Catholic students at Toronto’s Newman Centre make sandwiches as part of a street patrol formed on campus. Photo courtesy Office of Catholic Youth

New site helps students make right connections, reconnect with Catholic faith

By 
  • October 22, 2018

Going to university often means leaving home and friends behind, but it doesn’t have to mean parting ways with your Catholic faith.

The introduction of an online service last year is making it easier for students to join a new Catholic family on campus. 

Chaplaincy Connect is an online sign-up from the Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) to connect students with their Catholic chaplaincies on campus. Students can enter the post-secondary institution they are attending and immediately get in touch with a community that will support them in their faith. 

Cameron Beare is the campus leader for the Catholic Christian Outreach chaplaincy at University of Ottawa. He said students can sometimes get lost at university and it’s important that a campus ministry becomes a Catholic family for young people. 

“It really shows what potential there is to help people stop getting lost at university,” he said. “Everyone that’s come through Chaplaincy Connect, they’ve been people who have signed up, who are interested and have stuck around.”

OCY campus minister Eliza Trotter said too often Catholic chaplaincy is a hidden ministry on campus. When high school students graduate from Catholic school and leave their home parish youth groups, it is important that the Church is still present and ready to accompany them in their next stage of life. 

“I think there was this sense that it’s really important that we try to provide something for them at that stage in their lives which is so critical,” said Trotter. “They’re maturing in so many ways and making very important life decisions…. And our faith gives answers to so many of those questions.”

The idea for the website — ChaplaincyConnect.ca — came from a Google Form created by Erin Kinsella, the associate director of campus outreach at University of Toronto’s Newman Centre. 

“Partially, it was inspired by the stats of students who no longer practised their faith once they leave university and it’s just not acceptable that that’s happening,” she said.

A recent study commissioned by the Christian ministry organization Power to Change examined young adult’s transitional relationship with the Church of Today. “Renegotiating Faith,” which was published on Oct. 9, consulted young adult ministry experts from Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox communities across the country. 

Data showed that young adults who had a home church mentor recommend a campus group connection are three times more likely (68 per cent) to join the campus group compared to those (23 per cent) who had no help. 

Before Chaplaincy Connect, youth ministry leaders across the archdiocese of Toronto often reached out to Kinsella for contact recommendations for their students. Last year, she brought the idea of connecting youth ministers to campus leaders to the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry network. That in turn led to the creation of a national form to connect chaplaincies across the nation. OCY launched a central website in spring 2017. 

“If a student completes a form, their information goes automatically to the e-mail inbox of the campus minister at their chosen (post-secondary) institution,” said Kinsella. “The point is to get them connected to a real person and making that real connection at their destination campus.”

It is important, Kinsella said, that Chaplaincy Connect uses a low-commitment invitation. Chaplaincy Connect outlines specific protocols for follow-ups, depending on the level of interest the student expressed in the form. 

“It’s not a commitment. It’s just an opportunity to get connected and it takes out the fear for them of stepping into a new community,” she said.

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