A mighty fortress

Student finds chapel is a home away from home. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Living your faith isn’t the easiest thing to do while at university. There are all kinds of distractions, experiments and experiences waiting at every turn, all the easier to try with the freedom of a new home and community.

I’m Catholic. While it’s always been a part of my life, it hasn’t always been something I took seriously. Since coming to St. Thomas University and becoming involved with the chapel choir, I’ve had more opportunities to grow, question and challenge my faith than ever before.

But I’m not the only one.

Last spring I went on S.E.R.V.E, a mission trip to inner-city Toronto. Another friend from chapel went on a mission trip to Mexico and 14 students spent last weekend on retreat. These are all opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without campus ministry and the support of the chapel community.

Support from a community doesn’t only mean financial. Yes, sometimes money is extremely helpful, but more often it is the encouragement from the older and younger members of the community to go and try something that really counts.

“University is one of those times when you really define who you are. Spirituality forces people to be more reflective, it forces us to think about what do we believe and why,” said Elizabeth Murphy, a member of the chapel community.

A lot of thinking takes place over brunch. When people think of church, they don’t often think of young people eating brunch. After mass, we descend as a happy, hungry horde on the cafeteria. Tables are rearranged and 15 to 20 people engage in lively debates on faith and politics, at times irreverent, but always real. We’re a community built on shared experiences and usually, beliefs.

Alex Carleton sings with me in the choir.

“There’s a good balance of people with different ages, backgrounds and views. It’s a more diverse [community] than someone would assume,” he said.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about STU is that we have a chapel. To have someplace on campus where I can immediately check at least some of my worries at the door is special. “It gives Catholics a home; a place to go to for rosary, adoration and mass,” said Maureen Callaghan, who also attends chapel regularly.

Of the things on that list, mass is the only one I attend regularly, but I agree with the sentiment. The chapel is my home at STU more than anyplace else. The Newman Society prays the rosary in the chapel at four every afternoon. I often sit quietly in the pew for just a few minutes after class and leave with a few less concerns than when I went in.

There are two small rooms behind the chapel. One holds the campus ministry food bank, stocked with non-perishables, available to all students, and always happy to receive donations. The other hosts a piano and couches, frequently occupied by the more musical members of the chapel community.

My self-imposed deadline for this article and a bus were both missed because of an impromptu sing-a-long Friday.

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