By Catie Gammon, Hope College Senior and President of the Union of Catholic Students
On April 9, 2014, the Saint Benedict Forum hosted Fr. Damian Ference, a popular speaker and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Borromeo College Seminary in Cleveland, OH. His visit was co-sponsored by Hope College’s Campus Ministries, the Religion Department, and the Union of Catholic Students.
Fr. Damian’s day began with a riveting talk to a packed chapel of Hope College students. He brought plenty of energy as he spoke about Christian identity. Preaching from Mark’s account of the baptism of Christ, Fr. Damian pressed the campus to think about who we are and whose we are. By virtue of our own baptism, God sees us as beloved sons and daughters. Fr. Damian challenged cultural lures to find love in other places than in Christ through numerous amusing examples. “God sees us not as the sum of our weaknesses, but of our Father’s love for us.” Catholic and non-Catholic students alike were captivated by his wisdom and impressed at the refreshing way he presented biblical truths!
After joining a few students for lunch, Fr. Damian presented a lecture on vocations to Dr. Jared Ortiz’s Catholic Christianity class. He deepened the class’ understanding of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body by talking about how we are all made for union, made to give ourselves away. We are all made for marriage, whether as husbands and wives or as celibates who are married to Christ or the Church. We learned that vocations to the religious life are a direct union with Christ and with His church, modeling a beautiful sacrificial life for us all.
The culmination of Fr. Damian’s day at Hope was his preaching of a Lenten Mission, “Nothing Scares Jesus.” Once again, he delighted and moved the audience with his passionate storytelling and powerful theological insights.
Using Mark’s account of Jesus healing the Gadarene Demoniac, “the most Flannery O’Connoresque story in the Bible,” Fr. Damian unpacked the story verse by verse. The unnamed demoniac represents ourselves, who chained in our state of sin harm ourselves and others. However, Jesus enters in to the forbidden, ugly, and unclean territories of our lives and heals us with His kindness, mercy, and compassion. Christ even has the power to turn our vices into our victories!
The talk was followed by an hour of adoration and time for confession which served as a wonderful time to reflect on this message of Christ’s mercy and to prepare many of students and faculty for Holy Week and Easter.
We were very blessed to host Fr. Damian’s first ever visit to Hope College and look forward to his return soon!
The audio of Fr. Damian’s Chapel talk, “Who Am I? Whose Am I?” can be found here.
The video of Fr. Damian’s Lenten Mission, “Nothing Scares Jesus,” can be found here.