A Bible study group recently started meeting on campus. Its purpose is “to look at scripture, to reflect, to talk, to share experiences and learn from one another,” said Tom Franks, F.S.C., the Manhattan College chaplain.
Fr. Tom lead the hour-long gathering where this past week, five students attended to read, converse and have some cookies and hot chocolate. For Fr. Tom, looking at the Bible is a way to have a conversation with God.
“Scripture is a chance to hear what God has to say to us. This isn’t meant to be a class, it’s to look at it from the perspective of faith,” said Fr. Tom.
While students said they had low or moderate knowledge of the Bible, Fr. Tom joked he had a “pretty extensive knowledge” of it. The group looks to serve students’ “longing for reconnection” with their faith in the Manhattan College campus.
Since joining the Manhattan College community, Fr. Tom wanted to find ways for students to gather to discuss and grow in their faith.
“It’s important in these college years to develop a faith that is really our own, rather than simply things that have been handed on to us or expected from us. When students came to me asking about forming a Bible study group I thought that this was the opportunity to create a forum for these kinds of conversations,” he said.
Elizabeth McCabe, a sophomore exercise science major, was inspired to start the group with fellow sophomore Shannon Forty for a couple of reasons.
“I have always been interested in learning more about the contents of the Bible. I have heard a lot of readings during Mass in my 13 years of religious education, but I want to deepen my understanding of what I already know,” McCabe said.
For her, the group is also a way to take time off from school and spend time growing her faith.
“There is a lot going on politically, socially, etc. so when things get tough or confusing, turning to faith can help with a lot in our lives. Finding brothers and sisters in faith on campus always helps, whether its meeting new people or having someone to talk to who is going through the college experience and all that accompanies it with you,” McCabe said.
According to McCabe, too many clubs on campus involve academics.
“They can help boost your career or add to a resume. This group, however, helps build us into better Christians and hopefully better faith filled people. That goes a long way in personal development” McCabe said.
For Shannon Forty, a biology major, this is the group that had been missing on campus since her freshman year.
“When I was looking for colleges, I chose Manhattan College, partially because of its Lasallian association. But to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the lack of a faith presence on campus my freshman year. I am very grateful that we have an active Campus Ministry and Social Action, but the emphasis over the past year has been very much on the latter. I’m hoping that this group would provide a platform for people who are looking for a place to talk freely about their faith,” Forty said.
What makes this group different than any other on campus, is the aspect that everyone in the group determines the topics and direction of study.
“I am happy to be a facilitator of the conversation and offer some points from my own experience, but students are really meant to learn from one another about the Bible and how to live out their faith. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers and this isn’t an academic group, we are all working together to find and apply the presence of God to daily life,” Fr. Tom said.
Forty hopes many more join the group.
“I would encourage everyone to come to a meeting, even if you are not Catholic or Christian, or if you have no prior knowledge of the Bible. I know that when I had Religion 100 I was intrigued and interested to learn more about this one book that has had such an influence on the world’s entire history,” Forty said.
As Fr. Tom said, “Part of the blessing of the college experience is exploring new ideas and opportunities.”
This weekly program meets every Tuesday in Cornerstone at 8 p.m.