Josh Canning, director of chaplaincy services at the Newman Centre, says that in a campus ministry context, every year is a Year of Faith. Photo by Vanessa Santilli

Year of Faith goes to the heart of campus

  • February 2, 2013

TORONTO - In the campus ministry context, every year is the Year of Faith, said Josh Canning.

“It’s missionary, it’s new evangelization,” said Canning, director of chaplaincy services at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. “We’re always trying to improve and better engage the campus culture.”

For the official Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012 and runs until Nov. 24, campus ministries at Catholic university colleges and on secular campuses are taking the Year of Faith to heart and holding events to help students rediscover and deepen their faith.

The Newman Centre is running a Year of Faith course focusing on different elements of the Apostles’ Creed, said Canning. Run by Fr. Cris Graas, the bi-monthly group unpacks its meaning for students.

Along with a reading group that explores the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the chaplaincy is also doing more outreach work, including faith surveys on campus.

“In a way, the Year of Faith emboldens you and reaffirms the things you’re doing as a campus minister,” said Canning.

At the nearby University of St. Michael’s College on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus, Fr. Francois Mifsud is helping students explore the roots of the Church through reading the documents of Vatican II.

“The documents are not read to us or presented to us by an expert,” said Mifsud, campus ministry chaplain. “Instead, we read and explore them together.”

The weekly exercise is helping the students — along with Mifsud — slow down and read in a more meditative way, he said.

There is also a strong focus on a renewed approach to the liturgy, with an emphasis on participation, he added.

“We decided to change the setting of the chapel according to themes. The first theme was pilgrimage so the liturgy had four different spaces and we walked through these different spaces.”

For the second semester, the liturgical setting has been changed to Ad Orientum — wherein the priest faces east to celebrate Mass.

At Toronto’s Ryerson University, the focus has been on Living-Catholic, a weekly program where  students discuss different elementsof the faith with an emphasis on Vatican II, post-conciliar documents, YouCat (the youth catechism) and the role we play in being a living witness to these documents.

“It’s been a good experience for our group to discuss the documents and, at times, surprising how life-giving they still are for us today,” said Oriana Bertucci, director of campus ministry.

The Ryerson chaplaincy has also partnered with high schools, said Bertucci.

“Over the fall term, we welcomed St. Marcellinus from Mississauga and St. Michael’s from Bolton to campus,” she said, and the secondary and post-secondary students discussed ways to make their faith come alive in their respective school communities, parishes and homes.

In Vancouver, the campus ministry at Corpus Christi College and St. Mark’s College is using videos to reach out to students, said Fr. Hien Nguyen.

Along with showing Fr. Robert Barron’s series Catholicism bimonthly, they are also running a video divina series focused around different themes followed by discussion, said Nguyen, campus ministry co-ordinator and student advisor.

“Our dream here is to help the students to continue to live their faith because many of them — particularly at UBC — are in a very hostile environment,” said Nguyen.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)



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