Marymount welcomes Fr. Bashista as campus chaplain

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"Surprised," said Father Brian G. Bashista when describing his reaction on learning of his assignment as the new chaplain and director of campus ministry of Marymount University in Arlington. "I thought that it was Bishop (Paul S.) Loverde's way of trying to keep me young."

Father Bashista said he was excited about his new role, noting that this will be only his second experience with a Catholic educational institution. "The first Catholic school I ever went to was the seminary," he said.

A Northern Virginia native, he was baptized at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, but attended public schools. He graduated from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with a bachelor's degree in architecture. While practicing his career in Charlotte, N.C., Father Bashista discerned his vocation and entered Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

After his ordination in 1999, Father Bashista worked as parochial vicar of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. Since 2002, he has served as director of the Arlington diocesan Office of Vocations, working with seminarians and other young adults as they reflected on how best to live their faith.

"Not everyone has a vocation to the religious life. My job was to help them find clarity in discovering their vocation in Christ, whatever that might be," he said.

For Father Bashista, coming to Marymount was a natural progression from his diocesan assignment, since he will continue to work with young adults - helping them strengthen their faith.

"The role of a chaplain is to walk with someone on the journey of life at a specific moment in time, and certainly college is one of the most exciting growth moments in life," he said. "My role as a college chaplain is to invite and propose, never impose. Our faith is a gift; it can never be forced. I can encourage people to be open to receiving these gifts - even if they don't necessarily believe what's being offered is a gift at that particular time."

What is different about the Marymount assignment and what excites Father Bashista is that he will, once again, be able to perform all the pastoral duties of a priest. As director of vocations, he had to report fully on each candidate to diocesan superiors and was therefore unable to practice the sacrament of reconciliation.

"One of the joys of being a priest is to participate fully in all of the pastoral ministry duties of serving a spiritual family," he said.

After arriving at Marymount in early August, Father Bashista has hit the ground running. He already has met with most of the university administrators to see how campus ministry could more fully collaborate in all campus initiatives. And he noted that he is blessed with a campus ministry team that has made the transition a smooth one.

Father Bashista's enthusiasm is evident as he talks about plans for the academic year and building upon Marymount's strong campus ministry foundation. While specifics are still being developed, he is looking at new ways to minister to the spiritual needs of the entire Marymount community, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

"The overall goal is to create a strong faith community on campus," Father Bashista said. "We have a very diverse population with a broad faith community. My job is to provide ways for those of all religions to worship and strengthen their faith."

For Catholics, he envisions "more opportunities for reconciliation, perhaps a different Mass schedule, and more times for adoration." He also wants students of other faiths to know that they are welcome to live their faith within the Marymount community of faith.

"One idea that I have is to meet with leaders of other faith communities in the area and see how we can access their resources and make them available to our students," he said. "And of course, we will continue the interfaith programs that are already established on campus."

He also said he sees service as a way of further uniting the campus by creating a culture of love. Marymount has a long-standing commitment to service, and many of its service initiatives are sponsored by the Campus Ministry Association.

"The Almighty says love and be loved," Father Bashista said. "There is a great desire among college students to serve, and we can create opportunities to nurture a culture of community service, which makes us fully human. Certainly, in the Christian perspective, the faithful are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of the church. We serve the faith by serving those in need."

With the academic year now underway, Father Bashista already is sharing the gift of faith with students.

"It's full steam ahead," he said. "I just feel so blessed to be part of the Marymount community."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013