Bishop to students: build friendships in context of faith

By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer

“I want you to leave DeSales with lifelong friends. I also want you to have a wide range of friendships – friends with completely different world and philosophical views,” said Bishop of Allentown John Barres Oct. 17 during Solidarity Mondays at DeSales University, Center Valley.

Bishop Barres presented “Solidarity and Friendship” for the school’s Solidarity Initiative. The new monthly program seeks to provide students and staff with a new understanding of the human family by inspiring mutual respect, the development of friendships, and learning about the realities of each other’s lives through compassion and patience.

Father Timothy McIntire, chaplain and assistant director of campus ministry, said the initiative, spearheaded by Magdalene Riggins, director of campus ministry, aims to promote that solidarity is a healthier way of appreciating the human family and the uniqueness of each individual.

“On many college campuses throughout the United States, a secular movement, ‘multi-culturalism,’ has taken root. Multi-culturalism starts from a presupposition of division, of what divides us and is thus leading to greater divisiveness on college campuses,” he said.

More than 100 students joined Bishop Barres praying a decade of the rosary before engaging in the informal discussion focusing on building friendships in the context of the faith.

Bishop Barres encouraged the students to have an open heart and an engaging spirit with the secular world and advised them to refrain from “going with the flow.”

“People watch how you carry yourself. Show them what you are made of and be a good solid friend,” he said.

“Your Catholic faith is unbelievably heroic and deep. You are up to the challenge to be global mystics.”

He also told the students that their Catholic spirituality and relationship with Christ is key to being a good friend and maintaining lifelong connections.

“All of our friendships are built on our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we go deeper with Jesus Christ – it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.

He stressed the importance of reading the Gospels and being open to the Holy Spirit to help lead them from patterns of greed to service to the poor and away from lust and toward humility.

“It’s always nourishing when you go to the Gospels and live the Gospels,” said Bishop Barres.

“Social media is a form of gluttony if we get so tethered to it. Sometimes we can get so wound up that we get enslaved to it,” he added.

Emulating the Good Samaritan, being proactive agents of healing and forgiveness in their families, and making regular use of confession can also help them grow in friendship, according to Bishop Barres.

“Sometimes we are disconnected and live as strangers in our own home. Being a Good Samaritan starts in our own home. Let’s all work on that,” he said.

“Remember that we bring every relationship in our lives into the confessional. When we open ourselves to humility and mercy – we open the floodgates of real solid friendships,” said Bishop Barres.

He concluded the discussion by asking students to be outstanding friends to their atheist or agnostic friends, and forge relationships with people from all walks of life.

“Let’s be open to being really adventurous at friendship,” said Bishop Barres.

“Open yourself to a whole range of people.”

After the discussion a Q&A session was open to students and staff.