Black male priest in church talking with Black female student with purple hair

Why Campus Ministry Is the Heart of a Catholic Education

Campus ministry is helping in church, volunteering, and sharing faith with others. In short, it's fundamental to the Catholic college experience. Here's why.

The first time I knocked on a homeless man’s box, I was around the corner from Grand Central Station in New York City on a cold winter day. I had dropped campus ministry students off to give out sandwiches and drinks to homeless people in the area. He was a middle-aged man who looked like he just came home from a hard day at work. He thanked me as I handed him the lunch, and I opened one for myself. We ate together on the sidewalk. He was perfectly polite, and we talked about where I was from, where he was from, what we were doing in the city, and what was new in sports. After about 25 minutes our lunch came to an end. Then he said simply, “This was really nice. I hope God blesses you for it.” I told him I hoped God blessed him too. And that was it.

As I drove around and picked the students up, they all had their own stories to tell. Some had wonderful experiences, some were disappointing, some uneventful. But the students and I have learned important things over the years doing this: We get as much from the experience as the people we serve. The is the heart of Catholic campus ministry, affecting change in others and ourselves. Read on to learn more about this incredible opportunity you can find in your Catholic college education.  

The mission of a Catholic college education

Catholic colleges like my institution, Molloy University, have a purpose that goes beyond a good education and training for a career. Those goals are critical in the life of any student and in the life of any college. But a Catholic education is always rooted in Jesus Christ—even when a student may not realize it. This isn’t really surprising when we consider all the other good works Catholic institutions do because they are following in the footsteps of the Lord. A patient rushed to a Catholic hospital is likely unaware of the Christian mission that built and sustains the medical care they receive, but it is the foundation of the hospital, nonetheless.

In fact, the very idea of a university was created by the Catholic Church in medieval Europe. They did this with the basic belief that all knowledge—all truth—comes from God. So the study of all knowledge leads back to God. That is the heart of a Catholic education. Campus ministry and chaplain offices are public and direct signs of the Christian purpose of a Catholic college. Students tend to be absorbed in schoolwork, sports, and friends, which are all important, wonderful aspects of life. But they aren’t and shouldn’t be all of life. Our obligations to God and to others are also a vital part of a happy, balanced life. 

Related: Catholic Education: For the Faithful Person You Want to Be

A look inside campus ministry

Our campus ministry tries to help students live out their faith and find that balance in their lives. As Saint Paul said of himself, we must be all things to all people.

  • For people going through a crisis or mourning the death of a loved one, we are there to comfort and help them through hard times.
  • For those who need food or clothes, we gather the things they need as far as we are able.
  • For students who want to give to others—whether to the homeless, children struggling in school, or the elderly—we bring them to where they can best be of service.
  • And for those who want to deepen their faith in God, we join with them as fellow pilgrims on the journey.

Daily Mass is the most fundamental and important way we worship God and strengthen our faith. It’s so simple that it’s often taken for granted, even forgotten. But we find that many who are suffering, serving others, or seeking God are often drawn to Mass eventually. It is unlike nearly any other experience in our everyday lives.

Finding faith in the unexpected

We also find unexpected opportunities spring up from the faith of our students. Years ago, we had a student named Vanessa who wanted to have a blessing of the animals at Mass on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi in October. We had the Mass outdoors at our Grotto and statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was a beautiful day. Employees, students, and family members brought their dogs and cats to campus, and it was a wonderful Mass filled with joy and laughter. Vanessa graduated that May, but the next year people clamored for the Blessing of the Animals again. It had become something special. We have done it for many years now, and it brings people together in a way different from other events. Vanessa started with a simple idea born out of love and affection, and it has lived on beautifully long after her graduation. Many people have enjoyed this Mass without knowing Vanessa or knowing that she started it all. That is a symbol of what campus ministries and the Christian life itself is: planting so that another person may reap.

Related: Extracurricular Activities to Nurture Your Faith on Campus

Campus ministry, and Catholic education in general, lives and thrives by the students and faculty who put their faith and energy. The homeless man in the cardboard box and Vanessa and her love of God and animals showed me how true this is. Once this way of living your faith is firmly rooted in your life, life itself becomes richer than we can possibly imagine.

If this is the kind of environment you’d like for your college education, start exploring schools with our featured Catholic college profiles.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.



High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.



High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress helped open me up to many colleges that fit my interests. I’m only a sophomore in high school, so I like having a lot to look at, and CX does a great job of picking colleges that meet my wants. It's a great website that I'll continue to use until it comes time for me to apply for colleges. I also like that it notifies me through email with options to look at. Thanks CX!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Merrimack College

North Andover, MA

Caldwell University

Caldwell, NJ