Faith on Campus: Southwest and West
Catholic formation is paramount.
“It is a way of life,” said Nicholas Smith, Texas State University, Class of 2022, about the formation he received as a student thanks to Catholic campus ministry.
Such Catholic formation is paramount, according to Father Nathan Dail, chaplain at Boise State University in Idaho. “We need a strong campus ministry more than anything to help young people understand their faith so that when it’s under attack in college they can retain it.”
“Go to Sunday Mass every Sunday, as a bare minimum,” said Father Dail. Then, “find a way to get involved in some way with the ministries offered at the Newman Center, whether it be Bible studies, charitable works or social events.”
“Without Christ-centered friendships and continued formation, many campus cultures communicate that faith is irrelevant, a crutch and a hindrance to freedom. When a campus ministry models the joy and deep purpose Jesus gives our lives and organically connects students with the sacraments, there is no time of life more conducive to growth in discipleship,” observed Jason Simon, executive director of Evangelical Catholic.
There are strong campus-ministry programs in the Southwest and Western regions of the United States. Here is a sampling.
Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
The Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center is home to NAU’s approximately 3,500 students.
The campus-ministry website offers a wealth of resources for interested Catholic students who wish to go deeper and to find out what is happening on campus. The campus ministry also posts to social media.
According to the website, the Newman Center offers a wide variety of experiences for students, “from tailgating to retreats, World Youth Day pilgrimages to daily Mass and confession, and community service to free dinners and catechesis.”
Led by Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries, there are more than 40 Bible studies happening around the NAU campus.
In the fall, the Newman Center conducts a “Lumberjack Awakening” retreat for those seeking a deeper relationship with Christ.
Arizona State, Phoenix
The All-Saints Catholic Newman Center is home for the approximately 20,000 Catholic students attending ASU.
The ASU Catholic Newman Center offers the Catholic community of students many activities.
Starting off the new academic year, ASU Catholic conducts “Catholic Underground” nights of worship and community and offers small-group interactions, retreats and monthly service events.
The Catholic Center also offers monthly men’s and women’s nights and parties.
Texas State University, San Marcos
Catholics on campus are served by the Our Lady of Wisdom university parish, an actual parish in the Diocese of Austin. The campus is served by a campus-ministry team as well as FOCUS missionaries.
Our Lady of Wisdom offers many opportunities for student involvement. FOCUS missionaries offer Bible study. There is a St. Paul’s Outreach group that strives for a deeper relationship with God and students. There is morning prayer and fellowship. The ministry program offers a retreat each semester called “Bobcat Awakening.”
“Once a week, St. Paul’s Outreach at Texas State University runs men’s and women’s nights,” said Ben Huntley, past chapter leader at Texas State University. These nights typically occur on Thursday nights to build Catholic communities of men and women through fellowship and discussions.
“We’ve seen so many people drawn to these nights because of the authenticity of relationships. Maybe for the first time, a young man or young woman will feel like they are accepted not because they had to prove themselves, but because they experienced a community that is led by men and women who have had a powerful encounter with the Risen Lord and want to help others encounter him, too.”
“I believe St. Paul’s Outreach not only helped me grow in my faith, but first, it saved it,” said Smith of the Class of 2022. “I grew up a cradle Catholic and did all the things to appear as a devout Catholic. However, it was all obligatory from my faithful parents. I did not yet experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ until I met the men of St. Paul’s Outreach. Eventually, I was shown that it is not just a Sunday thing. … I have never seen anyone follow the Lord as radically as these men did.”
University of Dallas
The University of Dallas’ campus ministry offers a variety of activities for students to get involved. Some programs include “alternative spring break” mission trips and “Best Buddies,” where students are paired up with youth who have intellectual and developmental disabilities for fun and friendship.
“Crusaders for Life,” a student-led group, promotes the sanctity of life. There are also men’s and women’s societies on campus, in addition to daily Mass and the sacraments.
Texas A&M, College Station
St. Mary’s Catholic Center is the center for the approximately 17,000 Catholic students on campus.
More than 300 students attend daily Mass, 5,000 students attend Mass on the weekend, and they get an average of eight vocations each year.
Innovative programs include “Catholics on the Quad,” a ministry to form community among those attending men’s and women’s retreats, walking to Mass and participation in other campus-ministry programs.
St. Mary’s Catholic Center and FOCUS missionaries partner to serve Catholic students. St. Mary’s Catholic Center also features the “Holy Roastery.”
St. Mary’s Catholic Center just dedicated a beautiful new St. Mary’s Church.
Colorado State University, Fort Collins
The St. John XXIII Catholic Church is home to the approximately 4,000 Catholic CSU students.
This parish is within the Archdiocese of Denver and works with FOCUS missionaries.
There is currently a capital campaign underway to expand the St. John XXIII campus with a beautiful new church and Newman Center.
The St. John XXIII Center organizes “Ram Awakenings,” a three-day retreat to encounter Jesus Christ and his community in October in the Rocky Mountains.
Boise State University
Known as the “Bronco Catholic Association,” St. Paul’s Student Catholic Center is the Newman Center on campus, serving approximately 2,000 Catholic students.
“My faith has grown through involvement in the St. Paul's Catholic Student Center program in several ways,” said Joseph Patti, a graduate of Boise State University. “I grew in my love through Christ through a rich, beautiful and intimate liturgical life at our chapel. Also, the growth in our brotherhood among the young men was exponential ... and all of us felt a deep sense of belonging and drive together. Finally, in having a chaplain who is deeply committed to my spiritual and human well-being, I found Father Nathan was always there to support me in my sufferings and successes.”
The University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Our Savior parish and USC Caruso Catholic Center at USC is the spiritual home for approximately 10,000 Catholic students at USC.
According to its website, the USC Caruso Center is “one of the largest communities of Catholic students west of the Mississippi.” In 2012, the new Our Savior Church was completed on campus.
Campus ministry offers a Thursday night community dinner and weekly Bible studies. There are also a wide variety of social events, including movie nights and retreats. The USC Caruso Center offers a variety of service, spiritual and intellectual opportunities as well as adoration. “Sunday SCuppers” is an opportunity to mingle with Catholic Trojans and enjoy a free meal.
University of Washington, Seattle
The Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center is the Catholic home to UW’s approximately 12,000 Catholic students on campus.
FOCUS missionaries work together with the Newman Center campus-ministry team. Prince of Peace uses a peer-ministry program where teams work with small groups of students to bring their faith, heart and skills into building up the Newman community into a welcoming and engaging place to grow spiritually.
University of Alaska, Anchorage
The center of Catholic life for the approximately 1,600 Catholic Students at UAA is the UAA Newman Club.
The Newman Club website states as its mission to be “the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world.’ We are here to ‘open wide the doors’ to bring Christ to campus.”
Mass is offered daily at Our Lady of Providence Chapel, which is across from UAA.
Chaminade University of Honolulu
Chaminade University’s Catholic campus ministry works to nurture a student’s spiritual growth and to embody the Catholic and Marianist spirit.
Campus ministry conducts Marianist lectures on various topics as well as retreats.
Editor’s Note: This series highlights a variety of campus ministries. Read the other parts: the introduction, Ivy League, Great Lakes and Midwest and South; 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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