Catholic Students Week showcases faith on campus

By  Stephanie Kelly, Youth Speak News
  • March 23, 2011
Students look on as Bishop Richard Gagnon speaks at the “Dish with the Bish” event on March 16, part of Catholic Students Week. Catholic Students Week took place across the country from March 12-20 to celebrate the Catholic community on campus.

Organized by the Canadian Catholic Students Association, 250 events were hosted on 35 campuses from coast to coast, with some schools partnering with groups such as the Knights of Columbus, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Catholic Christian Outreach and L’Arche, along with local parishes.

Lori Neale, CCSA national co-ordinator, said the success of Catholic Students Week is a reflection of passionate Catholic students across the country.

“It shows the incredible enthusiasm and faith with which Catholic students are living out their faith on campuses,” she said.

The CCSA is a national association that was founded in 1946 to connect Catholic students from university campuses across Canada. Its mission is to unite students who witness the Gospel on campus.

Lauren van Vliet is a third-year English and religious studies student at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown. She is also the president of the university’s CCSA group. UPEI hosted events every day, including Theology on Tap, a talk on issues in religion and theology, as well as a talk on missions trips to Africa and daily Mass.

For van Vliet, it’s all about gathering practising Catholic students and reaching out to new ones.

“I think Catholic Students Week is really important because it gives Catholics a chance to connect with and get to know each other,” she said. “It also gives the campus a chance to see that we are here and hopefully encourage a few new people to join us.”

Students at Toronto’s Ryerson University celebrated by having a St. Patrick’s Day Mass and an evening Mass and dinner at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Second-year psychology student and Ryerson Catholic Student Association secretary Madeline Montoya says she feels the Lord’s presence during events like these.

“Catholic Students Week makes me feel strengthened in my faith,” she said. “As I help other CSA members set up and promote these events, I feel like the light of the Holy Spirit is working with us, wanting to light other lamps as well.”

Current turmoil in the world was not forgotten. St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., held a prayer service for victims of the earthquake in Japan as a part of the week-long events. Kayoko Yoshimoto, a third-year gerontology and psychology student from Nara, Japan, was one of about 20 people who attended the prayer service.

“During this week, I was very depressed,” said Yoshimoto. “I feel very isolated, but today, I am relieved of my isolation and I can get support.”

Students from Western Canada also took part in the week’s events. Students from the University of Victoria in British Columbia held a lunch with Bishop Richard Gagnon and ran lectures on the relationship between God and the environment with speakers from the Judaic, Catholic and Protestant community.

“I hope and pray that Catholic Students Week will result in a greater unity among Catholic students and that it will increase the profile of the Catholic Students Association on campus,” said third-year UVIC law student Brian Bird.

“It often feels like religious groups on campus are excluded or at least made to feel like their voice is less important.”  

(Kelly, 20, is a journalism student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B.)

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