Recently I had occasion to think back on my college experience. I realized how privileged I was to take in a lot of truth during my undergraduate years.

Much of that wisdom was imparted by Msgr. Stuart Swetland, who leaves his nine-year post as chaplain and director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois this summer to teach at his alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland.

This U.S. Naval Academy and Oxford-educated Rhodes Scholar, a former Lutheran, loves the Catholic Church as much as he loves sharing the Gospel with college students. He epitomizes the Church’s understanding of what a mentor and teacher should be: “Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man” (Catechism, No. 2526).

He knows that young people want more than the shallow moral platitudes the popular culture has to offer. He knows that college kids want to be witnesses to Christ, with their peers and professors, in and outside the classroom. He encouraged us to be Christian examples living out 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”

Thank you, Monsignor, for encouraging me and countless other college students to seek the truth of faith while seeking academic truth. You always encouraged us to get the best education possible. Not just to know things, but so that we can devote our skills and talents in a variety of professions to share Christ with the world. You were always available to offer advice (or write a recommendation letter) because you truly wanted us to become who God intended us to be in our professions and our vocations.

I will never forget your constant energy (fueled by coffee, of course!). Your encouraging statements will also always stay with me: “Radiate Christ.” And “Live the Gospel.”

Those statements ring true because you always made sure you, yourself, lived them out. You always encouraged me to look at the big picture, to keep my eyes on Jesus. As you also like to say, “I don’t want much. I just want more.” More, as in heaven. You never ceased to direct us to Christ — in your homilies, classes, retreats and conversations.

My faith grew in college because of St. John’s. Daily Mass, Bible study, retreats and other activities kept me grounded in the hectic pace of college life. Today, because of that spiritual formation, my faith continues to guide me. At a time when many young people lose their faith at college, you fostered an environment that helped so many of us grow in our faith. Amid the large, public university, St. John’s was a refuge, a place to encounter Christ — a home away from home.

Here’s to you, Monsignor Swetland! You’ll teach the seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s well, just as you taught all of us so well. God is leading you on to new endeavors so you can radiate Christ to more people in more circumstances.

As your favorite verse, Romans 8:28, says: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Godspeed.

Amy Smith writes from

Geneva, Illinois.