The ministry of chaplaincy keeps Fr. John Klein, LC, busy; as the chaplain for the Regnum Christi young men’s section in Atlanta, he helps to facilitate monthly retreats and open yearly Spiritual Exercises for young adults and college students, and organizes monthly street missions through Mercy Missions Atlanta, an initiative that invites high school students and young adults to minister to those they meet on the streets of Atlanta.
Fr. John also serves part-time at the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, one of the top ranked universities in the United States, assisting the chaplain, Fr. Branson Hipp of the diocese of Atlanta. Fr. John is a spiritual director for the Catholic Center there, as well as an auxiliary chaplain. In this role, he helps with on-campus Masses a few times a week, attends campus retreats, and supports the Catholic student leaders especially the FOCUS Missionaries, full time young adult missionaries who strive to share the hope and joy of the Gospel on their campuses and with the world.
And for Fr. John, this invitation to mission to spread the Gospel, whether it be on campus, or on the streets of Atlanta, is key to his ministry as chaplain, and key to engaging students in their faith:
“Young people love a challenge, and a deeper purpose to their lives. The more we invite them into the great adventure of knowing and experiencing Christ in prayer, the more they will hunger for him. The more we help them uncover the richness, depth, and beauty of the faith by teaching it in a real and dynamic way, the more they will fall in love with it and desire to live it. And the more we challenge them to rise up and put their gifts and talents at the service of evangelizing, the more they will respond and come up with better and more creative apostolates than we could even imagine.”
Offering monthly street evangelization missions allows students to pray together, meet other college students, and learn to overcome their fear in sharing the faith. For Fr. John, the experiences that the students have during street evangelizations and homeless missions are always profound moments of grace.
One of the greatest needs that Fr. John witnesses of the students on campus whom he serves is a need for life-giving community, where they can be themselves, share life, and make unique memories. While most post-secondary schools offer a variety of communities, from sports teams to fraternities and sororities to special interest clubs, it is those communities that have faith as their foundation that Fr. John feels create the deepest and most fulfilling form of friendship and fellowship. “Everyone is looking for a place to belong and be fully alive,” says Fr. John. “Our campus communities should be vibrant, welcoming, and fun, and at the same time deep, challenging, Eucharistic, and real. The more a Catholic community embodies these characteristics, the more it will attract, nourish, and evangelize.”
And of course, students need to develop and nurture a deep and personal experience of Jesus Christ, particularly through the Scriptures, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in communal prayer, and in silence. “Without this real experience of Christ, the students see the Catholic faith as just a bunch of rules and norms that burden them and drain their life,” says Fr. John. “Once Christ is experienced personally, the faith becomes real, adventurous, fresh, and full of life!”
One of the events that Fr. John has observed to have had the most profound and positive impact on students is also the one that they are often the most hesitant to attend; silent Spiritual Exercises are offered once a year, and provides the college students with a unique and privileged way to encounter Christ and learn to pray. And although most students yearn for more silence in their lives, the idea of a silent weekend retreat can be intimidating, and even downright scary. Fr. John has seen that those students who do have the courage to attend and experience that silence with Christ, as few as they may be, always grow tremendously in their faith. “The Lord multiplies their effort and impact!”
Accompanying his students one-on-one, either during spiritual direction or just casual conversation, is one of Fr. John’s favorite parts of the role of chaplaincy; getting to hear and experience up close the struggles and victories in their faith is deeply meaningful and fulfilling. And for him, this love that accompanies is the most important virtue to possess in order to respond well to the ministry of chaplaincy. “If we love the students, we will pray for them, we will spend time with them, we will worry and rejoice with them, we will preach to them from the heart, and we will know when to be patient and merciful, and when to challenge and demand more of them.”
And Fr. John knows that he can’t doesn’t possess this virtue all on his own: such love requires a deep Eucharistic life, where he can absorb the love of Christ and then be an instrument of it to his students.
In addition to serving in his role as chaplain to the RC young men in Atlanta and the students at Georgia Tech, Fr. John is also a member of the core team of RC Music Collective, a group made up of Legionary priests, Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and lay Regnum Christi members who come together to write and produce music designed to lead its listeners to an encounter of God’ love and mission. The collective recently collaborated with Shawn Williams of The Vigil Project, meeting in Nashville in June of this year to record seven new songs. You can check out the fruits of those recording sessions at Regnum Christi Music Collective – YouTube, or connect with them on Spotify. Find out more about the ministries and mission of Regnum Christi in Atlanta at rcatlanta.org.