By Kollin Lore
The Toronto archdiocese is hoping to introduce more Roman Catholic chaplaincies in community colleges across Ontario.
Kyle Ferguson, the national coordinator intern of the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry and Canadian Catholic Students’ Association, told Humber News on Monday that this plan, announced over the weekend, answers a growing need in colleges which hasn’t been truly recognized until now.
“There have traditionally been a presence of a campus ministry for faith based organizations at universities in Canada, but the question is how about the community colleges – are there pastoral services being offered there as well?” said Ferguson.
“Now with the plans, they are being more explicit with how to service the unique needs of that community.”
The lack of Catholic services has been a growing concern, according to Ferguson, who attended Sheridan and who says community colleges are different today from when he was in school.
“I think the dynamics of community colleges are changing especially with the residences system coming in,” he said.
“Community colleges are attracting students outside their home city and also internationally as well, you have a diaspora who might have a faith identity be it Catholic, Jewish, Muslim,” he said.
“The question for the college and the community is how do you service those needs while they are away from home,” Ferguson said.
Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications for the Catholic archdiocese of Toronto, emphasizes how travelling great distances to school “can be a little intimidating, it can be a little scary, it can a little overwhelming,” and the plan is about ensuring that catholic support systems are there to help.
“We want to look for opportunities to talk about how faith intersects with every aspect of our life, not just when we’re in need of a sacrament but facing the challenges of making tough decisions that come with growing up and maturing,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to reach them where they are at,” he said.
An increase of chaplaincies in colleges, however, is not the only solution. At many colleges there are already student groups who help with students who are trying to find themselves.
At Humber, there are no Catholic groups, but there are various Christian clubs including the non-denominational The Embassy.
Though their goals are the same as the Catholic plan in terms of reaching out to students, club president Keaton Robbin says his group is more about helping with faith than providing religion-related services.
“Religion means you are tied by certain a number of rules and laws,” he said.
“The more we try to teach people what Jesus said – we want people to establish a relationship with God — it’s not about: ‘You can’t do this; you can’t do that.’ I want to encourage people to experience life to the fullest,” said Robbin.