For decades, the Catholic community on Hope’s campus has fallen into the margins of our campus. Jacob Mazur-Batistoni from Lapeer, Michigan, saw this problem and decided to do something about it. Mazur-Batistoni is a senior at Hope College who’s planning to enter the Dominican Priesthood after graduating. When Mazur-Batistoni arrived on campus as a freshman, he immediately noticed the stigma that exists around Catholics on campus. Oftentimes, upon learning that Mazur-Batistoni was Catholic, his peers were surprised. In an interview, he described the reactions to his faith, “They were surprised that I was Catholic because I actually cared about my faith.” He went on to explain the assumptions he noticed around his religious beliefs. He shared, “It is not fair to make the assumption that all people who are Catholic are lukewarm Christians… The assumption that most people have of me is not even remotely close to reality. The reality is that my heart is set on Jesus. People don’t see that because they have a different perspective of Catholicism.” His heart broke when he explained the reality that when students on campus knew he was Catholic before he began a relationship with them, they would often form preconceptions of who he is, what he believes and what matters to him. He said, “That is unfair because there are lukewarm Christians everywhere. To just ascribe it to the Catholic church is actually pretty lame because there are probably just as many lukewarm Christians who aren’t Catholic.”
The stigma against Catholicism has been something that Mazur-Batistoni actively fights against. His relationship with the Holy Spirit and his firm belief in the active work of the gifts of the Holy Spirit today have been a large part of his calling. He invites others into the fullness of Jesus that he has experienced within the Catholic community. The evangelical church often assumes that Catholics are not as likely to be very open to the Holy Spirit. This assumption has led Mazur-Batistoni to pioneer a group of charismatic Catholics on campus that love Jesus. Mazur-Batistoni continued to share in the interview, “The truth is that the Catholic community at Hope is faithful and is on fire.” He assumes that the reason the Hope College community may not have recognized this before is simply that Catholics have not had a space to grow or a community presented to them.
Mazur-Batistoni founded the group Ignis on campus. The word ignis is the Latin word for fire. This group meets consistently and at least ten people are present every Monday, which is a large portion of the Catholic community on campus. The group has become like a family and is supported by the St. Benedict Institute, Father Nick, the campus chaplain and Carly, the campus missionary. When asked what Mazur-Batistoni’s goal in creating this group has been, he replied, “Providing a community is all that I am doing. The rest is the work of Jesus. It’s been humbling because I have done barely anything to make this group grow.”
A large part of the success in the group has been Mazur-Batistoni’s submission to authority. He spoke to the importance of understanding his position as a college student and the rightful need to be under authority. He is given great freedom within the group to lead and discern while continuing to rely on Fr. Nick, who has supported him throughout the process. Mazur-Batistoni shared the influence he has seen in the lives of many Catholics on campus. “Certain people came to the group being very hesitant, but then it became like a home to them,” Mazur-Batistoni said. “People feel a lot more confident with knowing what Jesus wants for them and they are spending a lot more time in prayer. People are being healed. People are knowing Jesus.”
Upon concluding the interview with Mazur-Batistoni, he shared these thoughts: “I found out that when these people come to me, they were faithful before they came to my group. It’s not like I gave them something to care about. It’s not like I’ve said, ‘Here’s Jesus because you didn’t really care about Jesus.’ It was me saying, ‘Here is space where you can grow in relationship. Here is space where you can dive in.’ It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with seeing people as they are and saying, ‘Okay, this is where they are at with the Lord and they care.’ Then I pray and ask the Lord what he wants to do in their life. It’s about seeing the hunger in people and calling it out. It’s about seeing that Jesus is working.”
Ignis meets on Monday nights in Schoon Chapel, 8:30-10:30 p.m. and welcomes people of all denominations. The most important thing is the love the students have for Jesus. If interested in stopping in or speaking with Mazur-Batistoni, you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org