Newman Center in Keene
As students prepare to head off to colleges and universities this fall, many for the first time, there is bound to be a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. The transition from home to school is often one of the most challenging times in a young person’s life. Being able to make new friendships and connect with other like-minded people who share a Catholic faith, is a huge step toward easing into collegiate life. Participation in campus ministry provides a perfect opportunity to do just that.
In our three-part series, we traveled to three of New Hampshire’s state schools to meet with the campus ministers and some of the college students who participate in campus ministry. We discovered that students who participated in campus ministry:
Made close and meaningful friendships
Learned more about their faith
Gained confidence about being Catholic
Enjoyed fun activities
We invite you, and the students in your life, to see what campus ministry has to offer by reading our three-part series.
On Sunday evenings at 7 pm in Keene, students gather together at the Newman Center located in the Clairvaux Center which also houses the parish offices of the Parish of the Holy Spirit. The happy, noisy chatter of the group as they enter conveys a closeness and warmth they feel toward one another. This is a comfortable and safe place where everyone is happy to see you and where you are welcomed. This weekly community get-together where they join for fellowship, a talk from the Campus Minister, and Praise and Worship. There’s often food, a group game, and concludes with the Catholic Student Organization's weekly meeting at the end of the night.
Fun Faith-filled Activities
The group is led by the campus minister, Cindy Cheshire. On this particular evening, Cindy leads the group in an activity inspired by the book Praying in Color, by Sybil MacBeth. Cindy explained that in those times when it may be difficult to find the words to pray to God, simply sit down with a piece of paper and markers and doodle your prayers. In the center of the paper, students wrote down another name for God and simply doodled around it. Afterward, they all freely shared what they had drawn. The openness and honesty in which they shared their intimate thoughts and prayers was evidence of the deep connection they have with one another. Conversation ranged from difficulties they were having in their relationships with friends or family, to challenges they faced in school, to light bulb moments they experienced at Mass. Although the topics were all different, each person was listened to, supported, and encouraged.
One by one, the group shared that the relationships they have with others that involve Christ at the center of it are deeper than their other friendships and are the only relationships that stayed alive. The people you surround yourself with matter and when your common ground is the Church, you have friends who will help your faith grow. For them, involvement in Campus Ministry was a completely unique experience that led to a closeness with others and with God.
Any college aged adult–including students at Keene State College, Antioch University and River Valley Community College–is welcome to participate in Newman Center daily life and events. Students can be found at the Center at almost any time whether it’s a quiet place to do homework, visit with friends, even play pool or video games. The comradery they share extends out beyond the walls of the Center as well, to include rock climbing, Holy Happy Hour and retreats. Each year a theme is chosen and related to references from Scripture as well as modern day issues during the weekly talks. Once a month, guests are welcomed from the campus, parish or community as guest speakers. During these guest speaker nights, the Center is open to the general community for a potluck and letting the speaker take center stage to share something that’s on their heart, whether that’s a part of their personal story, an issue they’re passionate about, or something else entirely.
“Synergos” is a Greek word, often translated in Scripture as “companion in labor” or “co-worker”. Paul uses it to describe such Biblical powerhouses as Timothy and Priscilla. In the Synergos program, students sign up to be assigned a partner/companion in labor/co-worker for Lent called their synergos who chooses their Lenten discipline for them, and vice versa. Oftentimes, when choosing our own Lenten discipline, we give ourselves a bit of a break, but our friends who truly know us well, choose something more meaningful for us. The Monday before Lent starts, students are paired up and sent a link to a hidden page on the Campus Ministry website that gives them resources to help them choose each other’s discipline, keep in touch throughout Lent, encourage one another, and celebrate together during Easter. It is a great experience! There are some truly unique assigned disciplines—one student charged another with writing a letter each day of Lent to someone who had influenced her life. One male student encouraged another to pray every single time before he ate something—and this is a student who is notorious in the group for eating constantly! The students love it and look forward to it each year.
On a Mission
The students were eager to share their experience from their Mission Trip to Bethlehem Farm, located in the Appalachia region of West Virginia. Bethlehem Farm is “a Catholic community that transforms lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices.” The community is formed on–and functions within–four main cornerstones: service, prayer, simplicity, and sustainability. While serving at the Bethlehem Farm, students are divided into work crews, who visit a different work site every day. Work sites include construction projects in the community, farm work, visits to the Hospitality House, and work at the volunteers’ home helping with chores. Relationship building with the people of Appalachia is a large part of the mission, as is intentionally living in the community at the Bethlehem Farm–this means fully embracing the cornerstones of service, prayer, simplicity and sustainability in order to better know God, each other, and themselves. The group is eager to bring these four cornerstones of faith to their own ministry here in Keene, New Hampshire.
It is clear that these students are lit on fire with the love of Christ and are not afraid to embrace their faith, and live it out among their fellow classmates and the world at large. If you are a college student in the Keene area, and would like to see what they’re all about, please stop by the Clairvaux Center, visit their website, or check them out on Facebook or Instagram. You are always welcome!