Catholic Student Organization at the University of New Hampshire
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.
Weekly Student Mass and Dinner
On any given Sunday during the school year in Durham, you will find close to 200 students at the 5:00 p.m. Mass at nearby St. Thomas More Church. At least 60 students also attend the dinner following Mass. These student dinners are the work of multiple parish teams who plan, prepare, serve, and clean each week. It has been a parish tradition for nearly 40 years.
A Vibrant Organization
The Catholic Student Organization (CSO) at the University of New Hampshire is fully alive with nearly 30 students who regularly participate on a weekly basis. The Executive Board of the CSO has 6 members who are responsible for all of the programming. These participants are all striving to learn more about their Catholic faith and gain confidence in sharing that faith with others. Monday evenings are Faith Formation nights, which are described as a more mature version of the Religious Education they received in high school. In this Catholicism 101, different reference materials are used such as the Journey of Faith series or the Fr. Barron YouTube series. Members can also join a closed Facebook page for the Catholicism 101 and 102 series and share online.
Deepening One's Faith
On Wednesday evenings, different types of prayer are explored: Scripture, Lessons & Carols, Ignatian, etc. During Lent, soup and bread suppers are offered and members can participate in the Stations of the Cross.
Another program that was offered was a vocations series where a wide spectrum of people served as a religious panel and gave talks on how to live out a ministry. Some of the speakers included a diocesan priest, a religious priest, an Eastern Rite priest, and a lay person from Covenant House. This program was well attended.
The CSO extends beyond the campus boundaries as well. Many of the members utilize the nearby parishes in Portsmouth, Exeter, and Newmarket participating in everything from Healing Masses to parenting classes. Retreats are held once per semester in which a theme is chosen and speakers give presentations based on that theme.
Service opportunities abound here too. Some students volunteer at nearby Cross Roads House in Portsmouth, which provides shelter to the homeless in the Seacoast area. Still others offer their assistance at the St. Thomas More Food Pantry, working on a rotating schedule. These opportunities help students see a socio-economic side of Durham and the Seacoast area that many people don’t see or realize exists. Giving back to these communities is an important part of the CSO experience. Campus life can sometimes be isolating, so students find it rewarding to be out in the community and talk with people who live and work in the area.
Creating Lasting Friendships
There is also a good balance between the spiritual and the social aspects of this ministry. Social events, including scavenger hunts, game nights, laser tag, even getting together at the dining halls, not only serve as community building, but as a way to enjoy the friendships they have made. Time and again, these students have echoed the sentiment that the friends they have met through their involvement with Campus Ministry are considered to be the best friends they have made in all of their college years. They share a deeper bond with one another based on shared beliefs and values. These are the meaningful and lasting friendships.
Something for Everyone
All of these experiences together have served as a wonderful training ground for these students to be able to move forward and provide Faith Formation in their own parishes after graduation. Many of them hope to do just that. For others, this is simply a home away from home. If you are a student at UNH and are looking for a way to connect with others, there are a number of ways to plug in. Join them at Mass and dinner, come by the Campus Ministry Office, or check them out on Facebook or Twitter. There is something for everyone, from opportunities to deepen one’s faith through catechesis, prayer, and social activities. Students are invited to join in one or all the activities. However you feel most comfortable, there is a place for you in Campus Ministry.