| Catholic High School Information Guide
Seminarian Matthew Murray is serving as campus minister at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Seminarian serves at SJND
as its new campus minister
They call him Mr. Murray.
The tall young man might be mistaken for a high school student, but the clerical attire gives him away.
Campus ministry at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School has a new leader. Matthew Murray, a seminarian of the Diocese of Oakland, is settling into the academic year at the Alameda high school.
"It's a great gift to St. Joseph Notre Dame and to the parish to have a seminarian here," said Rev. George Alengadan, pastor of St. Joseph Basilica Parish.
In something of a version of trading places, Murray is replacing Deacon Jimmy Macalinao, the St. Joseph Notre Dame campus minister who has begun studies for the priesthood at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts.
"I'm continuing the really good work he started," Murray said. "The kids really, really loved him. They do miss him. He was a true gift to this community, both faculty and students."
Murray, 26, is responsible for all religious events on campus, including Masses, prayer services and retreats.
"The idea was to be able to work with students, outside of the academic sphere, and focus on the more spiritual aspects of formation," he said. "Campus ministry is where most of that happens."
Not teaching classes puts him at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to putting names and faces together. "It gives me the challenge to go out and constantly be present with them, so I get to put the two together."
The school's opening Mass of the Holy Spirit has already been celebrated, and the schedule for the rest of the year follows the liturgical calendar.
In addition to his duties at school, Murray is becoming a familiar face at the parish, where he lives in the rectory.
Father Alengadan has already involved Murray in the parish's 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, which is oriented toward youth. Many of the students in the youth group and Confirmation program, the pastor said, are also students at the high school. "There's a natural connection between the high school and the parish," he said.
"He looks very young," Father Alengadan said. "He looks like one of them. That's a great advantage. They will have a sense of peer trust."
Furthermore, having a seminarian on campus, he said, provides a good role model for vocations.
For now, Murray is looking forward to the freshman class retreat, which is scheduled for Oct. 13 on the campus.
"Each class has its own retreat, each with a different theme," he said. While the sophomores, juniors and seniors go off campus, in smaller groups, to their retreats, the freshmen gather as one group.
"The focus of the theme is to help them become part of the high school community," he said. "Many high schoolers are perhaps struggling with fitting in, becoming used to being a part of this particular high school," he said.
The retreat offers the opportunity for the student leaders to welcome the newest class, he said.
"It's a chance for them to be welcomed, to be proud to be a Pilot but also to experience, to a certain extent, that God will be present with them as they begin these next four years. That is a deepening relationship throughout their time," he said.
Other classes at St. Joseph Notre Dame will have that day off. But it's a day on for the student ministry leaders. "The student leaders are really happy to serve other students," he said, noting that throughout the year retreats are planned for middle school students who may have an interest in attending St. Joseph Notre Dame.
He has high praise for the team of five student leaders that works with him. Not only are they involved in campus ministry, he said, "they also play sports, they have jobs, they have the normal high school routine. They're really excited to help out the retreat program."
That students are finding Murray approachable on campus is "very reassuring to me," he said.
"Coming from the seminary, coming from three years in Rome," he said was "somewhat worrying because we don't have that much exposure to high school kids in the seminary."
You think about your own past, your relationship with the church and religion, you wonder if you won't be a voice crying in the wilderness or you'll be able to connect," he said. "Thankfully, by the grace of God, I found it very easy to connect with the students. That probably does come from my age; that plays a part in it."
This is Murray's first experience in a high school: The Antioch resident was homeschooled in his own high school years.
"This rounds out my own formation," he said. "I'm constantly learning. To be able to be present at a high school gives me a sense of where high schoolers are at, where Catholic high schoolers are at, and be able to communicate the Gospel to them, where they are."
Murray, who was graduated with his bachelor's degree in sacred theology at St. Patrick's Seminary & University, spent the last three years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. "I was formed by American priests in Rome who are excellent guides at being conscious of where people are at. But at the same time, that's why we were in Rome: to be exposed to the Scripture and tradition of the Church, to be able to know those really well and to be able to communicate them. That has all happened under the balcony of Pope Francis."
Murray called Pope Francis "a model priest."
"For me, to be able to be in Rome while he is pope was a huge gift," he said, "to be able to hear his addresses, to seminarians and priests, in particular, because he is such a model pastor. He knows what priests need and he's attentive to that. He models himself how to be a good pastor, to be close to where people are at, to know the joys and sorrows people have, to be able to communicate the Gospel in ways they understand."
back to top