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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