LaMarche retires from college campus ministry

Jane LaMarche, Ph.D., is retiring as diocesan director of campus ministry. She is pictured with College of Charleston students Jon Roebuck and William Epperson. (Provided)

Jane LaMarche, Ph.D., is retiring as diocesan director of campus ministry. She is pictured with College of Charleston students Jon Roebuck and William Epperson. (Provided)CHARLESTON—For the past four years, Jane LaMarche, Ph.D., has done the job of two people.

She served as the diocesan director of campus ministry, which covered 16 colleges and universities across the state, and as director of Catholic campus ministry at the College of Charleston.

When she retires at the end of August, her job will officially be split.

She said it’s a smart thing to do because the diocesan post requires a great deal of travel. Having two people will allow the campus minister to devote herself to the university and give due diligence to the student ministry. LaMarche said Jenna Cucco has been hired for that job.

LaMarche came to the diocese in 2006 from the Archdiocese of Boston with 26 years of experience in campus ministry.

She said her primary goals were to establish programs in areas that had nothing, and connect nearby parishes to campuses when possible.

The parish/campus connection was beneficial to both, with students helping in community outreach and parishioners reaching out by providing a meal for meetings, or transportation to Mass, LaMarche said.

“We’ve come a long way. We’ve grown a lot,” she said. “I think it’s important to reach as many Catholic students as possible given that we have no Catholic college in the diocese.”

Campus ministry will be added at three colleges this fall: University of South Carolina-Bluffton, University of South Carolina-Aiken and Presbyterian College.

One of the most important accomplishments at the College of Charleston was securing a permanent location for the students to meet, LaMarche said.

They had been using borrowed space at St. Michael Church, and the students were thrilled to receive a new home, dubbed the “Upper Room” of Father Egbert J. Figaro Hall. It was blessed by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone in November.

Having their own space in which to relax, eat, pray, and engage in fellowship is key to attracting students and making them feel comfortable.

LaMarche said establishing a ministry on campus leads to a different challenge, which is finding students to participate in a thriving group.

She said they have to be creative when it comes to reaching out to Catholics at state universities. Because of privacy laws, they can’t obtain a list of students and their religious affiliations and invite them to faith and fellowship.  

Instead, they take a roundabout approach through publicity, Sunday Mass, presentations at freshman orientation, and word of mouth.

The college student group is different from youth or young adult ministry at church, LaMarche said. Their primary goal is to develop a connection between the church and higher education; to proclaim the good news to the academic community, she explained.

She said every campus focuses on forming a faith community, appropriating the faith to form the Christian conscience, applying education toward peace and justice, and facilitating the personal development of students to prepare them to be leaders in church and society.

The outgoing director said she envisions great things for campus ministry in the future, and praised Bishop Guglielmone for his support.

Campus ministry now has its own piece of the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal. Funding will increase by about 50 percent, said Matt Dwyer, director of stewardship and development.

As for her future, LaMarche said she and her husband David plan to spend the first part of retirement traveling. They have been married 45 years and have nine grown  children.

“He has been my greatest support,” she said, adding that he helped her in everything she did in her dual roles.

LaMarche also plans to write a book set in the 1950s about life in a Catholic girls’ boarding school.