By Aidan Birth
As a recent college graduate and now as a seminarian, I cannot help but reflect on the importance of Catholic campus ministries, Newman Centers, and Newman Clubs serving students around the country. These are places and groups on campuses, religious or secular, that may offer Mass, Eucharistic adoration, confession, opportunities for fellowship with Catholic peers, and even more.
When I was an undergraduate at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I was blessed to have the opportunity to immerse myself in numerous leadership opportunities through our Catholic campus ministry. They included leading Bible studies, Rosary walks, organizing social events such as movie nights, and organizing liturgies. Beyond the administrative roles, it was a great opportunity to walk with my peers in our faith journeys, providing lessons I hold near and dear now that I am in the seminary.
The most important aspect of Catholic campus ministries and Newman Centers, though, is that they have priests, lay ministers, and students who offer spiritual and emotional support; this is incredibly important in light of the various academic and personal pressures that college students face.
Fortunately, as a student leader, I was able to find this support in campus priests, peers, parishioners, and through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) Digital Outreach program. FOCUS provides mentorship and Bible studies led by trained missionaries, as well as social opportunities with fellow leaders at Catholic campus ministries and Newman Centers around the country.
It is important to recognize the value of such ministries as places where future Catholic leaders — priests, religious, and laity — will emerge. These are also places where people who are not Catholic or have moved away from the Church are introduced or re-introduced to the faith and find their way to the Church — particularly important as we look for more youth and young adults in our parishes.
If you are a student or the parent of a student looking at colleges, please take a close look at the Catholic campus ministries, Newman Centers, and Newman Clubs at the colleges you consider. Whether the Catholic group is small or large, there are immense opportunities to grow in faith and leadership at any college or university that has strong Church resources. However, it is important to note that, just because a college has a sizable student population or it identifies as Catholic, it does not mean there is automatically a large and vibrant ministry group.
Finally, please pray for all those involved in the Church’s campus endeavors, that they may faithfully lead students to the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.
Aidan Birth is a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, South Ozone Park, and a seminarian for the Diocese of Brooklyn.