Catholic in college: Ministries flourishing for young adults

Students, others find plenty to do with like-minded peers on and off campus

The St. Paul Street Evangelization team, armed with a sandwich board and answers, tells passers-by what they’re missing in the Catholic faith.

DETROIT — With the resumption of classes for the fall term, Catholic students at local colleges and universities can find faith and fellowship thanks to campus ministry groups.

And post-college or non-college young adults can also find opportunities for faith-sharing and socializing with others in their age bracket.

Of course, Catholic institutions of higher learning have campus ministry programs, but archdiocesan support makes Catholic campus ministries also possible at major public universities such as Oakland University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University.

Last year was a major rebuilding year for the Newman Catholic Center at Wayne State. When Fr. Simon Lobo, CC, began his assignment as the new Catholic chaplain at the beginning of the fall term last year, he found a core group of just five students involved in regular activities, with about 20 attending the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass.

By the end of the school year, that had grown to 75 students involved in weekly faith study groups, while typical Sunday Mass attendance at the center’s chapel had grown to 30-40 (with most students attending Mass at their home parishes).

Fr. Lobo said he hopes to see continued growth this year, but emphasized he does not measure success by numbers.

“When a student goes through a powerful transformation in their life — a personal conversion — that’s what excites me. I want people who want to become disciples,” he said.

The Newman Catholic Center has a suite of rooms on the seventh floor of the Student Center Building on campus, with a chapel that seats 75, a lounge and kitchen, and small rooms for quiet study.

Mass is also offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The center’s The Upper Room program every Thursday offers teaching followed by Eucharistic adoration, a period of praise and worship, and time for fellowship.

But the activity that involves the most students is the small faith study group, with 18 such groups meeting at various times during the week to fit the students’ various class schedules.

Fr. Lobo is a member of the Companions of the Cross religious congregation that came to the archdiocese last year to staff St. Scholastica Parish and reside in St. Sylvester Monastery after the withdrawal of the Benedictines.

Get involved

  • Agape Young Adult Community Campus and young adult ministry in the Oakland University area, sponsored by the Pontiac Area Vicariate, www.agapecommunity.net.
  • Gabriel Richard Campus Ministry Center Campus ministry for the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College, as well as Dearborn-area young adults, at www.grcampusministry.org.
  • Newman Catholic Center Campus ministry for Wayne State University, WSU School of Medicine and the College for Creative Studies, http://wsucatholic.org or email newman@wayne.edu.
  • Salt & Light Young adult ministry for Blue Water Vicariate, call Randy Husaynu at Holy Family Parish, Memphis, (810) 392-2056.
  • Ignite Young adult ministry at St. Edith Parish, Livonia, with outreach to Schoolcraft College students, (734) 464-1222.
  • St. Mary Young Adult Group Young adult ministry at St. Mary Parish, Royal Oak, email mmiller@st-mary.org.
  • St. Paul Street Evangelization Evangelization effort conducted mainly by young adults, email mmiller@st-mary.org.

At Oakland University in Auburn Hills, the Agape Young Adult Community serves both as campus ministry for students and as a young adult ministry for the wider Pontiac Area Vicariate, which sponsors it.

The ministry operates out of St. John Fisher Chapel University Parish across from campus.

Lisa Brown, pastoral associate at St. John Fisher, said the group is made up of various teams, so members can gravitate to the activities that most interest them.

Brown said Agape has a core membership group of about 100, but somewhere between 200 and 300 people take part in at least some of its activities throughout the year.

Regular activities include a holy hour every Monday; faith and Scripture sharing twice a month; and fellowship “Coffee & Conversation” twice a month.

“Then, every Friday is ‘Friday Futya,’ which can be something different every week,” Brown said.

Brown said the Agape Community has Mass at the university chapel every second Sunday.

Catholic students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn or next-door Henry Ford Community College can take part in events at the Gabriel Richard Campus Ministry Center, which is just inside the U-M campus boundary and accessible to both schools.

Students can bring their lunch with them for reflection on the coming Sunday’s Gospel reading on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Catechetical Tuesdays focus on learning about the Catholic faith and what the Church teaches. A weekly Wednesday evening Mass is followed by dinner, fellowship and Eucharistic adoration.

Noon Thursdays include praying the rosary on the campus trails, while Thursday evenings are devoted to Bible study.

“We’re really trying to provide opportunities for the college-aged and post-college young adults to come together and minister to each other,” said Christopher Gawel, who works with the Gabriel Richard Center and coordinates young adult ministries for the archdiocese.

St. Paul Street Evangelization was not officially formed as a young adult ministry, but that’s pretty much how it has worked out, with almost all of its members in their 20s or 30s, said Michael Miller, who is involved with the ministry in addition to his work as youth and young adult minister at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak.

Members show up where people are plentiful — downtown Royal Oak, Eastern Market, the Ann Arbor Art Fair, and offer Catholic literature and free rosaries to anyone who is interested.

“We believe the Catholic Church is the one true faith established by Christ, and we have an obligation to tell people about it,” Miller said.