Campus Ministry — Reconnecting young adults to their faith and the Church

November 11, 2014

HOUSTON — Recent studies show that the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States is “unaffiliated” or those who claim no religious affiliation. 

Statistics also show that nearly half of cradle Catholics who become “unaffiliated” are gone from the Church by the age of 18, with close to 80 percent gone and 71 percent already taken on an “unaffiliated” identity by their early twenties (Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry A. Weddell).

According to Gabriela Karaszewski, director of the Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry (YAMC) of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, which is funded by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), while the Archdiocese has continuous new growth of Catholics each year, reaching out to these young adults while attending universities is an opportune time to keep them connected to their faith and the Church.

“We should be paying a lot of attention to our student population in universities, because a vibrant, well-rounded campus ministry can make a difference in their lives,” Karaszewski said. “Catholic Campus Ministry not only provides a chance to grow and deepen in faith, especially through Sacraments, but also provides a community where students feel at home. In this supportive and prayerful environment, the students will find answers to many questions including important areas, such as discovery of their vocation and career paths.”

The Campus Ministry side of the YACM represents the colleges and universities located within the Archdiocese. 

By following the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral plan, “Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future,” it seeks to evangelize the academic community by means of a broad ministry that forms the faith community, appropriates the faith, forms Christian conscience, educates for justice, facilitates personal development and develops leaders for the future.

The YACM office oversees six campus Newman/Catholic Centers serving the University of Houston Main Campus, Rice University, Texas Medical Center, Sam Houston State University, Texas Southern University, Galveston College, UTMB, Galveston Texas A&M University, College of the Mainland and Prairie View A&M University. 

“We have a vision of the Church as a place where young adults are at home, where their gifts are acknowledged and their lives supported and nourished,” Karaszewski said. “We hope to provide an environment where young adults exercise servant leadership in worship, catechesis, social ministry and evangelization. We see the Church entering into the very heart of the academic community, challenging faculty, staff, students and institutions with the claims of the Gospel.”

One of the students taking that challenge is Joseph Janas, a student at the University of Houston who is from Minnesota on a full scholarship and an honor student in his senior year majoring in mechanical engineering. 

Janus has attended Mass at the Catholic Newman Center on campus for four years, and about a year and a half ago, what started off as bringing food to potluck dinners to events became an avenue for him to start getting more involved as a participant and leader. 

Recently, he became CSO (Catholic Student Organization) treasurer at the beginning of the current school year and have been helping to plan and prepare for multiple events at the center. 

“I think it is important for young adult Catholics to be connected to the Church first and foremost, because she is the repository of truth,” Janas said. “It is especially important during the college years, because of the many negative influences students are faced with both in the classroom and around campus.”

Janas believes the Newman Center provides students with the tools to learn more about the Catholic faith and the environment in which they can best be used. 

To provide students the opportunity to practice their faith and increase their prayer life, the Newman Center offers daily Mass, RCIA classes, Adult Confirmation instruction, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, leadership formation and various community service projects.

Janas has attended evening programs, such as Faithbook, a faith formation class that teach the basics of Catholic beliefs, as well as Theology of the Body, which addresses St. John Paul II’s New Vision of Human Sexuality, Marriage and Family Life. He feels both programs are designed to bring students deeper into the Catholic faith.

“The community that exists at the Newman center encourages students to participate in these activities and to discuss and live them out in daily life,” Janas said. “I would recommend coming to the Newman center to other students, because it is a good way to practice your faith while attending college.”