College Campus Ministry

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Gathering the Community - Northeastern University

Life as a Northeastern University student presents unique challenges to finding community. The school's highly-acclaimed co-op program places students in full-time employment positions for six months every year, beginning when they are sophomores. It's great for learning and career preparation, but the rotating schedule can make it tough for students to find a steady sense of community. Enter the Catholic Center at Northeastern University (CCNU).
 
Located just off campus, the four-floor brownstone appears to provide ample space for activities. But don't be fooled: during Wednesday night "NU Life" meetings, you'll often find the crowd of students overflowing out the door and up the steps from the large first-floor gathering area. The weekly event makes use of social activities, informative talks, and small-group sharing in order to offer "Good News you can use." Its popularity is a testament to the connection students feel to the Center and to one another. Even when co-op placements keep students away from campus during class hours, the Catholic Center enables them to maintain relationships and a sense of belonging. "When students get up and talk about what's special about this place," says Br. Sam Gunn, BH, the director of the CCNU, "they just keep saying, 'Community, community, community.'"
 
Through men's and women's groups, homeless outreach, Bible studies, social gatherings, liturgies, one-on-one conversations, and many other activities, students learn to care for one another. "If students connected to the Catholic Center are not doing well, they aren't likely to fall through the cracks," Br. Sam notes. "The students have created a real network of care."
 
 
Members of the Brotherhood of Hope run the CCNU, and their model is to empower the students. Br. Sam explains, "The students are super-talented and leadership-oriented. We facilitate events, but the students do the heavy-lifting." For example, students lead a weekend retreat each semester. They also lead Bible studies, mentored by full-time post-graduate interns who help organize events and build relationships with students.
 
Although the Center is constantly abuzz with meetings or events, the essence of community-building is not the structured activities but the personal caring and authenticity that is demonstrated. As Br. Sam notes, "If you have an agenda, the students will see right through you. You have to be honestly concerned for their well-being. If you have anything else, they'll call you on it. And that's a good thing." By fostering such honest concern for one another, the Catholic Center at Northeastern University is helping students find real community at the CCNU. In such an atmosphere of lived Catholicism, says Br. Sam, "Students really come to love the Church and the faith."