Compass clubs offer spiritual guidance at three campuses

By  Jasmine Canaria , Youth Speak News
  • December 22, 2006

HAMILTON, Ont. - Three years ago, a group of Catholic students at McMaster University noticed a spiritual void in their university lives so they started a chapter of the Compass Catholic Fellowship group on campus. Compass is an international student-run Catholic group with Canadian chapters at the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

"Compass supports young Catholics in the formation of faith by providing the (intellectual) backbone for our religious beliefs," said Compass president Artur Suski.

Suski and past Compass president Elaine Zettel believe that many young Catholics practise their faith blindly, performing age-old rituals and prayers without knowing the meanings behind these actions.

"We learn about everything else in university, so why leave faith at an elementary school level?" asked Zettel.

McMaster student John Fox formed the campus' Compass group as a subgroup of the McMaster Catholic Students Association. Today, Compass is affiliated and supported by Regnum Christi, a local lay group, and with the priests from the Legionnaries of Christ, who give the students spiritual formation and guidance.

The group holds regular prayer meetings, catechesis and guest speakers such as Toronto-based broadcaster Michael Coren. They host Cornerstone discussions consisting of small groups made up of only three to five people. This gives Compass members the opportunity for more personal debate and intimate sharing.

On a larger scale they hold Points Encounters which focus on specific Scripture readings. Both Cornerstone discussions and Points Encounters give members a chance to learn more about becoming faith leaders, by learning to openly debate the scriptures and other important ethical issues. They also allow students to apply the Scriptures to their own lives and current world events.

"My involvement with Compass has definitely challenged me to grow in my faith," said Zettel.

Zettel said being able to express her faith and debate her spiritual beliefs with others has given her strength to confidently explain Catholic ideas in the classroom and in the secular world.

Both Suski and Zettel said that once students learn how to live out their faith in their daily lives, there lies a natural progression to witness that faith in other ways as well. Along with discussion sessions, the members of McMaster's Compass group also participate in community service outreach programs. Members may volunteer with certain not-for-profit organizations, the Out of the Cold program and many others.

"Participating in outreach programs helps connect the group together, allows them to participate in missions, and to make themselves known in the community."

Being a member of the Compass Fellowship group has changed the lives of student spiritual leaders Suski and Zettel.

Compass allows us "to strive for change, to grow, to work on yourself, your faith and your soul," said Suski.

(Canaria, 22, studies psychology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.)

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