For many Catholic college students, going to church is something they know they should do but never get around to until their parents visit and they have to look up the Mass schedule to make it look like they go all the time. For others, going to church is just as important in college as it was in high school – and not because their moms call them on Sundays to make sure they went. Every college is different, so while some campuses have very devout student populations, others… don’t. Throughout most of my four years, I was either the only college student at the local Catholic church or one of two students (not that I’m a saint; for whatever reason, I must have needed a little less of a nudge than other Catholic students to go to church). It wasn’t until my senior year that the Newman Association actually started to be a thing. So from my experience, this is what it’s like to be the only (or one of the only) Catholic on campus.
Basically all of your college friends are either atheist, agnostic, or Protestant.
Your atheist friends will occasionally say things like, “I don’t understand how you can be religious because you’re so smart.”
At least you can talk to your Protestant friends about Christ…
Until you inevitably run into topics that Catholics and Protestants fundamentally disagree on.
But you love all your friends anyway.
It’s just not the same as it is with your Catholic friends from home
Who tell you about their college chapels, but you’d be lucky if you could go to mass on campus
So you go to the local parish, where everyone is lovely but also a little too excited that there’s a college student who actually goes to Mass
And because the dining hall schedule and the weekend Mass schedule conflict, you have to go to Mass early on Sunday morning (unless you don’t want dinner in the dining hall on Saturday or to eat breakfast at all on Sunday)
But it’s nice because nobody else on campus is awake when you are, so it’s actually quiet
Which means you get the dorm bathroom all to yourself
When you get to college as a freshman, you were informed that there hasn’t been an active Newman Association for years
You become the only member of the Newman Association
Only God knows how you got enough signatures on Quad Day to keep the club still running… or where all those people are
Because you still send out email blasts
And hang posters everywhere
But for some reason the church is packed with college students every Ash Wednesday
And when you finally meet another practicing Catholic on campus
It is now a two person Newman Association
But that’s okay because some day you will take over campus
And when you’re an upperclassman, and you finally see a freshman at church
If you’re lucky (or have a car), you start going to nearby colleges to join their campus ministry
Or maybe you just go to events organized by the diocesan young adult ministry
And with all this struggling, you start to wonder if you should transfer
But you love your college. You chose it for a reason
And you’re not doing all this work (reinstating the Newman Association, complaining to student government about the dining hall schedule, writing to the dean about campus ministry) just for yourself
You know that not every college student has the same priorities as you, especially with all the work that piles up
You want to make it so that other Catholic students can remember to practice their faith without having to seek it out like you did