Catholic pastor reaches out to diverse flock

By Chris Mumford, Staff Writer

Between running the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, acting as director of the Interfaith Campus Advisors Council and teaching a comparative religion course at the U, Father Peter Rogers would seem to have his hands full.

Yet he finds a way to take on even more. This year, Rogers will add more to his already bulging schedule with his appointment to three Utah Diocese committees8212;the Department of Catholic schools; the planning committee for the Southwest Liturgical Conference, which will be hosted in Utah in 2011; and a development committee for the forthcoming radio station, Catholic Utah Now.

All of this comes in addition to his duties as pastor of the Newman Center, across the street from the U, where he conducts daily Mass.

“My preaching is what I call a pastoral approach to preaching,” he said. “I try to bring out societal problems, and what we’re faced with day to day, and then to relate that to the gospel to see what the gospel is telling us to do.”

Particularly harmful among those societal problems are certain culture and media trends that pose challenges to the spiritual health of religious college students, who are often away from home for the first time and might therefore be more vulnerable to negative influences.

“Students are faced with growing challenges from a culture that promotes drug use and violence and sexual activity,” he said. “They see it on television, they see it in the movies, and it’s getting to be more and more mainstream.”

Rogers has, among other degrees, a B.A. in philosophy from the U. He uses his role as director of the U’s Interfaith Campus Advisors Council to reach out to the students whose struggle with such influences has caused emotional, academic or spiritual problems. He said that students routinely come to him for help with everything from matters of faith to finding a job or an apartment.

And more broadly, Rogers is working to further develop an already expansive program of guest lectures, panel discussions, forums and other activities available through the Newman Center, all designed to cater to a diverse community. He stressed the importance of offering an array of activities and outreach programs by illustrating the divergent needs of the millennial generation versus those of Generation X.

“The way (members of the millennial generation) look at faith is very different from their parents,” he said. “They want a structure of faith, they want to fit into a structure and follow that structure, whereas the Generation X young adults are not as concerned with structure. And the baby boomers rebelled against structure. And I’ve got all those generations here at the Newman Center.”

But for all of the focus on the unique needs of various individuals and groups, there are also events that bring everyone together. On Aug. 29, the Newman Center will host its annual “Mass on the Grass” event, which last year attracted 450 people, including U President Michael Young. The event, which begins at 7 p.m., is held on the lawn in the middle of Presidents’ Circle and is followed by a free dinner at the Newman Center, located across the street.

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