learn about their unique qualities, and intentionally invite them to go deeper into their faith. Large-scale social events or small intimate groups like a Bible study allow for an initial contact with students, but these events are not ends in themselves. Instead, they should lead to more connection and discussion. These deeper conversations are what allow faith to be revived. Ministers and those they accompany collaborate to learn more and better live the Christian life of loving charity. However, ministers must look to each other for support and collaboration. Fruitful ministry cannot come from one person alone. Like Pallotti, ministers must work in a Cenacle spirituality, utilizing others’ gifts, talents, and observations to improve everyone’s individual and the overall community’s ministry.
To teach a fellow priest how one’s smallest actions deeply affect others, Pallotti used the money he got from selling excess paper to help minister to a man on his deathbed. Pallotti then turned to Father Paul de Geslin and said, “Now you see the importance of even little scraps of paper.” College ministers must work with the same mindset. The way one lives their own life, interacts with community members, and participates in the greater campus community serves as a witness of Christ to the whole campus. Simple day-to-day interactions allow people to encounter Christ through their actions. Small acts like checking in on a stressed resident can enable them to feel cared for, reach out, and take the initiative to revive their own faith life. Too often lay ecclesial ministry, especially on the college level, boils down to how many people came to a specific event, leading to a discussion of whether resources were utilized well. While good stewardship is necessary in ministry, numbers cannot fully reflect how well the ministry was done. Event statistics show how well a ministry is reaching the community, but it does not account for the small interactions or the “scraps of paper” that make ministry fruitful one-on-one. Ministry must be viewed both on a large scale and on a small scale. The Sermon on the Mount and Jesus meeting the woman at the well are equally important, and both show good ministry.
St. Vincent Pallotti’s dedication to reviving faith and rekindling charity makes him a model for all the Church’s ministers, especially college students. Pallotti worked to show people ways of living a charitable and faith-filled life by walking with them and living among them. This is why college peer-ministry is integral to young adult ministry. College students must see role models who live virtuous faith-filled lives on campus that engage with the greater community and campus culture. Ministers are not meant to live and work in a monastery of a perfect Christian life. Instead, they are meant to engage with others and live their lives with the community. Like Pallotti and his peers, ministers must also draw strength from each other and learn more about those they are ministering with by working collaboratively. This Cenacle spirituality allows for greater engagement in ministry by creating programs and fostering relationships of accompaniment aimed at developing faith for all involved. Finally, the Holy Spirit moves within pastoral communities at all levels of the Church to deepen the Cenacle Spirituality to strengthen its ministers to go out and serve others instead of being inwardly focused. The Holy Spirit inspires lay ecclesial ministers to embrace their individual charisms, recognize others’ gifts, and utilize shared talents to serve others and bring them the Good News. Through Pallotti’s example of ministry, one can “seek God in all things” and “find God in all things.”
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Social media has been gaining momentum in the Catholic world since the mid-2010s; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, digital evangelization and virtual faith-sharing have become even more important and prevalent. Because in-person liturgies, retreats, and daily interactions were not possible, Church organizations across the U.S. began to increase their digital footprint. Although the Catholic Apostolate Center has used technology and social media as tools for evangelization since its inception in 2011, the COVID-19 pandemic also led the Center to a greater focus on digital evangelization and online formation tools. As an intern with the Catholic Apostolate Center, my time has been punctuated by helping people encounter the Church and faith formation more positively. Specifically, expanding the Center’s courses on Catholic Faith Technologies’ e-learning platform and building an app for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers has allowed me to create new ways for people to encounter Jesus Christ and learn more about Him.
Pope Francis has followed the footsteps of his predecessors by encouraging the Church to continue evangelization over the internet. Our Holy Father has stressed the importance of using the technological means available to us today in order to proclaim the Gospel “to all the nations.” This evangelization can come in many ways and forms, and the Catholic Apostolate Center has embraced this understanding since its foundation. This summer, I have been working on adapting the Center’s “Apostles on Mission” in-person course to be an asynchronous course online with Catholic Faith Technologies’ e-learning platform. As a secondary education major, I was able to hone my skills as an educator by looking at the lesson outlines and plans and advising a break, an activity, or a different method of conveying the content to increase engagement. This project has also helped me look at what intellectual faith formation means and why it is so pertinent to the spiritual life. Formation in the Church calls us to learn more about Jesus, the Church, our Faith, and our own strengths and weaknesses. However, with the advent of the internet, we must cast the net over the right side of the boat, as Jesus calls us, to reach more people and continue to spread the Gospel message. Expanding digital resources for faith formation allows all the faithful to grow closer to our Lord.
Digital evangelization can also allow for a more profound personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As seen throughout the pandemic, prayer resources can help people feel connected to the greater Church community. People want to experience various types of prayer to delve deeper into the spiritual life. The Catholic Apostolate Center has been working tirelessly this summer to create a prayer app for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers. This app—entitled “Revive & Rekindle”—will assist the Pallottine community and the general faithful in growing closer to Christ through the spirituality of St. Vincent Pallotti. This project has allowed me to make two important observations about the Catholic faith. First, we must promote various forms of prayer and devotion to help the faithful find the styles of prayer that best suit them. Second, prayer and devotion must be disseminated and promoted in different media to spread the Gospel message to as many people as possible. The “Revive & Rekindle” app will allow people to grow closer to Jesus through reflections and prayers inspired by St. Vincent Pallotti, who urges us all to become Apostles for the Lord. As a strong proponent of the New Evangelization, Pope Francis encourages us to enter the digital landscape to encounter people and bring them closer to Christ. The Church can only do this through intentional formation and by promoting an encounter with Christ online.
As an intern at the Catholic Apostolate Center, I have grown professionally, personally, and, most importantly, spiritually. Working with the Center, I have concretely realized what Pope Francis means when he urges young people not to “wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity and your creativity to changing our world. Your youth is not an “in-between time” (Christus Vivit). A vast majority of people in the United States have social media, and since many Catholics are among this number, we have to preach the Gospel on all channels and encounter others and Jesus Himself through means of digital formation and evangelization. We must reach out to all corners of our world and society to be Apostles on mission for Jesus.