College is an exciting time where you can explore though education, find your passions, and create lasting friendship while learning skills that will carry you through life. Attending a Catholic institution provides an additional layer of opportunities for you to explore your faith and identity in a nurturing college community. Typically built into the curriculum, courses will challenge you to reflect on your beliefs and the impact you can have within your college community and within our society. Each of us has a calling or passion—you may not know yours yet, and that’s okay! Through your time at a Catholic college or university, you’ll have the support you need to discover your passions. Your courses and faculty can help guide you, but so can extracurricular activities.
When you attend a Catholic institution, getting involved on campus not only allows you to engage in fun activities and meet new people, but it also provides you with deeper, meaningful interactions connected to your faith. You’ll be surrounded by individuals who share your values and beliefs but who also bring unique identities to the group—creating a strong, vibrant community. Let’s take a look at some of these opportunities that allow you to strengthen your faith while pursuing your career path.
The campus ministry department or office is often the cornerstone for faith-based student organizations and activities at Catholic colleges and universities. Ministry staff act as mentors, focusing their efforts on making sure students have opportunities to connect with their faith and discern their interactions with others in a caring environment. College can be challenging, and as you sit through your philosophy, ethics, theology, and religion classes, you may find yourself questioning your own beliefs and attitudes. Because of this, it’s important and reassuring to have faculty, staff, and other students who are there to support you and encourage you through your journey. Reflecting on your beliefs and interactions with others from different cultures and religions can strengthen you and help you develop skills necessary for navigating our complex and interconnected global society.
Related: Why Campus Ministry Is the Heart of a Catholic Education
College retreats are a great way to engage in dialogue and fun activities with your classmates while also reflecting on your beliefs. Some retreats may be a day trip, while others may be a full weekend, but all are designed to build community and allow students to reflect on their day-to-day life during college. Retreats provide an environment for deeper conversations—both in a group and also within yourself— that can help identify areas you may be struggling with and find ways your faith can guide you. Through these conversations and activities, you’ll build deeper friendships and a lasting sense of community while learning how to use your belief system as your internal compass during challenging times.
Many schools also offer opportunities to interact with different communities and cultures through service or immersion trips that round out the overall impact of your Catholic education. Students can often participate in these trips during fall or spring breaks. Service trips can be local, national, or global and have varying components of service, often in impoverished communities, but all types of service learning have one thing in common: students learn how to be better citizens by examining the injustices and harsh realities many people face in their daily lives. Community service is often a pillar in a Catholic institution’s mission statement, as it directly relates back to the idea of helping our neighbors and seeking God in all things. Through engagement, conversation, and reflection, students can learn from people often on the margins of society and, while doing so, deepen their faith and understanding of social justice.
Related: Service Learning and the College Search
On a more regular basis, students can live out their Catholic identity through ministry right on campus. Most (if not all) Catholic institutions have a campus chapel or church where they provide weekly or daily services for students and others in the community. From becoming a reader or Eucharistic Minister to sharing your musical talents, you can stay connected with your faith at chapel. This is also a great place to start if you’re not sure where or how to get involved on campus. You’ll quickly get to know those in your community who can guide you to student organizations and events that might interest you. Plus, many of these individuals may become mentors to you throughout your time in college.
Student clubs and organizations
While campus ministry may be a vital hub for a school’s students, faculty, and staff, there are additional opportunities for involvement within student clubs and organizations that are housed outside of campus ministry within student development or student activities offices. Every institution will have a list of clubs and organizations students can join, and students are encouraged to get involved early in their college career. Many institutions make it easy to get involved on campus, and current students are always eager for new students to join their organizations. Organizations like Christian Life Community, which focuses on small faith-sharing groups, and Justice and Advocacy clubs, where the focus may be on larger community awareness events, provide students opportunities to explore their values and be examples of positive change in their communities.
Similarly, there are many faith-based student organizations and clubs that allow you to continue practicing your beliefs through on- and off-campus activities. Many clubs engage in community service opportunities that could include tutoring, working in food banks, or aiding the homeless or elderly communities in your immediate area. Conversing with others and learning their stories helps us be more tolerant and empathetic to those who need us most. Through these interactions, you can truly work for a greater good and connect with God through others.
Related: 5 Questions to Ask in Your Catholic College Search
Attending a Catholic institution encourages you to explore your faith and engage in meaningful dialogue with your peers. Through these interactions, you can learn from each other, because each student has a unique story. In celebrating our stories, we can connect more deeply to God and to each other for the greater good of society. Regardless of your career aspirations, you’ll find that your involvement in these extracurricular activities during college will nourish your faith and continue to shape your beliefs for years to come.
For more advice about being a Catholic student and living your faith on campus, check out our Catholic Colleges & Universities section.