Campus ministers in northeastern Catholic secondary schools: Servant leaders for today's crisis in adolescent faith development

Christian Patrick Sullivan, Fordham University


With declining numbers of priests and religious sisters and brothers, principals and other Catholic school leaders need assistance in maintaining the Catholic identity and mission-related activities of their schools. One answer to the shortages of ordained priests has been employing lay campus ministers to help students in developing their faith and to support the religious mission of Catholic high schools. This study involved in-depth interviews with seven current lay ministers in six urban high schools and one suburban high school. Questions for research included the following: (1) what education and formative experiences led the ministers to the field; (2) what were the major roles and responsibilities delegated to the ministers; (3) what conditions facilitated the role and effectiveness of lay ministers, and (4) what do lay ministers believe to be the future of: Catholic secondary education, efforts related to faith development of adolescents, and individual professional careers. Findings include, first, the pathway to the field campus ministry was diverse, within and outside of education. Second, these ministers provided a range of services, both religious and psychological, for the entire school community, including providing additional emotional and pastoral support in times of crisis. Third, a lack of resources negatively impacts ministerial efforts. Fourth, these ministers were well educated with advanced degrees, but more specifically, all attended Catholic schools. Fifth, these ministers were involved in youth and campus ministry during their adolescence. Hiring campus ministers with exceptional ministerial skills and sound theological training is not sufficient to meet the challenges of Catholic schools. These servant leaders should also be entrusted with greater decision-making authority and be allocated adequate resources to ensure the spiritual and social mission of the Church and enhance the Catholic identity of schools.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|School administration|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Sullivan, Christian Patrick, "Campus ministers in northeastern Catholic secondary schools: Servant leaders for today's crisis in adolescent faith development" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3468306.