Balancing Faith for 10,000
By Mary Beth deHaas
CHICAGO- Most people imagine having a career in medicine, law, math, science, or heroic work like a fireman but Lisa Reiter devotes her life to helping students find God on a Catholic college campus with more religious diversity than most. Not only is Reiter the Campus Ministry Director at Loyola University Chicago but she is also a mentor to whoever seeks her advice on any given day.
Reiter began her professional ministry as a Youth Minister in Cedar Rapids, Iowa before moving to the Marianist Retreat Center in Eureka, Missouri where she served as Retreat Director. After her position in Eureka she moved to St. Louis University as a Campus Minister, later named Associate Director of Campus Ministry and finally served as Director of Campus Ministry at St. Louis University beginning in 2005. Reiter joined the Loyola community on March 19,2012 as the Director of Campus Ministry.
In her past, Reiter has work with a young Father Michael Garanzini SJ and a young Father Justin Daffron SJ at St. Louis. As Director of Campus Ministry, Reiter has the pleasure of working with these two men once again. When she first came to Loyola the ministry department needed a renovation. The three segments of the department are retreats, sacramental life, and ministry. These were brought together under Reiter’s position.
Since Reiter has been at Loyola two students have died on campus as well as one student off campus. “It’s been a year of triaging student emergencies and trying to get the department settled,” Reiter said. Between balancing the people who report to her and the endless line of students and families needing help, Reiter has been working non-stop for the past year.
Reiter was more than willing to talk about her past experiences and what she is doing now to make Loyola’s ministry department better. She explained that she is finding less and less what is “like St. Louis University” and more what is unique about Loyola’s culture. “The eighth floor of Mundelein with all the prayer rooms is really special,” said Reiter. “We have Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and now in the new Damen Student Center there will also be a Christian prayer room too, called the Manresa Prayer Room.”
While discussing her work on campus, Reiter shared her work with other faiths on campus. She showed the floor plan for the new Damen Student Center and pointed out the Interfaith Dialogue space. Reiter said, “Student groups, like Hillel, are under SAGA (Student Activities and Greek Affairs) and this is sort of a dilemma because they are vetted by people who have not had training in faith development and religions.”
Right now Reiter is supporting the student groups of other faiths and providing people for them to talk to. She explained that Brian Anderson is the Interfaith Chaplain and he works directly with the faith centered student groups. He also leads a group of students called the Interfaith Advocates. They host several events throughout the year like celebrating the national day of peace in September. Lisa also explained that they celebrate interfaith at homecoming and other campus wide events.
Interfaith can mean many things to individuals; Reiter said that there are three segments ecumenical, interfaith, and interreligious. Ecumenical is a particular religion mostly in reference to Catholicism and Christianity. Interfaith is the three Abrahamic faiths, or people of the book. These three faiths are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Interreligious is when conversation or a location includes more than the three Abrahamic faiths; adding in faiths that are not based on the Book, like Hinduism.
Reiter explained that at Loyola we still use the term interfaith instead of interreligious because no one wanted to be that specific in his or her definitions, but interreligious is the correct term to describe Loyola’s diversity. “When I have challenged the use of the word interfaith, I have met opposition,” Reiter explained.
Steve Betancourt is the Director of Music for Madonna della Strada, the chapel on campus. Betancourt explained that Reiter is his supporter. “She builds the gap between upper administration and my level. I work with her on retreats, new hires, and the Damen Center blessing.” With her new structure for the department of Ministry, Reiter is ensuring that her staff notices the changes. “She really acknowledges what we do. I know the entire staff now and see them daily, she is bringing down the adversarial relationships among the staff so we can serve the students more seamlessly,” said Betancourt.
Reiter is the driving force of ministry at Loyola. With a year under foot, students and staff are noticing the positive changes she has made. She loves her job and has devoted her life to helping students grow. “Here’s what I get to do, I get to help students fall in love with God,” said Reiter.
- written by Mary De Haas on April 5th, 2013
- posted in Reporting and Writing