Too many Catholic young adults are abandoning their faith when they head off to college. Studies show that up to 80 percent of students stop going to Mass when they hit campus.
For the second year, the Diocese of Charleston is working to reverse that trend by partnering with the Newman Connection, an Illinois-based nonprofit that provides support to Catholic campus ministry and Newman centers around the country.
Each year, the Newman Connection gathers information from Catholic high schools and parishes nationwide and then helps link graduating seniors with ministry programs at their chosen schools.
James Grove, diocesan director of campus ministry, said the Newman Connection is an important part of the effort to keep Catholic students engaged.
“The more we, as campus ministers, can make contact with students and reach them, the more help we can be to them,” he said.
Catholic campus ministry is currently available at 23 locations in South Carolina. Grove said the program is helpful because it offers outreach to students no matter where they are heading for their studies.
“We want to care for all the students in the diocese, and we know a significant number go out of state for college,” Grove said. “By offering the Newman Connection, they have the ability to reach out and connect with campus ministry at schools in other states.”
The effort statewide is coordinated by Anne Durney in the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement, and Michael Acquilano, head of the South Carolina Catholic Conference.
Durney said that in 2017 the Newman Connection reached about 1,200 students around the state, and she hopes numbers increase this year.
“There is a crisis when it comes to ministry to college students, and we need to do everything we can to let them know about what is available on their campuses [and send them] an invitation to take part,” Durney said. “It is all about the invitation, because studies show that students who get a personal invitation are more likely to participate.”
The method of gathering students’ information has changed this year. Last year, most seniors who participated filled out cards that were returned to the Newman Connection. This year, they are being asked to fill out an online survey. Announcements are being made at Catholic school graduations and in parishes.
Students and families can enter their information through a Survey Monkey link that goes directly to the Newman Connection. Personal information will not be shared.
Parents and students who wish to fill out the survey may visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DHY3Z6D.
To learn more, visit www.newmanconnection.com.
Photo provided: Students engage in group discussions at the statewide campus ministry retreat held February 2018 at Buck Ridge Plantation in Neeses.