Campus minister has one goal

By | February 9, 2011

Formerly a Protestant minister, Wood’s commitment to seeking Christ led to his conversion to Catholicism in 1996.


Sam Wood, director of the UW-Oshkosh Newman Center, shares a laugh with students Jenny Pauly, left, of St. Cloud, Wis., and Leann Kunze of Colby. (Dick Meyer | For The Compass)

Since his conversion, Wood has earned his master of arts degree in historical theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee and has been serving as the campus minister at the Oshkosh Newman Center since 2009.

Wood has great faith in the importance of young adults to the future of the universal church. His ministry is based on walking with students as they “really, truly see who Christ is,” Wood said. “If that happens, they will not be turned off; Jesus will do the rest of the work.”

This is exactly the type of ministry Wood has created at the Newman Center.

Wood sees firsthand the challenging life decisions facing young adults while living and studying on college campuses in an environment that presents a more secular view of life.

“The greatest numbers of people exiting the Catholic Church are our young adults, especially those who attend university,” he said.

Wood sees the Catholic Church hemorrhaging young adults and believes it is the mission of the Newman Center to prevent this exodus from continuing. “I find they don’t flee from an authentic Catholic experience,” Wood said. “They leave a pseudo-Catholic faith that is boring, not compelling and irrelevant to their lives.”BAlogo2011OLweb2

Wood’s approach is simple: Introduce students to the real Jesus Christ in their lives. He does so by showing students that Christ dwells within them and by encouraging them to allow this part of themselves to encounter others.

In order to create a true movement in the youth of the Catholic Church, Wood believes faith must be multiplied. “One man, a few staffers and a part-time chaplain can’t impact the thousands of students on the UW campus,” Wood said. “The future of the Catholic Church lies in how well we catechize and train our young adult population with authentic Catholic formation that is true to the magisterium of the church.”

By creating a movement of peer ministry, when one’s faith is ignited, so is the desire to share their faith and aid in igniting it in their friends and classmates.

The key to the movement of peer ministry at the Newman Center is what Wood calls LEAD: Leadership, Evangelism, Assimilation and Discipleship. Wood seeks out students with leadership potential who appear interested in deep catechesis and spiritual growth and invites them to weekly LEAD meetings.

These meeting involve encouraging each other to live as disciples of Christ.

“I have the honor of helping them discover for themselves how one gives their whole heart to Jesus Christ,” Wood said. “I feel honored and privileged to participate with them on this path of discipleship.”

Wood pours this love into them and encourages them to minister it to others. This creates a true commitment to Christ in students, more than a weekly program ever could. By not relying on programs to transform the students, Wood equips them with the love of Christ and desire for knowledge. He believes the Spirit then inspires them to pass that on.

To Wood, this form of evangelization is “our first response to the Holy Father’s call to the new evangelization.”

The ministry of the Newman Center is 100 percent funded by the Bishop’s Appeal, which has given Wood and his LEAD team of students the chance to realize their vision for the ministry. They have created a storefront coffee shop feel to the Catholic Campus Ministry Center on campus.

The Newman Center has an open door policy. All are welcome to come share a meal, take a study break or even nap on the comfy sofas set up as a lounge area. A large gathering table often finds students sharing their studies, meals and their faith.

The Bishop’s Appeal underwrites the expenses to keep this ministry of hospitality going, creating the opportunity for students to minister to each other, multiply faith on campus and bounce questions off Wood over a cup of coffee.

The presence of Wood, Fr. Quinn Mann, who serves as chaplain, and the resources used to create an environment of discipleship is made possible by the Bishop’s Appeal.

“Without Bishop’s Appeal funding, Catholic campus ministry would grind to a halt.” Wood said. “What I see on this end is the impact the Bishop’s Appeal has on students’ lives.”

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