Stay close

Can you believe that in less than a month school starts? Sorry if I just brought you down a bit. 

In about two weeks our Peer Leaders at UMass Dartmouth move in for a couple days for a retreat and to lead our Novus program for first-year students. This past week the Office for Campus Ministry hosted an overnight retreat at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham for recent high school graduates who are heading off to college this month. It is a very exciting time in the lives of these students: one filled with hope and at the same time a little anxiety. Embark (the name of this overnight retreat) is one of the ways we seek to help our Catholic students not only transition from high school life to college, but also to help them transition in their faith life as well.

College is a time of great intellectual development. Students will be challenged to think critically and to apply that thinking to all aspects of their lives. One of our tasks in campus ministry is to help students grow in faith during this intellectual development. Catholicism has a rich intellectual history. An unfortunate occurrence in the university or college atmosphere is when faith is reduced to myth or folklore. Institutions of higher learning seek to promote a healthy, holistic development of their students. This is why in addition to the academic focus, schools have student affair departments, that division of a college or university that seeks to help the student grow in their social and leadership skills as well as provide students with the supports they need to succeed not just academically but in life. The Catholic understanding of the human person is that we are a union of body and soul. To truly engage in a holistic development means we nurture our minds and hearts together.

College is also a time when our lives are turned upside down. For many moving away from home for the first time is a transition that takes time. New habits need to be established. Learning boundaries and self-discipline are a must. This new freedom comes with new responsibility. Even for those who are commuting from home, life is different. Due to the demands of being a student, one’s relationship with family is very different than it was in high school. These changes can also be stressful. Campus Ministry serves as a means of support for this aspect of transition as well. Whether it is connecting with a group of peers who share the same faith and values that you do, who accept you for who you are or meeting with a campus minister to vent or seek assistance in the transition, we are a resource that can be very valuable during your college career. I should also drop a note here to parents. Campus ministry also hears from nervous moms and dads, particularly at the beginning of the semester. Unless there is a concern for the safety of the student, we don’t report back to you whether they are going to Mass, etc. Sorry!

In a transition such as college, one of the keys to success is to find areas of stability. That is why we encourage students to work on routines in their lives. A priest friend of mine once offered students this piece of advice: Remember when you were little and you went out to play? In the summertime we were able to go out after dinner while it was still light. The instruction given to us was stay close. Why? One reason was safety. If there was a problem, help would be nearby. Another reason was when it was time to go home we would be able to hear our parents calling for us. 

My friend’s point was the Lord is telling us the same: stay close. The Mass is celebrated throughout the world. It is celebrated on campus at many colleges and universities or at a nearby church. Stay close, not because your parents want you to, but because God wants you to. Faith becomes one of the most important anchors in our lives, particularly in times of transition. 

Go to Mass to allow yourself to grow in faith as well as in wisdom. Go to Mass to nurture a real and lasting relationship with the God Who created you, loves you and desires you. 

Go to Mass to give yourself the best chance to succeed in college and in life.

UMass Dartmouth: www.umassdcatholics.com

Wheaton College: www.wheatoncatholics.com

Bristol Community College: www.bcccatholics.com

Mass Maritime: www.capecatholics.com

Cape Cod Community College: www.capecatholics.com

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College. frdavid@fallrivercampusministry.com.

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