Discussing the future of campus chaplaincies

By  Vanessa Baker, Youth Speak News
  • February 15, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Some 35 students from universities across Ontario gathered in Ottawa for the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association regional conference, held Jan. 25-27 at Saint Paul University.

“It was a huge success,” said Stacey Blunt, a third-year business law student at Ottawa’s Carleton University, who was on the planning committee for the conference. “A lot of networking was done, a lot of talk about what’s happening on campuses across Ontario.”

Carleton and Saint Paul University hosted the Catholic campus groups who came together to discuss what is going on in their chaplaincies, as well as any problems they may be experiencing.

A great problem for many of the smaller chaplaincies is getting people to come out for Mass and keeping numbers high, said Blunt, executive president of the Carleton University Roman Catholic Community. Other difficulties include getting the word out about Masses and other events and agreeing on how to run Mass.

Blunt said that the theme of the conference, “Will You Come to the Banquet?” taken from Luke 14:15-24, is about inviting people to come and learn and experience chaplaincies and all they have to offer.

Campus chaplaincies offer a volunteer community and a place for students and faculty to meet for a number of activities including Mass and rosary, Blunt said. They also assist the community through volunteer programs. In addition, chaplaincies provide a contact person to assist with any religious questions, as well as a support service for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Dr. Carolyn Sharp, a professor in the faculty of theology at Saint Paul University, was the keynote speaker. Sharp spoke about Catholic identity and hospitality, often inviting those in the audience to share their thoughts and experiences.

“I’m really glad to see you gathered here to put your energies together,” she told the group.

Sharp discussed the importance of reaching out to newcomers.

“Being hospitable, acting in a way in which we see the other person as the Christ is central to our understanding of ourselves as followers of Christ. We are Christians when we act in ways that make a stranger feel at home and when we honour the stranger on the outside,” said Sharp.

Sharp praised the work of campus chaplaincies.

“For many young people, chaplaincies are the place on large university campuses where they can think about some fundamental issues about their lives, and I think it’s very important to support that work.”

Participants were also given the chance to attend three workshops, one about emotional intelligence called “EQ and the Spirituality of Hospitality” by Dr. Michael Rock, “Social Justice and Hospitality” by Lori Ryan, and Fr. Stephen Wojcichosky’s workshop, “For the Life of the World:  An Eastern Christian Approach to Eucharist.”

Carleton student Angela Pereira led a discussion about problems the different chaplaincies are experiencing on their campuses and how they are being dealt with.

The Canadian Catholic Students’ Association and Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry held their annual general meetings on the Sunday and gave presentations about the organizations and what they do.

Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., joined the group to celebrate liturgy on the Saturday evening.

(Baker, studies journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

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