Keeping the Faith in College
Updated: May 8
PHHS ‘17, Hofstra University ‘20
Chances are, if you’re reading this, your faith means something to you. Maybe you’ve been practicing your whole life, or maybe it’s something you’ve only become interested in recently. Regardless of where you find yourself spiritually, your college years will be a time of great change and uncertainty. Finding ways to keep up with your religious practices, especially if you’re leaving home, can help you stay grounded and establish a sense of stability during this formative period of your life.
When I first went away to school, I recognized that it was the first time in my life that I really had to take personal responsibility for my faith life. Born, baptized, and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I no longer had Mom and Dad to wake me up Sunday mornings to make sure we made it to Holy Mass on time. The first order of (religious) business was to find out where and when members of my faith worshiped on campus. During my Welcome Week, I was able to attend an interfaith panel where student leaders from the different on-campus faith clubs spoke about their organizations and gave information about worship services, as well as times for their weekly club meetings. Going to a club fair early in the semester is another great opportunity to find out more about these clubs and get to know the people in them.
Which brings me to my next point. More often than not, religious practices are centered around community life. Leaving behind the familiar faces of your faith community back home and worshiping with people you don’t know can feel a little strange. So get to know the people you’re praying with! By going to weekly Campus Ministry meetings, I was able to establish personal relationships with people who shared my faith. Acquaintances quickly became friends who have since become some of my best friends. Most faith clubs plan events ranging from educational talks to social programming to community service outreach. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you will more than likely find yourself in a community of people who genuinely care about and look after you.
Reach out to your chaplain/campus minister. As great as it is to be surrounded by members of your faith who are the same age as you, it is important to have a “more adult” adult who is more experienced in life, learned in their faith, and trained to work with college students. They can be a great resource for information about your religion (and religion in general), as well as a support system during difficult times (chaplains are almost always a confidential resource, though you should always ask before sharing sensitive information). These are people who have dedicated their lives to serving others, often on a deeply personal level, so you should not be surprised to find that they have a great capacity for caring. In my own experience, my relationship with my chaplain has helped me to grow in multiple areas of my life.
Although these tips serve as pretty general suggestions for practicing your faith on campus, I recognize that each person has their own unique spiritual journey. Developing a personal prayer life, which varies from one person to the next, helps you to put your life in a perspective that is a little bit wider than the one you are probably used to. Like I said earlier, college can be a time of great uncertainty, so don’t be afraid to ask yourself difficult questions - you never know where the answers will lead you!