Catholic campus ministry at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) is much the same as campus ministry at any college or university. The difference is that the young men and women attending the USNA are also members of our nation’s military. The Midshipmen (please note: not Cadets!) at the Naval Academy are there because they want to be future officers in the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Ministry at the USNA is a blend of campus ministry, parish ministry, and military chaplaincy. Catholic campus ministry at the USNA consists of providing times for daily and Sunday Masses; specific hours for going to Confession; opportunities for counseling and spiritual direction; an OCIA program for those Midshipmen needing to make their Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation for those who might wish to become Catholics (at present there are 28 Midshipmen in the OCIA program); a Catholic Midshipmen’s that meets once a week for fellowship, support and education in “things Catholic”; service as liturgical ministers; opportunities for community service; Bible study groups and Eucharistic adoration times.
There is a small 24-hour Eucharistic Chapel in Bancroft Hall. Bancroft Hall is the dormitory for the “Mids.” Bancroft Hall is said to be the largest contiguous dormitory in the world having 1,700 rooms and consisting of 4.8 miles of corridors. The multi-denominational Chaplains offices are in one of the buildings of theBancroft Hall complex.
The ministry at the USNA also extends to the graduates of the Naval Academy, to the faculty and staff of the Academy, and to many retirees who might attend the Sunday 0900 Mass. You would be correct in guessing that premarriage preparation and wedding ceremonies are on the ministry menu.
The children of the faculty and staff have a Sunday morning religious education program. Some of the Midshipmen teach in that program. The children have an opportunity for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist.
There is a cemetery and a Columbarium at the Naval Academy. Funerals and Committal Services are part of the ministry. We are blessed to have a FOCUS team assisting the Catholic clergy.
FOCUS stands for Fellowship o Catholic University Students. FOCUS team members are college graduates who provide peer ministry with the Mids. The FOCUS members provide not only peer religious guidance but also social events and community activities. FOCUS teams are on more than 200 campuses in the U.S. Providing guidance, ethical norms, and spiritual direction to generations of future Navy and Marine Corps leaders is a rich blessing.
by Fr. Eric Hoog, C.Ss.R.
North American Conference of Redemptorists