SASKATOON — Michael and Ava MacLean are a father/daughter team, both committed to building the Body of Christ through campus ministry.
As a member of the campus ministry team at St. Thomas More College — a team that includes Madeline Oliver, Rev. André Lalach and Rev. Mark Blom, OMI, in collaboration with Basilian Father Ron Griffin, as well as Gertrude Rompré, director of Mission and Ministry — Michael works to foster faith formation and spiritual support among students, faculty and staff.
His commitment to campus ministry extends to the national level, where he serves as chair of the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry (CCCM) executive team, an association that serves campuses across Canada.
Like her father, Ava has taken a leadership role in witnessing to the Gospel on the U of S campus and beyond while completing her degree in education. As the western representative and president of the executive team for the Canadian Catholic Student’s Association (CCSA), a national body that mirrors and works in tandem with CCCM, Ava has followed in her father’s footsteps.
Together, the CCCM (with Michael as chair) and the CCSA (with Ava as president), work to support faith and leadership development opportunities, offer pastoral care, unite students from campuses across Canada, and promote the mission of the church in higher education.
“University is a time when young people begin their first foray into independent academic study,” says Michael. “All sorts of questions about faith and meaning, as well as questions about other Christian denominations and religions, start to come up. As campus ministers, we help students wrestle with those questions as they grow in both their academic and their faith lives.”
“If there wasn’t campus ministry, there would be no student leadership,” Ava adds. “Leadership is synonymous with service. It’s students wanting to serve other students to create a better environment.”
Ava highlights how campus ministry is not exclusive to STM students: “The university is a big place. It can be difficult to find communities that are ready to welcome you, but campus ministry does that.”
With father and daughter holding parallel positions, Michael and Ava often work together to offer local events such as TED talks and coffee houses through the Newman Centre on campus.
While Michael has found it exciting to share his work and passion with his daughter, Ava initially expressed concern over “the optics.”
“Dad does so much around campus and I wanted to contribute as well, but I was worried people would think I was involved only because my dad was involved,” she said.
However, the independent nomination process that led to her election as CCSA president alleviated her fears.
“It’s been great for me to find a place in the CCSA,” Ava continues. “I get to do this work in a similar but different way.”
Ava’s involvement in student leadership has afforded her many opportunities. A highlight was attending the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) in Italy earlier this year, where she interacted with Catholic students from all over the world and participated in a general assembly with Pope Francis. It has also helped prepare her to be a leader in the workplace.
With her term as CCSA president nearly completed, Ava encourages other students to become involved in campus ministry.
“It gives you an awareness of the wider Catholic student community. You come to understand that we all play a part in the Body of Christ. Everyone brings something to the table, and we make the community that much richer. Being involved with campus ministry has affected my faith life as well. I’ve really grown to understand how my faith can be lived everywhere, not just in church on Sundays.”
Looking at the impact CCSA and STM’s Newman Centre has had in the life of his daughter and in the lives of student across the campus, Michael says he is confident in the future of Catholic campus ministry: “We will continue to have creative ideas that will draw the campus community together, in all its diversity.”
Michael says he is committed to offering ministry that is comprehensive in its approach. “It’s exciting to see students become aware that there is unity within diversity. We are all connected, we all belong.”