Struggling Catholic university students turn to chaplaincy

By  Brunelle Lewis, Youth Speak News
  • December 4, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Many Catholic students at Carleton University turn to their faith as a coping mechanism as high tuition fees become increasingly stressful.

Michael Bingham, a first-year Computer Science student, acknowledged high tuition costs have made it very difficult and stressful for students. While his financial situation is not as grave as some, Bingham admits that with tuition being where it is, he could see himself “having a difficult time if I were in their situation.”

In early November, thousands of post-secondary students from across Ontario rallied at Queen’s Park to protest high tuition fees and student debt. The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario , the province’s largest student advocacy organization, led the rally and others in 12 cities across the province.

“Ontario’s students are struggling to pay the highest fees in Canada while facing the worst youth unemployment on record,” said Shelly Melanson, Ontario chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

At Carleton, the chaplaincy office is frequently full of students who are turning toward their faith as a means to escape the stress of their finances.

“Students are (not only turning) to God. In these situations, they realize that left to their own efforts, they will not pull through on their own,” said Fr. David Shulist, chaplain at Carleton. “In these moments they realize that they are in need of a community — a Christian community.”

Shulist said several students are forced to go without three meals a day in order to pay for school. And many come from families with few resources or are already independent, and so they are struggling to pay the high costs themselves.

Shulist is pleased to see students take the initiative to have their voices heard, but he is a little wary that some students are protesting under false pretences.

“I think it is important for (students) to voice their concerns, (but this is) assuming they are living lives that are financially responsible. Students who are poorly managing their money will find it difficult to pay for school, but this is not simply because of the cost of education.”

The Carleton chaplaincy is constantly welcoming new students who need someone to talk to about their situation at school, be it financial or work related.

Bingham, a student who attends campus Mass regularly, says he uses his faith to cope with the stressful situations that surround university life.

(Lewis, 18, is a journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

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