By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Keeping the faith in college can be a challenge for students as many are on their own for the first time. So The Catholic Messenger asked students involved in campus ministry at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City to offer advice to college students on keeping the faith in college.
“Living without your parents can be a big challenge to your faith when entering college,” says Tom Prior, a 2014 St. Ambrose graduate who is now a campus ministry graduate assistant at the university. “I’m excited for the opportunity to inform Ambrosians about how they can maintain their faith through the various means that campus ministry provides, and I intend to help all students improve our relationship with God and others, said Prior, who is pursuing a master’s of organizational leadership.
Prior says it’s important for students to find a group of friends who share the same beliefs “because you can experience your faith together and motivate each other to live a life closer to God.”
Prior encourages students to “set aside a time on the weekend that you and some friends can attend Mass. New students might be nervous to attend Mass by themselves, so find friends who will go with you each week.”
While an undergrad at St. Ambrose, Prior was a lector for campus ministry, participated in a variety of community service events and attended “Mass and More” on Wednesday nights. “There are so many faith-based groups available to students, and any interested student should contact campus ministry.”
Kryslynn Klimes, a junior at the University of Iowa with a double major in human resource management and finance, offered this piece of advice to incoming freshmen: “Being a first-year student in college is both scary and exciting, and in a time where everything is changing and it seems like there are a lot of decisions to make, the Catholic faith remains constant. You can depend on the Church to be there when everything else is changing, and through the community and your own personal faith life, the fundamental part of you (identifying as a Catholic) will get you through the good and especially the rough times. Remember, Jesus is always present and is always welcoming you with open arms, no matter what.”
Klimes has fortified her faith by participating in Catholic Ladies in College, Bible study, Thursday night Mass and retreats, and a mission trip through the Newman Center.
She said the Newman Center offers many opportunities to meet others and get involved. “Come into the building and get some information and see all of the opportunities available.”
Newman Center’s Matt Cable, a senior journalism major, said for any incoming freshman, “I think it’s important to know that they’re on their own now, not only with their living situation and with classes, but also with their faith lives. No one is going to wake them up early on Sunday and make them go to Mass — it’s going to be a choice.” He advises freshmen to find a Catholic community at their school, whether it’s a Newman Center, or a parish, or just a group of people having a Bible study in the dorms.
Cable said he has participated in “almost everything the Newman Center has offered for students,” from Bible studies to Newman Singers and leading retreats to being the Formation Fellow for the 2014-15 school year.
“There are tons of activities at the Newman Center,” Cable said. “There are Bible studies, free meals for students here and there. It’s also just a great place to go and study during the day, or at night.”
Ambrosian David Francis, a sophomore exercise science major, encourages freshmen to be “as active as you can, whether that is going to Mass on a consistent basis every Sunday, participating in weekly Bible studies, or just praying alone in your room every night. Staying active is the key, because there will be many temptations drawing you away from Christ.”
Francis has been part of St. Ambrose’s campus ministry youth choir and helped musically with various holy days of obligation and regular Masses. “Being a Catholic institution we have the reputation of being just a Catholic denomination when in actuality there are a great variety of different faiths on campus that we all accept and support,” he said.
Francis and Cable encourage young adults to get involved in as many welcome week events and to attend club meetings. Even if students don’t continue in these activities, they can still meet people with the same interests and create friendships that could potentially last a lifetime, Francis said.