by Shannon Gleba Copy Editor
One of the most important aspects of religion and faith is the ability to share one’s beliefs with others.
As a Lasallian Catholic school, campus ministry has always been present at Manhattan College, as well as service and social action. This year, the college’s ministry program is expanding with the addition of a new peer ministry program for students.
The idea for a peer ministry program came from Father Thomas Franks during his inaugural year as the college chaplain in 2017. Fr. Thomas shared this idea with Kaitlyn von Runnen, current senior, and they worked together to formulate a plan for the program.
“Father Tom came here last year; I was on the interview committee, interviewing new campus chaplains after Father George passed [..] at the end of 2016. Then, we hired Father Tom and this was an idea that him and I have been discussing, basically just about bringing more campus ministry to campus. So, it’s been something that has been ongoing, so this summer we really got the ball rolling on working towards developing the peer ministry program, researching what other schools and universities do, things like that,” said von Runnen.
Fr. Thomas thinks the peer ministry program is important because many of the ideas for it have come from students themselves.
“I think that it’s not about faculty, administrators, campus ministers sort of presenting what should be, but deciding among themselves what’s important, what’s relevant, how to express faith and become a community together,” said Fr. Thomas.
While the program is still in the initial stages of planning, Fr. Thomas is already looking to get more students involved. On Sept. 19, two information sessions were held for students, both commuters and residents, to share ideas and to sign up to receive more information about peer ministry.
Senior Nicole Kaiser attended one of the information sessions and was excited to hear about a new way to get involved in ministry, in addition to attending mass.
“I participated in youth ministry in high school so that was a bunch of teens coming together in small groups and discussing gospels and hanging out and having fun and it was a great way to meet people but also connect through faith. So, I’m really hoping that this program kind of facilitates the same thing. I go to mass on Sundays but you don’t really interact with anybody but your friends who come to mass with you, so its hard to meet people through that. And even some of my friends don’t have as much of a faith foundation as some of my high school youth ministry friends, so I think this will be a good way to connect college friends and faith friends and put it all together,” said Kaiser.
A very important part of the peer ministry program is the inclusiveness it has for all religions, not just those who are Catholic.
“I personally believe that we’re a Catholic community, we’re a Catholic college, and we’re very open and accepting to all other faiths, but I think it is also important to recognize your own and to develop it. It’s a very important part of a lot of peoples’ college experiences despite whatever faith they are and whatever they practice or don’t practice. I think a lot of times we go through a transformative four years of college. People look to have some type of guidance from other students who have been in similar shoes, they look to sometimes a higher power to understand why things happen. Is it for a reason? Is it not for a reason? So, I think that’s part of the reason peer ministry is important,” said von Runnen.
Once the peer ministry program planning is set, the leaders hope to form smaller groups around campus that can meet on a regular basis for different ministry events. Some of these groups could be made of students who live in the same residence halls, or those in the same class. These groups will be lead by peer ministers who will undergo training and will be responsible in coordinating activities, communicating with the Campus Ministry Office and facilitating meaningful conversation among their peers.
Fr. Thomas hopes to have the program up and running by Thanksgiving and looks forward to getting started.
“I’m hoping by the end of the year that we can have an established group of maybe ten or twenty peer ministers that are creating programming on campus that are working with small communities and building things up this year and start some activities and that would be great,” said Fr. Thomas.
Von Runnen thinks peer ministry is important to MC’s campus to supplement all of the service opportunities available for students, which she has also been heavily involved.
“I think peer ministry is important because we have a lot of focus on social action, which I think is great, it’s a great way to learn, to grow and to develop. However, I think it’s equally as important to have that campus ministry and that campus faith on campus,” said von Runnen.
Peer ministry is a great opportunity for interested students to form a more dynamic relationship with God beyond the scope of mass, and Kaiser hopes many students take the chance to deepen that relationship.
“Don’t be afraid to come, no one is going to judge you based on your opinions, it’s whatever you want to say, you say and just be honest and open about it and it’ll be great,” said Kaiser.