Campus chaplain reflects on time at Brock

Andre Basson is nearing the end of an era.Since 2004, the long-serving campus chaplain has been a fixture of the Brock community. Basson has led discussions, welcomed students into his office, attended events and even taught classes.But as he nears retirement at the end of the semester, Basson says there is one part of his job that will be toughest to leave behind.“I have loved meeting amazing, awesome students from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s been such a privilege to listen to them and that is one of the things that I will miss the most.”Basson is almost ubiquitous at various occasions across campus, and can often be seen engaging new students at the University’s Fall Preview Day and Spring Open House events, working out at the Zone, or even leading a bible study for atheists.In doing this, he has recognized the importance of being an active and engaged participant in the University community.“An office is OK, but you really have to be out there,” he said. “You need to connect with students where they are. Our ministry is a ministry of presence and we need to be in club activities and get to know students at their own level.”Having started his time at Brock nearly 14 years ago, Basson has seen many changes during his tenure and has had to respond to them accordingly.“You get the sense with students that you need to reinvent your ministry every year because generations change,” he said. “Smartphones did not even exist when I came to Brock.”Basson also appreciates the wide variety of people he gets to interact with compared to someone serving in parish ministry.“I think in parish ministry you often deal with many of the same issues over and over, but these kids are struggling with lots of issues, like jobs and insecurities, and yet they adapt very well,” he said.Basson witnessed that resiliency first-hand while leading overseas trips with students, with one particular instance in his mind standing out.“I was astonished by the hard-working attitude of the students while we were on a social justice trip in Namibia six years ago,” he said. “I watched them paint and fix a playground with members of the community in the hot sun when I couldn’t physically stand to work anymore. When they find their passion, they are extremely committed.”Basson also emphasized the distinctive role University chaplains enjoy as “guests on campus.” Though an active part of the Brock community, campus chaplains are sponsored by their respective faith traditions to provide religious resources, learning and leadership among student groups, faculty and staff.“There is a loyalty, but in any family there must also be healthy criticism,” he said. “We were some of the first people to advocate for fair trade products on campus, not from a particularly Christian perspective, but to highlight where the University can be better.”In addition to providing pastoral care for students and advocacy within the University community, Basson, a native of South Africa, has used his previous academic background as a Classics professor to teach two Medieval Studies courses, a role he hopes to continue even after he gives up his duties as chaplain.He also hopes to spend his retirement devoting further time to other scholarly interests, including finishing a longstanding book draft about a fourth-century Roman poet and beginning to learn Spanish.To pursue the latter of these endeavours, Basson intends to spend time travelling through Latin America, a task that should not be too overwhelming for someone who is already fluent in nine languages.As the adventures of retirement near, Basson knows that Brock will always remain with him.“The University is such an amazing place,” he said. “There’s always ideas floating around, and I hope to stay involved and come in now and then. I can’t see myself ever in some way not being connected to the University.”Though Basson will not formally retire from his duties as campus chaplain until the end of May, a retirement party will be held in his honour Friday, April 6, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Isaac’s Bar and Grill (stories will be shared at 4 p.m.). Please RSVP to [email protected]

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