The Christian Presence on Campus

CL University students and professors organized the first annual CLU Conference held in Atchison, KS at the end of September with the theme “Faith and Culture: Luigi Giussani and the Christian Presence on Campus.”
Fiona Holly

The last weekend in September, over 60 Communion and Liberation University (CLU) students from across the country gathered in Atchison, Kansas for the first annual CLU conference. The conference titled “Faith and Culture: Luigi Giussani and the Christian Presence on Campus” took place at Benedictine College where students heard from theologians Aaron Riches and Michael Waldstein, neuroscientist Sofia Carozza, as well as their fellow college students. A highlight of the weekend was a piano performance in honor of Fr. Giussani given by pianist Kuok-Wai Lio.

The conference opened with a welcome from Dean Kim Shankman of Benedictine College and an introduction to the weekend from Aaron Riches. Riches shared how he re-learned to be a Christian from his friend in Communion and Liberation who lived everything with a gusto for life – from drinking beer to doing the dishes to playing with kids.

Saturday morning began with morning prayer followed by the keynote lecture from Michael Waldstein, titled “A Life Changing Encounter” who walked the audience through the Gospel of John as scriptural evidence of the mechanics of encounter as Giussani lays out in his breadth of work. Sofia Carozza in conversation with Michelle Zeleski then described her experience as a Christian and Catholic in the field of neuroscience, exploring questions of what it means to give witness to her faith on campus by living her work with an awareness of belonging to Christ (you can find a recording of her comments on her podcast).

A Question and Answer with both Waldstein and Carozza brought out the tension many feel in bearing witness to faith in a secular context, especially in academia. Carozza reminded the audience that Christianity is about our belonging before any behavior or ethical duty but that it is also a gift to suffer in the name of Christ. Even on a Catholic campus we can live as if Christ is absent.

The afternoon consisted of a panel of student witnesses organized by Francesca Silano as an introduction to the exhibit on Fr. Giussani, “From my Life to Yours”. The students each shared how they “met” Fr. Giussani whether through a parish priest, a parent, or a professor and demonstrated how Fr. Giussani’s charism continues to shape their lives.

Afterwards, there was an opportunity to view the Giussani exhibit set up in the middle of the campus where several guides were available for tours. CLU students on campus invited their friends and roommates to learn about Fr. Giussani.

The final Saturday event was “Spirto Gentil: A piano concert in honor of Luigi Giussani” performed by Kuok-Wai Lio which included selections from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann. Lio performed last year at the CLU vacation at the invitation of Br. Angelus Atkinson, OSB who introduced him to Fr. Giussani and the Spirto Gentil series. Lio’s sensitive and skillful performance, attended by many across campus, resulted in a standing ovation.

The concluding morning included morning prayer and final remarks on the possibility and value of mission given by Fr. Pietro Rossotti who has led the CLU in the United States for over 10 years.

The conversation and overall themes from the event indicated a desire to share what these students have received through the education of the movement with the rest of the world, in particular on their own college campuses. The conference is a new opportunity for the CLU to go on mission and invite their friends to meet Fr. Giussani and the Church. Next year’s conference is expected to take place at the University of Notre Dame.