As an institution, Manhattan College is proud to bear a Lasallian Catholic identity, but the student body does not necessarily share this same religious identity.
The religious identity of the student body can be broken down by two factors: whether the students identify as Catholic or not and whether those who identify as Catholic are practicing.
While the first set of categories can easily be separated out, the second set is harder to identify.
Senior Kylie McTague identified this issue of creating categories within the Catholic identity of the students.
“I think it’s difficult to distinguish between practicing Catholic or Catholic in name because to be Catholic means something very different to me than it does to anyone else who considers themselves Catholic.”
In order to understand the religious identity of the school, students who partake in other religions, such as Judaism and Islam, must not be ignored. These students are given access to the proper religious services they need and are still invited to partake in retreats, L.O.V.E. trips, L.O.C.O service and other campus ministry supported events on campus.
The College seeks to embrace such diversity because one of the five points of Lasallian teaching is, “inclusive community”, so by building such, the College continues to live out their Lasallian identity.
Sophomore Kerry Cavanagh, a self-identified practicing Catholic, believes that regardless of where the students stand personally, the Lasallian identity of the school is an identity any individual can embrace.
“If we look at the five points on the star: respect for all persons, quality education, concern for the poor and social justice, faith in the presence of God and inclusive community, they’re all points that I think each person tries to live out in his or her daily lives,” said Cavanagh
However, even if the individual students are taking the Lasallian values into account, some students feel that the college may be falling short in creating the diverse and inclusive community that it promises to build.
“While I think that our mission seeks to be inclusive of students of all religious backgrounds, I do not feel that Manhattan College is adequately or equitably lifting up the voices and experiences of students from all religious backgrounds,” said McTague.
“Regardless of how well we think we are doing committing ourselves to the mission of our school on an individual level as students, institutionally, and as part of the greater Manhattan College community, the task of keeping our Lasallian heritage at the heart of everything we do as Jasper’s is one we must continue to ask ourselves.”
Junior Tim Gress, a sacristan for the school’s masses sees MC’s religious life being influenced by larger culture.
“A lot of people in 2017, they just don’t practice,” said Gress, “They’ll say they are but not really. A lot of people are trying to figure out what they want to believe in, especially now from 18 – 22.”
Gress and freshman government major Alan Swieca both pointed to Sunday Mass attendance as support of their belief that most students who identify as Catholic do so only in name.
However, neither consider the smaller attendance to be a bad thing. Gress identified it as an opportunity to grow closer to others who also actively practice their stated religion.
Sweica sees the available Sunday mass as an invitation for anyone to start practicing.
“Even though most of those people wouldn’t go to church weekly or even monthly but they put down on paper that they’re Catholic, they can always come back in.”
Freshman Camryn Holly does not identify as Catholic but attributes MC to helping her explore her possible religious beliefs. Being a non-observer of Catholicism, Holly feels that the identity of the students, which was largely shaped by their families before college, is now in each student’s hands.
“I think in general, a lot of religious people are religious because of their family but since now they’re living on their own, so if they’re practicing on their own, going to Mass, getting involved with faith things on campus, it’s their decision,” said Holly.
While the college continues to strive for a student body that welcomes all religious or non religious backgrounds, the religious identity of the student body is ultimately up to each individual.
“I think [differences in beliefs is] what makes school interesting. Being surrounded by like minded people isn’t always beneficial. It’s important to be exposed to different ideologies,” said Cavanagh.