College Campus Ministry

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Catholic Preparation for a Multifaith World - Wellesley College

Wellesley College may have an all-female student population, but that doesn't mean it lacks diversity. Indeed, as Sr. Nancy Corcoran, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, notes, the presence of international students and the variety of faith traditions is one of the strengths of the college. She explains that as the Catholic chaplain, "I tell the students, 'Go meet someone from a different country or with a different religious background from you. Take advantage of this treasure you have on campus!'"
 
The school's commitment to meeting the needs of students from a variety of faiths is evident in its Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, which brings together almost a dozen staff and chaplains representing a spectrum of traditions. The result is a cooperative environment in which staff and students of many faiths come together to plan events like Flower Sunday (a fall celebration of friendship and welcome dating back to 1875), and the spring Baccalaureate Ritual.
 
"The great thing about our office," Sr. Nancy says, "is that we have a strong sense of being a collaborative interfaith community, but we always speak from our own traditions. We don't feel the need to pretend that we're all the same." This productive tension is seen in the Multifaith Center, which contains larger open spaces that are shared for a variety of spiritual activities, as well as smaller prayer, meditation, and study rooms that are conducive to particular traditions. For Sr. Nancy, it's about building community with other religions and spiritualities while also working hard to ensure that Catholic students have the resources needed to deepen their own Catholic faith.
 
 
During Sr. Nancy's tenure at Wellesley, Sunday Mass attendance has grown large enough that they have moved into the campus's main chapel for worship. Once a year there is a teaching Mass that helps students gain a deeper understanding of what they are participating in at liturgy, and Sr. Nancy also runs a confirmation program for those who want to complete their sacramental initiation into the Church.
 
The college is especially committed to empowering its students to be strong thinkers and leaders. Sr. Nancy brings this same approach to campus ministry, encouraging the young women she works with to engage the issues that they find meaningful. The "Faith and Feminism" luncheon series, for instance, invites students of all religious backgrounds to bring their own questions and stories of what it means to be a woman in a faith community. Sr. Nancy finds that allowing participants to set the agenda results in the students having a deeper openness to conversation and a greater sense that questions of faith are indeed relevant to their lives.
 
Much of the campus ministry work at Wellesley involves being a compassionate and wise presence to students who are looking for comfort or advice. Among the many joys and struggles they bring to her, Sr. Nancy notes that questions of gender and sexual identity can be a particular source of growth but also uncertainty and vulnerability for students. Her listening ear provides support for processing relationship and sexuality questions in a healthy manner, and thereby helps the Church to live out its call to be a safe space for those who find themselves struggling for whatever reason.
 
As the welcoming presence of Catholicism on campus, Sr. Nancy is ensuring that the young women of Wellesley are rooted in a living Catholic tradition as they step openly into a multifaith world.