University chaplains strive to keep students' faith living and active

September 16, 2013

TORONTO – First-year students have descended on universities and colleges to begin the new school year, and Catholic campus chaplaincies are ready to keep them engaged in the faith.

Erin Kinsella believes there are three main challenges that the start of a student's university career poses to staying active in the faith.

Kinsella, associate director of campus ministry at the Newman Centre on the University of Toronto downtown campus, said the first challenge is combatting moral relativism.

"Catholic students need to be able to ground themselves first and foremost in Christ . . . in order to filter through the plethora of ideas and theories they come in contact with," she said.

"There is also simply the challenge of time. New demands are placed on students, and it's often difficult to juggle schedules and remain faithful to prayer, Mass attendance, sacraments, community, etc."

Then there is sustaining a sense of community to aid in strengthening faith.

"It's difficult on such a large campus to find that community with other Catholic students," she said.

Oriana Bertucci, director of Catholic chaplaincy at Toronto's Ryerson University, said the transition to university life can be daunting to some because of all the changes a student encounters.

"University offers so many different activities outside of the academic realm and students are faced with many choices," said Bertucci.

"A faith community can be a place of belonging, of acceptance, of growth for students."

At Ryerson, Catholic Christian Outreach will run weekly small group faith studies to allow for faith sharing and reflection on Scripture, Bertucci said.

In London, the chaplaincy at Brescia College, the Catholic women's university at the University of Western Ontario, welcomed students, ready to introduce them to programs which focus on personal growth and faith.

"I think it's a time of a lot of questioning and trying to figure out who you are and how you fit into the larger context of the world," said Catherin-anne George, director of campus ministry at Brescia.

She adds that the centre will promote peer ministry.

"We want to help students develop an interior life that infuses the world around them with the love of Christ and draws them into his life, and the life of his body, the Church."