I was both pleased and concerned to read the staff commentary from your March 7 issue entitled “If nuns can speak out, so can you.” As the Catholic Campus Minister serving the students of Keene State College through the Newman Center, I was pleased to see the topic of religion being discussed in a campus-wide venue.
But as a Catholic woman, I was concerned to read more of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that the vast majority of non-Catholics hold against Catholics (and I say this as one who used to believe many of these misconceptions before becoming Catholic myself–trust me, I’m aware of them all and how truthful they sound).
I could go into a rebuttal, talking about patristic versus medieval theology, of the true meaning of papal infallibility (which is absolutely not, as Mr. Rabadeau puts it, “the belief that the Pope can do no wrong”), or the reality of the separation between the office of the Pope, the man who at any time fills it, and what is known as “the Curia” at the Vatican.
I could go on and on about the Second Vatican Council and how it radically improved the role and status of women in our church and modernized Catholic liturgical practice around the world.
But that’s not what the Catholic church or our specific community needs. We don’t need more one-sided arguments. We don’t need more soapbox pronouncements. What we need is a conversation. And so I am offering myself for just that.
Because Keene is a state school, I am not free to actively evangelize on campus without student invitation or involvement. I am, however, allowed to eat. So, I am offering an open invitation to any student or faculty member–Catholic, non-Catholic, agnostic, atheist, vaguely spiritual, whatever–who wants to sit down and have a chat about any questions or issues they have regarding Catholics, our church, matters of faith, the new Pope, or anything in general over lunch.
I have lunch every Tuesday and Thursday at the Dining Commons from 12 -1 p.m., and for the next three weeks I will sit in the middle of the DC, at that V-shaped bar-height set of tables where desserts are usually displayed. I’m generally petite, have curly red hair and green eyes, and look like a student since I’m 26. For the sake of identification, I’ll wear a skirt and a name tag to distinguish myself from the average twenty-something found in the DC.
And I will make the following promises to anyone who joins me in the next few weeks: I will be reasonable and rational. I will tell you when I don’t know the answer to a question instead of being arrogant and pretentious enough to make up an answer for the sake of “winning” a point.
I’ve no interest in demeaning others or their beliefs. I want to hear how students perceive Catholics and our church, and I want to tell the truth about what we believe and don’t believe. That’s the point of a college education, isn’t it–to broaden one’s world view in the spirit of respect and tolerance?
If neither of those times works and anyone wants to schedule a different time to meet up for coffee or lunch or just a chat, please feel free to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 357-1444.
And if this is a topic that interests you, do keep an eye out for flyers around town promoting the Newman Center’s first gathering of Theology on Tap, in which local young adults 21 and over will be gathering at a local bar or restaurant in early April. Our first discussion topic will be common misconceptions about Catholicism, and all are welcome!
Cindy Cheshire can be contacted at