Meet Loyola’s New Director of Campus Ministry

Seán Bray brings passion for mission, making connections

By Rita Buettner

Seán Bray was attending a conference at Fordham last year when he first heard that Loyola University Maryland was seeking a director of campus ministry. He had never even been to Baltimore.

When he returned home to Seattle, Wash., Bray discussed the idea with his wife, Shannon. They had been thinking about pursuing a new opportunity, maybe even overseas, and the idea intrigued them—especially when they discussed it with members of the Loyola family who were working with Bray at Seattle University.

“Loyola has a lot of ambassadors in Seattle,” Bray said. “And Shannon and I had been ready for something new.”

Then the call came. Loyola wanted him to come for an interview.

“We were a little bit shocked,” said Bray, who traveled to campus for the interview. “At the end of the day, my wife said, ‘What do you think?’ And I said, ‘I can see myself here. The people here are mission-driven. I’m a mission-driven person. I can really see being part of something meaningful here.’ The excitement that was there just grew.”

Bray was offered the position and accepted. Last summer he and his family—including his daughter, Larkin, 5, and son, Liam, 3—moved to Baltimore.

“It was a leap, but I believe deeply in the formation and education Jesuit institutions offer their students,” said Bray, who was campus minister for social justice at Seattle University, which is also a Jesuit university.

During his first few months at Loyola, Bray has been working to meet with people across campus.

“I want to hear what our story is and who we are. As I’ve listened I’ve heard people’s excitement for who we are and Campus Ministry’s deep care and commitment to our tradition and our students,” Bray said. “As I meet with people, the part that is energizing to me is that there’s so much excitement for Campus Ministry, for partnership and our future.”

Support for All Faiths

A graduate of a Christian Brothers high school, Bray and his colleagues in Campus Ministry are working to support students of all faiths.

“The question for us is always how we are serving the spiritual needs of our students on campus. We have a large population of Catholics on campus and within our tradition there are numerous ways of expressing this faith. We are blessed to have students from a variety of faith backgrounds and we need to ask how do we support and nurture their spiritual journeys, he said. “We need to find out where the need is. We need to meet students where they are, help them to reflect on their experiences and engage them in their questions. It is from here that we may accompany them to go deeper into their relationships with God and others as they move into the world as men and women with and for others.”

During a spirituality panel Campus Ministry organized this fall 10 students from different faith backgrounds each answered two questions: what has nurtured their faith at Loyola, and what has been the greatest challenge to their spiritual development or growth.

One student said, “Can I ask people who are not Catholic a question?” Then he said, “Actually this goes to students who are Catholic. Why did you decide to come to a Jesuit, Catholic university?”

A student who is Muslim answered, “I knew this would be a place that was already engaging in questions of faith.”

“That’s validation,” Bray said. “We have interfaith conversations because we are a Jesuit university, not in spite of the fact that we are a Jesuit university. “

This fall Campus Ministry has also been taking the student conversation about faith to social media with a new theme each month—happiness in October, gratitude in November, waiting in December.

Although Bray is trying to grow the number of voices sharing their story, he says that this is not a year of change.

“For us, this year is not about releasing a new brand or a new concept. This year is about looking at our ministry, talking to Loyola students to understand what is the hunger, finding new ways to engage in the campus and continue to provide quality worship experiences,” he said. “We will need to look at where are the gaps? We have a great retreat ministry. We have beautiful and vibrant liturgies. So is there something that goes in between there? To do this will stand on our strong tradition and foundation to serve the needs of our students and community.”

Bray (fourth from right, leaning forward) with a group of students on the Ignatian Teach-In in Washington, D.C., in November 2014

A Time of Discovery

Bray, who earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Carroll College in Helena, Mont., and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Seattle University, has served in Seattle, Montana, Colombia, India, Thailand, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.

Now he is beginning a new journey in Maryland at Loyola.

“What excites me is accompanying young adults as they are in the midst of discovering how they have ownership of their own faith and spirituality,” he said. “Often they are pushing, stretching, and testing what it means to them. They are exploring what it means to have ownership of their faith. In Campus Ministry we provide a welcoming and nurturing environment where students feel safe asking questions. We offer the richness and tools of Ignatian spirituality for students to know themselves and God more deeply and we support their commitment to be men and women for others in the world.”

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