Ivy League Catholic: Bridging the Gap

Fr Peter Walsh, CSC

In his latest post for us from Campus Ministry at Yale, Fr. Peter Walsh, C.S.C., tells us the significance that the regulation of cellular protrusions by abl-family kinase-mediated cortactin phosphorylation has on the future of the Church and the world. It’s a mouth full, for sure, but you will understand …

In my ministry at Yale, I work mainly with graduate students. We have a very active community of Catholic graduate students, most of whom had great experiences with campus ministry in their undergraduate years and weren’t expecting much for them when they came to Yale. Understandably, campus ministries tend to focus on college students but recent demographic studies on church participation and retention of millennial Catholics make the case for special programs for graduates. Their time on campus tends to be pretty long. They are involved in professional training that opens them to questions about vocations and their role in the Church. Many marry and start families while here. Keeping them active in their faith helps bridge that gap between a great college campus ministry experience and a lifelong commitment to the Church.

This week, I was invited by one of our graduate students to his thesis defense. I met Chris Mader five years ago when I arrived on campus. At Mass I mentioned that I am a Holy Cross priest and Chris came up afterwards to tell me that he graduated from Notre Dame in 2005 and was hoping we’d have some game watches come fall. That was an easy request to fulfill! Chris is a Hoosier from Indianapolis, passionate about all things sports–first in his heart is Notre Dame football–and spends every Sunday morning in the choir loft accompanying the liturgy with his trumpet.

Mr Chris Mader and a friend after his Notre Dame graduation

When I started a men’s spirituality group for grad students, he was first on the list. We went out for a bowl of noodles before our first meeting, and I asked him to tell me about his work at Yale. In addition to being an intramural athlete, sports fanatic, musician and committed Catholic, Chris is a Ph.D. student in cellular biology. Truth be told, as he told me about his research my eyes started to glaze over.

Mr Chris Mader playing his trumpet

Today he successfully defended his thesis. The title? “Regulation of Cellular Protrusions by Abl-family Kinase-mediated Cortactin Phosphorylation.” I had to take a photo of the PowerPoint with my iPhone to remember that. Though much of what he talked about was lost to me, the bottom line of his research can mean therapeutic advances to inhibit breast cancer cells from metastasizing. Now that is worth paying attention to! When Blessed Basil Moreau, our founder, talked about educating minds and hearts, he knew that the Church needed to form people with “the competence to see and the courage to act” as our Constitutions state. Research labs need creative, committed young scientists like Dr. Mader and so does the Church.

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