This week marks one of my favorite events of the year–and no, I am not talking about the Super Bowl, at least not since 2010. This weekend will be the 5th Annual Ragin’ Cajun Catholics Greek Retreat!! Having worked in some form of ministry for the last twenty years (“Twenty years!? Katie, you must have started when you were five!”), few events have personally moved me like the birth of University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Greek Retreat. In the fall of 2012, a Kappa Sigma brother, on fire for his faith, approached Paul George and me about starting a retreat geared towards the specific needs, quirks, and desires of Greek students on campus. This request struck a deep chord with me, a proud member of the largest women’s Greek organization in America, Chi Omega Fraternity—Hoot Hoot!!
What an incredible evangelization opportunity! Going on a retreat by yourself can be an intimidating experience… but the idea of journeying together with your brothers and sisters, this was revolutionary! So today, I’d like to share with you a little bit about the Greek system, our journey of Greek retreat-ing for the last five years, and some thoughts about what we can learn about evangelization from the example of this young man who was brave enough to ask us for help.
College students are bombarded with options when they get to college… what major to choose, whether or not showering is optional, which free meal to eat at the local campus ministries, and whether or not to join a Fraternity or Sorority. Five years ago USA Today put together a great profile of Greek Life on college campuses. Here are some of the stats included in that article:
Since 1825, all but three U.S. presidents have been members of a fraternity.
Nine million college students are members of a Greek organization.
85% of Fortune 500 executives were part of Greek life.
College graduation rates are 20% higher among Greeks than non-Greeks.
Young men and women join these fraternal organizations for a variety of reasons… attend parties, get involved in the local community, become a leader, join an expansive network of alumni across the nation, but mostly to make friends for life! The Greek system provides automatic community, accountability, and a home away from home for the lost, scared, and often confused 18-year-old college freshmen. And while we tend to hear more of the negative attributes of the Greek system in the news… binge-drinking, rampant promiscuity, date rape, hazing, general soul-losing behavior–it comes to mind that these would be the young men and women that Jesus might choose as dining companions.
Campus Ministry & Greeks
For better AND for worse, fraternities and sororities function in community. That means brothers and sisters can both lead each toward or away from the Truth. Partnering with FOCUS, we have been able to establish Bible studies in a number of the fraternity and sorority houses on the campus of UL. That means brothers and sisters not only spend time partying, but praying together and breaking open the Word of God. From there we began to establish monthly Greek Nights which teach the Gospel message through the lens of the Greek community. It is not a difficult task to connect the Gospel or the Church with the Greeks as ritual, tradition, initiation, breaking bread, community, wine, fancy robes, service, and leadership speak to both Romans and Greeks.
The key to our success in breaking into the Greek community hasn’t been a flashy program or a dumbing down of difficult Church teaching, rather it is the relationships between the Greek students themselves. It is the willingness of one brother saying to another brother…
“Knowing Jesus has changed my life… I think it can change your life too. Walk with me.”
That fraternal invitation can build into fraternal correction which can lead to real change on our campuses.
What is your “Greek Retreat”?
For five years now we have held a Greek Retreat, led by our staff, a network of FOCUS missionaries from participating campuses, a small army of priests for Confession, and a prayer team and backstaff made up of non-Greek students. We have been averaging a group of 200 each year from up to 9 different campuses! Hours of just getting away from it all… talks, prayer, small group time, chapter time, Confession, Eucharistic adoration have been experienced by almost 1000 participants because of the courage of one young man to bring Christ to his brothers. He used his unique relationship with his brothers to share his love for Jesus.
We don’t all need to be theologians, or professional speakers, or bi-locating saints to share Christ with the people we love. You can be a frat guy from Lafayette, LA.
Who is in your community that could benefit from having a relationship with Jesus?
It’s a Trick Question… the answer is: Everyone You Know!
So how do we go about inviting?
Identify the person or circle you want to invite to walk with you. (Go ahead, if you’re on your smartphone go ahead and flip through your contacts.)
PRAY! (For that person, that circle, for yourself to be brave, for the Holy Spirit to take the lead, for Jesus to take the wheel, etc.)
Identify something to invite them to… Daily Mass, Bible study, to read a blog, to pray a novena with you, Sunday Mass and brunch, a day of reflection, a retreat, etc.
PRAY! (St. Stephen is a great intercessor!)
Invite! Invite! Invite! Invite! Invite!
P.S. Please pray for all of our students and the other students travelling from the other 8 campuses for this year’s retreat!
P.P.S. If you are a Greek alumna or alumnus and you would like to know how to get your alma mater or local chapter involved in Greek ministry at a college campus near you, please email me! I’d love to share more of our story with you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for my sorority sisters back at Tulane. Thank you for putting each of them in my life. Shower them with your grace wherever they find themselves today. Open their hearts to You…to your peace, to your joy. Help them to know that they are loved. Give them the courage to live out the words of our beautiful symphony…
To live constantly above snobbery of word or deed; to place scholarship before social obligations and character before appearances; to be in the best sense, democratic rather than “exclusive”, and lovable rather than “popular”; to work earnestly, to speak kindly, to act sincerely, to choose thoughtfully that course which occasion and conscience demand; to be womanly always; to be discouraged never; in a word, to be loyal under any and all circumstances to my Fraternity and her highest teachings and to have her welfare ever at heart that she may be a symphony of high purpose and helpfulness in which there is no discordant note.
Written by Ethel Switzer Howard, Xi Chapter, 1904
This post was originally published on TheCatholicOutpost.com on February 6, 2017.