Brew City Missionaries are on campus at UW-Milwaukee and can help your student connect with the college’s Newman Center. (Photo courtesy of Brew City Missionaries)
As parents, it can be a bit nerve-wracking each time you send your child a little further into the world. Perhaps no more so than when they finally leave the nest and your ability to decide for them dissipates. Teens and young adults naturally grow, mature and change as they set off toward the life they make for themselves. Helping them hold fast to their faith in this time of change can ensure that they hold onto it for life.
Newman Ministry: Changing Statistics
The Newman Ministry, which helps connect college students with more than 2,600 Catholic ministry options nationwide, shares that more than 80 percent of students stop practicing the faith in college.
Their longest-running program, Newman Connection, connects high school graduates to Catholic campus ministries and is endorsed by more than 100 dioceses across the country every year, including the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
More than 60 campus ministries are listed on their website in Wisconsin alone, and an app is available to connect students with a spiritual home on campus. In addition to directory listings for campus ministries at Catholic colleges and universities, there is contact information for these ministries on campuses of state schools and those founded in another faith tradition.
No matter how far your child may travel for college, a Catholic community is nearby, waiting to embrace them and offer them a sense of home.
The first few weeks
Meaghan Turner, Lumen Christi’s director of Catholic formation, has more than 10 years of experience working with teens. She recommends connecting your child with the campus ministry center or Newman Center, for those attending secular schools.
“In the first few weeks of college, students are pulled in so many directions, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed or homesick,” Turner said. “Newman Centers on college campuses are really incredible at outreach, inviting students into community and reminding them that they can find home in the Mass. Over the years, I had so many students come back to visit me and share with me the ways they have stayed connected and grown in their faith because of the Catholic Church presence on campus.”
There will naturally come times when you visit your child on campus. When you do, make sure you find a place to attend Mass. It will help you to connect your child with the parish or ministry center and give you a natural place to recommend if your child asks. Consider inviting your child to attend Mass and then go out to brunch afterward. Invite their friends. College students will show up just about anywhere for free food.
The Company You Keep
While you have worked hard to instill your child’s moral compass, it is essential to remember that staying on the right path is easier when you surround yourself with people who are similarly committed to good choices. Encouraging your child to make friends with similar interests and values can help them make better choices and can help to stave off loneliness as they adjust to a new life on campus.
The Newman Ministry website says, “Every college student deserves to feel like they belong and to be part of a group of people making a difference. If students can get connected to a vibrant Catholic community on campus, their faith will thrive in college and beyond.”
We are meant to practice our faith in community. Like with all good habits, finding someone who will walk the walk with your child can help them keep up the practice. Small things, like a Mass buddy to sit with on Sunday or a friend who will save them a seat at other campus ministry events, can keep them coming back.
If your child does not yet have a Mass buddy on campus but has a close friend on another campus, it may help them to set up a weekly check-in. Nearly 20 years after I first stepped on my college campus, my best friend remains the girl I texted for these check-ins. Whether over the phone or using any number of connectivity apps, encourage them to share where they are in their faith with that trusted friend. Did they attend Mass? Did they notice God working anywhere? Are they struggling with anything? Do they need anything brought to Our Lord in prayer?
Let Go and Let God
The transition from having a child in your home to a phone call away will naturally change the dynamic in your relationship. College students make their own choices and their own decisions. Asking if they are doing things may turn them off, so it may help to offer updates on your own life instead. “I really appreciated this part of Father’s homily today” or “I saw so and so’s mom at Mass,” can help to remind your child that faith is central to your life without harping on them about theirs.
At the end of the day, you will have to trust in the faith you have instilled. Ask the Holy Spirit to come upon your child, and pray that the Blessed Mother wraps them in her mantle. If your child seems especially lost, lean on St. Monica. If she could get Augustine to sainthood, she can do just about anything.
To find a Newman Ministry Center on your child’s campus, visit www.newmanministry.com.