Dominican Campus Chaplain Prepares for a Turbulent School Year
By Blackfriars Staff
Fr. John Paul Kern, O.P., is the University of Louisville Catholic chaplain. After converting to Catholicism at Penn State, Fr. John Paul worked as a reactor inspector for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission before joining the Dominicans.
What is your hope for Catholic students resuming their studies during this uncertain time?
I’d like to offer them a community that’s unified in love through Jesus Christ. We’ve all heard the slogan, “no justice, no peace.” It’s true in a sense, and it motivates us to work for justice as we should, but there is no perfect justice in the world. While we’re working towards justice, the love of Christ unites us in community so that we can be at peace, forgive one another, and show mercy as well as seeking justice.
What does the Dominican charism bring to campuses?
There’s a mob mentality going around in which people try to put pressure on those who don’t agree with them instead of listening and debating principles. Many people buckle under that pressure and aren’t courageous in speaking the truth. As Dominicans, we’re trained as preachers, and we do speak the truth. Yet, we speak the truth according to the highest principles, by the light of the faith, and not according to a merely political lens or ideological fad.
How would you address the concerns of Catholic parents and grandparents of students on secular campuses?
There is real reason to be praying hard for your children. Many college campuses are corrosive environments to the faith. In addition to the usual temptations for young people, many fields of education are presented through an ideological lens that is hostile towards Christianity.
At the same time, God does desire the salvation and well being of your children even more than you do; and He is also on campus. College is a time when people search and experiment with things that look like they will bring happiness but don’t offer true fulfillment. In that time of searching, however, God is seeking them even more than they are seeking happiness.