For The Dialog
SALISBURY, Md. – The new campus minister to Salisbury University is no stranger to either academic life or the campus here.
She is Nicole Long, who will double as youth minister at St. Francis de Sales Parish about one and a half miles from the Campus Catholic Ministry house. She grew up in Salisbury as a St. Francis de Sales parishioner, received her undergraduate degree from Salisbury University, and later earned two master’s degrees.
Long described her dual position as “a hybrid arrangement” between the parish and the diocese proposed by St. Francis’ former pastor, Father Ed Aigner, who retired in June. He had hired Long as interim youth minister in addition to a full-time job she held. She told him she needed a full-time position and would have to leave as part-time youth minister.
Father Aigner was aware of the need for a campus minister at Salisbury University since Regina Yankalunas retired two years ago, and that the diocese was not in the financial situation to fund a full-time position. He proposed the current position and the diocese agreed.
“It’s a novel idea here in the diocese but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Patrick Donovan, diocesan director of Catholic and Young Adult Ministry. “Campus ministry is a natural bridge between a parish and young adult ministry.”
Long’s appointment fills a void that Donovan tried to fill after Yankalunas left. In addition to his regular full-time duties as CYM director, Donovan would travel to Salisbury at least once a month to coordinate campus ministry activities because the diocese “wanted someone to reach out to their [Salisbury students’] needs,” he said.
At first, Donovan went to Salisbury two or three times a month. The number of trips decreased as student volunteer leaders became more experienced and proficient in organizing events and programs.
He believes Long has a number of gifts for her campus job, especially being able to envision what the ministry should be, seeing the “big picture” of how campus ministry fits into the overall church, and creativity – that will help her in her work.
Donovan has known Long for about 10 years, through Theology on Tap, a gathering of young Catholic adults at various pubs and restaurants that includes talks on faith issues they face in their lives. Long was involved in the Salisbury program.
Now Long will provide a “consistent presence on the campus itself.” She believes her dual role will provide cross benefits for parish youth and college students alike.
Campus ministry helps college students “in a very exciting, and sometimes turbulent, part of life,” she said. Her ties with St. Francis de Sales will help college students participate in parish life, which she called “a wonderful bonus for young people involved in campus ministry.”
She anticipates some programs that will include both parish youth and college students. Campus ministry participants have indicated a desire for service projects, for example, some of which could be done with the youth group at St. Francis.
“It would be great if the college students want to share some of their energy with St. Francis youth,” Long said. “The youth at St. Francis can benefit from getting to know Catholics in the next phase of their life.”
“I look forward to being a bridge and creatively viewing the broader Catholic community, and communities in general, of which we are a part.”
Her university program is based in the Catholic Campus Ministry house at 211 W. College Ave. “It is a resource for their daily needs: a place to be in community with other college-aged Catholics facing challenges on a secular campus,” Long said.
Besides a weekly Mass, she anticipates faith-sharing eve-nings, meals together at the house, guest speakers on topics of interest to college students, retreats, and community service projects.
The ministry also helps students “become aware that their presence is a gift to the campus,” Long said. “As they continue to develop their relationship with God and each other, their presence will be a positive influence wherever they are.”
“Hopefully we will be a leavening agent for the culture of the university.”
The campus ministry in Salisbury includes Catholic students at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, about 13 miles southwest of Salisbury. Classes at both universities begin Aug. 25.
Long earned an English degree from Salisbury University in 1996 and later earned master’s degrees in arts and in divinity from Boston University. Her adviser for the arts master’s was former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Her divinity degree concentration was on ministry and society.