Manor’s campus community has seen a resurgence of student involvement in faith-based activities over the past year. Students now lead weekly bible studies, a prayer room sees regular usage, and Basilian bread baking continues to be a popular group activity. Assistance came in the form of a grant from the Archdiocesan Educational Fund to expand the Campus Ministry Student Chaplaincy program. This represents the first time the fund has been used in support of a religious organization/evangelization program with a Catholic college, in recognition of this important outreach method.
Over the past semester, the Student Chaplaincy program has grown to include seven chaplains. The students, who receive a stipend for their work, are tasked with providing spiritual guidance and advice to students, while encouraging students to uphold the school’s Catholic Basilian faith-based values. Having multiple chaplains allows students to work around their existing class, work, and activity schedules, ensuring that one or two chaplains can always be present at events.
Chaplains are encouraged to engage their fellow students and to be comfortable working in an inclusive manner, allowing for positive conversations with students of various faiths and backgrounds. “We’re there as like spiritual counselors,” explains newly installed chaplain Aldrin Reginald.
“It’s an ecumenical, inter-faith approach which opens up more awareness of the teachings of Christianity as a whole and Catholicism in particular,” explains Campus Ministry Coordinator Thomas Verni. “It’s an opening of dialogue about Christian and Catholic belief.” The inclusive nature of the program helps start the conversation, while ensuring that students can feel comfortable participating.
Privish Sadaqat decided to become a student chaplain as a way to incorporate her faith back into her everyday life. “I work, study, work, study – I don’t find myself that spiritually strong,” she says. “Student chaplaincy gives me the chance to be involved spiritually and abide with God, along with my academics, which is very helpful for me personally.”
Aldrin, whose father is a pastor, sees his chaplaincy as a way to connect to the larger community. “I strongly believe that it’s important to offer people knowledge about the faith in case they do want to know more, and want to grow closer to God. I want to be the person that helps them get there if they need the support,” he says. So far, he says the experience has been “very rewarding” and he’s already had the chance to answer questions from fellow students seeking religious guidance.
This semester, Campus Ministry has helped facilitate a weekly bible study group that meets in the library. The group is led by the chaplains, allowing for an open and friendly exchange of ideas amongst fellow students. “Sometimes when I’m busy I don’t read the bible, but on Wednesday I have to read the bible to prepare my teaching for other student chaplains – that gives me a chance to be with God more,” explains Privish. “We have many ethnicities of students here. They come from many different denominations but we all pray together the same way, and it’s a very beautiful type of unity.” Both Privish and Aldrin encourage students to give bible study a try, stressing that a religious background isn’t necessary. “They don’t need to be Christian,” says Aldrin. “More than focusing on religion, we’re also trying to focus on emotional and spiritual well being.”
Several of the chaplains keep office hours, during which students are invited to stop by for spiritual guidance or discussion. Chaplains extend spiritual friendship to students who may need it, and several chaplains report witnessing in their daily classroom experiences. “Some people are really interested and come to us and question us,” says Privish, adding that the distinctive Campus Ministry polos they wear help encourage students to identify them as spiritual advisors.
One of Campus Ministry’s most popular events is Basilian Bread baking. Student chaplains assist with this event, which not only helps students learn basic baking skills, but brings together the campus community in the spirit of learning, working together, and generosity – students are encouraged to bake one loaf to keep, and one to give away.
What does the future hold for the Student Chaplains, and the Manor College community?
“Our fervent and heartfelt prayer is that we may continue to have access to this funding; it is a highly effective means of supporting our Basilian, faith-based institutional mission in a way which is both inclusive and life-living,” says Verni. “By empowering our student chaplains to be spiritual guides and friends to the Manor community, we are essentially spreading God’s healing presence at the most grass-roots level. We are living the Gospel.”