Boston College should allocate more funding to Campus Ministry so that it can expand its staff by hiring chaplains of other faiths.
Campus Ministry is an integral part of many students’ experiences at BC, regardless of their religious affiliation. It sponsors several retreats and service immersion programs that it stresses are “open to students of all faith backgrounds and experiences.” These programs are an important part of the BC experience for many students.
Though grounded in Jesuit Catholic tradition, Campus Ministry makes a genuine effort to be welcoming to students of all backgrounds. Its website includes a comprehensive page on the multi-faith community on campus. Some of the resources it lists include the multi-faith chapel located on campus, off-campus places of worship for various faiths and denominations, and information on 16 different student faith groups.
Campus Ministry also has one minister for multi-faith programs and one multi-faith graduate assistant. These staff members are valuable resources for the student body, but there are not enough of them.
Especially during a pandemic, needing to go off campus to find a place of worship is a challenge for students. This obstacle coincides with a widespread strengthening of faith during the pandemic, as more people have turned to religion during the turbulent times. Seventy-nine percent of Catholic Americans who worship regularly say that their religious services have moved online, but a fundamental aspect of religion is community, which is strained when mass is held online. This disconnect and isolation place a greater emphasis on the need for meaningful and inclusive faith resources.
It is important for students to have access to a chaplain of their faith tradition on campus, as such access contributes to the overall well-being and success of students—especially those who are part of a minority religious group on campus. In a study conducted by UCLA, students in college and higher education who are part of faith communities on campus experience growth in self-confidence and composure, which enhances GPA, leadership skills, and physiological well-being.
Religion is an integral part of many students’ experience at BC and the pandemic has strengthened this faith, making Campus Ministry’s role more important, but also more demanding. In order for Campus Ministry to best serve BC students, it needs resources to expand its staff to include more chaplains of other religious denominations.
One of the important duties university chaplains have is to advocate for their students. It is relatively easy to be Catholic on BC’s campus. Campus Ministry has robust resources for Catholic students, including four different chapels on campus, St. Ignatius Church, and several masses every day.
It is more difficult to actively practice another faith at BC. Currently, the responsibility of advocacy rests on the shoulders of student leaders in faith groups, who do incredible work.
For example, in observance of Ramadan, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) collaborated with Campus Ministry and BC Dining to make food and prayer spaces available at the necessary times for students who are fasting. MSA has also coordinated the service of special food for students who are fasting, including dates and Halal chicken. Suhoor (sunrise) meals are available Monday through Saturday on campus for pick up at 3 a.m with special bus transportation for students on Newton.
This program is an impressive example of collaboration between students and administrators, but it should not be the responsibility of Muslim students to ensure that they have the resources they need to celebrate Ramadan. Having a full-time Muslim chaplain employed by Campus Ministry to advocate and organize programming for Muslim students would be valuable.
Georgetown University, another university whose campus ministry is shaped by its Jesuit tradition, has several multi-faith chaplains within its campus ministry, including a rabbi, an imam, a Hindu priest, a Protestant minister, and an Orthodox Christian minister, in addition to four staff members who specialize in some aspect of interreligious coordination.
BC should increase funding for Campus Ministry so that it may expand in a similar manner. Jesuit spirituality is based on justice and solidarity with the poor and excluded, and “collaboration is at the heart of contemporary Jesuit mission.” Providing leadership within Campus Ministry for minority religious groups on campus aligns with the Jesuit mission. Further, interreligious dialogue is a core Jesuit value, so BC should make it easier for students and Campus Ministry to facilitate such dialogue and foster vibrant faith communities on campus. Allotting more funds to Campus Ministry so that it can hire multi-faith chaplains would help accomplish this.
4/18/2021 11:34 p.m. Update: This article was updated to include that Campus Ministry was involved with the Ramadan meal program and that Boston College students have access to a part-time imam.