Faith on Campus: Great Lakes
Campus-ministry involvement benefits the college student in many ways.
Campus-ministry involvement benefits the college student in many ways, according to the head chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. “Transitioning to adulthood is no easy task,” said Father Robert Lampitt. “Beginning to take responsibility for one’s faith is a hallmark of an adult and will set students for success as husbands and wives, as fathers and mothers.”
“The college culture in general can tempt student to forget the faith. On the fence, these students see that, on one side, they can have the hedonistic pleasures that they see some of their peers engaging in: sex, drugs, alcohol,” said Father Lampitt.
“On the other side, they’ve been taught that living the way God asked us to and keeping up with practices of their faith is what brings true joy and eternal life. I’d ask them: Is it worth it to give in to the fleeting pleasures of college life or to strive for something greater — the person God created them to be?”
Added Father Lampitt. “They can either serve God by living as he wants us to — fully alive, with him — or live as they want to, in the here and now. Only one path leads to true happiness, purpose and fulfillment.”
Here’s a brief look at the Catholic campus ministry offerings at various regional campuses.
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception is called the “Heart of the Campus.” Last renovated in 2008, the beautiful chapel was first dedicated in 1870.
“College is possibly your greatest opportunity in life to intentionally become the man or woman who God created you to be,” said Emmanuel Sanchez, Northeast regional administrator and chapter leader for St. Paul’s Outreach at Seton Hall University. “By frequenting the sacraments, committing to a small group, and making time for retreats, you are investing in your personal and spiritual growth in an indispensable way.”
Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
The university has the Redhawk Catholic Newman Catholic Campus Ministry program on campus.
“We strive to be an active presence of Christ to the university community,” said Father Jim Chern, chaplain and director of the Newman Center at Montclair State University.
“We have a multifaceted approach that wants to evangelize and share the Good News of Christ; engage in constructive dialogue with the diverse community that is on campus from the vantage point that Christ has come to save the world; to reach out to the ‘lost,’ whether fallen away or unchurched, the ‘nones’; while also ministering to those students who have grown up in the faith to provide the sacraments and continue formation they specifically need at this time in their lives,” said Father Chern.
The Catholic University of America
The Catholic University of America is the pontifical university of the Catholic Church and is the only college founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
The campus-ministry site is easily located right off the main university site under “Student Life.”
Campus ministry at Catholic University is inspired by the mission and passion of St. Francis of Assisi.
There are five chapels on campus, with the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel serving as the “official” chapel.
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
The St. John Church and Student Center serves approximately 12,000 Catholic students on campus. The vision of the campus-ministry program is to nurture the student’s spiritual growth through worship, evangelization, stewardship, education, service, justice, outreach and hospitality.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus is, according to its website, one of the largest and most active Newman Centers in the nation. The campus-ministry program is rich with Bible studies, retreats, weekly spiritual and social events, dozens of students-led ministry and social groups and includes on-campus housing at Newman Hall.
“Our program is student-focused,” said Father Lampitt. “We’ve chosen to take a three-pronged approach, focusing on the sacraments, retreats and small-group Bible studies. Together, these offerings direct students through a discipleship process (facilitated by staff and FOCUS missionaries), allowing the students to encounter Jesus, to develop a relationship with him, and then to receive his invitation to go with him in search of others.”
“A robust campus ministry is evidence of two things,” added Father Lampitt. “First, it knows what it’s doing and can be trusted. Second, it will have something (or Someone) for you no matter your interests. College is too important of a time in a young person’s life for campus ministry to be lackluster or for it to not be a point of consideration when choosing a college.”
For college students to grow in their faith life, they can do several things. “Go to Sunday Mass and monthly confession,” said Father Lampitt. “Just get in the habit, and do it. Go to Eucharistic adoration if it is offered. Go to daily Mass once in a while. Join a Bible study. Take your priest out for coffee (he’ll probably pick up the bill!) and ask for guidance. Ask questions; someone will take the time to teach you.”
“My involvement with campus ministry has been absolutely life changing, and I mean that in the most genuine way,” said Holly Bernhard of the University of Illinois. “In such a short amount of time, I have, to the highest degree, felt what it means to be invested in. Through the events and small get-togethers, I met some of the most beautiful souls that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. They exemplify what it looks like to live unapologetically Catholic in their daily lives, and I needed to see that in action. Being involved with the campus ministry has made me realize how vital true discipleship and fellowship are in pursuing the truth, and God has blessed me immensely with the greatest role models who never ceased to call me to something greater. It has truly inspired me to accept his call to expect more of myself as God’s beloved daughter.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio
Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio, as its website indicates, has a “vibrantly Catholic culture.”
“Our sacramental life here at Franciscan is full,” said Franciscan Father Shawn Roberson, the university chaplain.
“Household” life is a unique part of Franciscan, Father Roberson explained, “to which 60% of Franciscan students belong. These are small groups formed around a covenant agreement of spiritual renewal, meeting for faith commitments weekly throughout the academic year.
“They do things such as semester retreats, ministerial commitments and fraternal supports. I have witnessed places whereby people formed in a household life have friendships that last a lifetime.”
University of Indiana, Bloomington, Indiana
“Our ministry has nearly quadrupled since we partnered with FOCUS,” reported Dominican Father Patrick Hyde, who is the pastor and director of campus ministry at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University. “The joyful witness of our FOCUS missionaries has changed and enhanced our ministry to better reach and equip our students with the Good News.”
Editor’s Note: This series highlights a variety of campus ministries. Read the other parts: the introduction, Ivy League, Midwest and South and Southwest and West; also learn about FOCUS ministry. To learn more about Catholic life at college, also see our annual guide and our “Education” section.
Sean P. Dolan is a Catholic communications professional and founder of Dolan Communications.
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