Father Chris Collins, vice president for mission at the University of St. Thomas, spoke with the Minnesota Private College Council about changes to campus ministry and how college chaplains continue to play an important role.
From the interview: Father Collins says, "Community-building is more urgent than ever, given the social distancing of the pandemic and the alienation and mental health challenges that come with that. We’re cognizant about trying to reach out more constructively and creatively to get relationship-building happening among students and, with respect to chaplaincy, in relation to God and students’ faith traditions, too."
What do you think spiritual care for students might look like in a decade?
Collins: A lot of the basics don’t change. Much has been written about the rise of the “nones,” people who have no religious affiliation. At the same time, if young people come across a faith-based community of any kind that is welcoming and that gives a sense of purpose, draws out heroic virtues and inspires service and love, they will definitely engage. That hasn’t changed. It’s a matter of how to create the space and the opportunities to experience that kind of community in a faith context. We have to get out into the “field,” as it were, and not just wait in the church for people to come. If you encounter vulnerable or marginalized people, there’s a lot going on at the heart level in that experience. That’s an opportunity for us to ask: What does faith have to do with this? Where is the presence of God? We can seize those moments to give some language to the things that are going on. Those things don’t change. We just have to work harder at connecting the dots to what those moments have to do with a life of faith and a relationship with God.