By Sam Aitchison
The Church is alive!
Sam Aitchison, a Regina High School-Iowa City graduate, is passionate about his Catholic faith and sharing it with others. Next week, his new monthly column, “The Church is Alive!” will appear in The Catholic Messenger.
The sophomore at Saint Louis University (SLU) in Missouri will reflect on his experiences participating in the Mass, campus ministry and life as a student, volunteer and member of the Catholic Leadership Institute. He will share how he and his peers, as members of the Church, are striving to pass on the faith they have received from the generations that preceded them. His home parish is St. Thomas More in Coralville, where he plays guitar when he is home.
At SLU, he is triple-majoring in Finance, Leadership and Human Resources, and Catholic Studies. He also is working toward a minor in Service Leadership. In his role with the Catholic Leadership Institute as a Strategic Communications intern, “I work as an intermediary for researching and compiling best-practice insights with our consultants. Right now, we are looking into parish vitality and what truly makes a parish work well,” he said in an interview with Sarah Callahan, the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Media coordinator.
As a volunteer, Sam works twice a week at a Catholic school that allows children in need to benefit from faith-based education. Commenting about the youth he works with, Sam said, “he is my guy. I help him with math, reading and other school work. If we get that done, we go outside and play football. I just try to be there for him as a mentor and friend.” Sam connected with the school through his service leadership minor.
Through his classwork in the business school, he and a few peers are helping a local entrepreneur elevate his counseling business. This work is part of SLU’s habitat for neighborhood business. This opportunity is representative of the outreach Sam appreciates in higher-education institutions and in the Church.
What he loves most about his home diocese is “the collaboration that I see between parishes. I often see parishes co-hosting events and working together on projects. I also think that Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula is a great leader. He does well at listening to the people of the diocese; you can tell he is a very genuine and thoughtful person. Additionally, I love the spearhead initiatives that the diocese takes on, such as Vision 20/20 and the Synod. The Catholic Messenger is a great resource for staying up to date on what’s happening in the diocese.”
His hope for the diocese’s future is greater participation. “The numbers don’t lie, and there are fewer people in the pews than there were 20 and even 10 years ago. I hope that more people are drawn to our parishes and are able to be transformed by the beautiful thing that is our faith and to bring that faith out to the world.” He appreciates a quote he heard which states, “The priest consecrates the bread and wine, but the laity consecrates the world.” He also hopes “that our diocese becomes well-versed in outreach to those on the margins.”
What breaks his heart is “when we, in the Church, are not open-minded enough to broaden our perspectives. It inhibits our viewpoints and understanding. We do this when we get too hung up on the small things and stray from the central Gospel message of communion and love. It also breaks my heart when parishes and communities aren’t viable in welcoming others.”
What excites him about the Church is the strong foundation it has provided him. “In the transient world, where things are always changing, it provides consistency and a place to come back to, a place for renewal. My experience of the Church has been incredibly transformative. I’ve been blessed to go to parishes that are vibrant and enthusiastic and have good liturgy. That makes a big difference.”