College Campus Ministry

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Forming a Catholic Mosaic - Tufts University

At a school as diverse as Tufts University, it can be difficult to carve out a comfortable niche for Catholic students without isolating them from the wider community. Lynn Cooper, the Catholic Chaplain, is turning this challenge into something beautiful. "I've been reflecting on the image of a mosaic to describe campus ministry here at Tufts," she says. It is an image that is appropriate on multiple levels.
 
In the realm of the university as a whole, Catholic chaplaincy is housed within the larger Interfaith Center, which emphasizes collaborative programming between faith groups. As Cooper says, "'Interfaith' has to be more than just all of us chaplains sharing a building. We want to model an interfaith appreciation by our actions." The goal is to foster cooperative attitudes and skills in students as well. For example, a student committee made up of representatives of various faith-based organizations ensures that the students themselves gain experience in interreligious communication.
 
The mosaic image applies within the Catholic community as well, and the Sunday evening Mass is a perfect example. The Eucharist draws together students from different Catholic backgrounds and of different nationalities. The beauty is that students meet who otherwise might be unlikely to encounter one another; the challenge is that each person is most comfortable with the way Mass is celebrated in his or her own culture. Cooper's task is to help all students feel at home in the sacred space of the shared liturgy, finding a bond of connection without pretending that everyone is the same.
 
 
One concrete way that Catholic chaplaincy helps students live in this tension between the individual and the community is through preparing lectors. By forming students to proclaim the Word of God at Mass, Cooper helps them to take personal ownership of their own faith. Cooper says, "I'm so excited when students say, 'I had been scared in the past, but now I want to be a lector.'" In the process, students grow in an understanding of their own authenticity, but also an understanding of what it means to be an authentic Catholic community. Says Cooper, "Each student lectors differently and adds his or her own personality and voice. The best way to understand who we are as a community is to hear each other's voices."
 
For Cooper, the community is not just those who come to her. Essential to the work of campus ministry is reaching out to meet students where they are. That means being involved in the life of the wider campus. Cooper regularly attends lectures and events, especially when she knows a student who is involved in organizing or performing. "Students need to see your face," she says. "You can't just be in the office. You need to get out and dispel the myths about who chaplaincy is for." At Tufts, Catholic campus ministry is making sure that all students understand the valuable place they each hold in the mosaic of the Church and the wider world.