Freshman students clicking into valuable faith connection

| August 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Mara Morley, soon to be a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, is glad she discovered a program called College Connection for Catholics.

More accurately, the program found her.

Launched at the start of last school year, it helps first-year college students connect with Catholic organizations on campus, and it gives them important information like names of nearby parishes and Mass times. Catholic parishes and schools supply names of graduating seniors, who then receive emails and/or printed materials.

For Morley, who attends St. Joseph in her hometown of Owatonna, the helpful materials she received became a springboard into a significant deepening of her faith over the course of her first year at St. Thomas.

“It gave me this little push to just try [different activities],” she said. “That’s all the push you need sometimes because once you experience something, especially in your faith, you kind of get addicted to it because you get so much out of it, and then you just keep going.”

Getting to students early

Judy Cozzens

Cozzens

That’s exactly what Judy Cozzens of Holy Family in St. Louis Park had in mind when she became chair of the program two years ago. She is disturbed by the trend of college students abandoning their faith, and she wants to help them stay connected.

“I know that in today’s world, 85 percent of college graduates are not practicing any faith when they graduate,” said Cozzens, mother of Father Andrew Cozzens, who currently serves at the St. Paul Seminary. “We want to try to change that. And, we have found that if kids connect to their faith, if they get connected at the very beginning of their freshman year, they’re likely to stay connected.”

Jack Murphy, who recently graduated from Providence Academy in Plymouth, has received the packet of information for the college he will be attending this fall, Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

He already has the name of someone in campus ministry, plus where the local Catholic churches are and Mass times. He even knows when he can go to confession, thanks to the work of Cozzens and the Serra clubs who support the program along with NET Ministries.

“I’m planning on definitely taking advantage of [the information] before I head out there, just so I don’t show up a complete stranger,” Murphy said. “It’s definitely a priority for me to get involved in whatever sort of Catholic group of young people they have there.”

For Murphy, it was easy to participate. His school takes part in the program and ensures that all seniors get the materials they need for their colleges.

According to Cozzens, most of the Catholic high schools in the archdiocese participate. She is hoping that all of them will someday, along with every parish. After reaching about 9,000 college freshmen nationwide last year, she said the number has gone up to 12,000-plus this year.

Anyone interested in learning more can visit http://www.collegeconnectionforcatholics.com.

“Our website is a lot more user-friendly at this point, and we have a service on the website that high school seniors should be using,” said Cozzens, who is planning to conduct a survey of 125 students this year to get their feedback on the program and the materials they received.

“On our website there is something called “college search” and you can go in and look at the campus ministry or the Catholic presence for 1,470 colleges across the nation,” she said. “This is a wonderful thing at this time of year as seniors are starting to get ready to prepare for college.”

Impact beyond student

Cozzens noted that the program is also beneficial for parents, a point not lost on Jane Morley, who is thrilled her daughter followed up on the information she received from College Connection for Catholics. In fact, her daughter’s decision to stay active in her faith not only was good for her, but paid dividends for the whole family.

Mara “was always very religious, but I can see a huge growth spiritually since she went to St. Thomas,” said Jane, whose oldest daughter is out of college and whose youngest daughter is going to be a high school sophomore. “She’s been singing at Mass at St. Thomas and we’ll go up on Sundays. It’s just great, and I think the whole family connects when they get into something like that. I think we all got stronger just by watching her.”

And, Mara hopes other college students will reap the same spiritual benefits as she did by stepping out to stay connected in their faith, though she realizes they may have to overcome some social obstacles to do so.

“It’s so much easier to say no sometimes and to say you’re too busy to attend a talk or to go and talk to someone in your campus ministry,” she said. “I think, sometimes, you just have to take a chance with everything, and especially with your faith. Take a chance and go try some of these things out because they could really change you.

“I think, a lot of times, people in the beginning of their freshman year feel kind of lonely or kind of afraid, and they want to stay by themselves for a while. I think the best thing you can do is reach out to other people and reach out through your faith and try and grow as much as you can.”

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Category: Colleges and Careers