Many college students don’t leave faith at home


PROVIDENCE — While many college students take advantage of their newfound freedom by abandoning family practices and church teachings, others choose to strengthen their Catholic identity through involvement in campus ministry programs, regularly attending Mass and receiving the sacraments and participating in service programs to help those in need.

James Flaherty, a 2008 graduate of LaSalle Academy, chose St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., because he wanted to stay in New England and attend a small Catholic college.

“Since elementary school, I have been educated in a Catholic setting,” said Flaherty, a parishioner of St. Augustine Church, Providence. “The idea of not continuing that tradition had not even occurred to me. This is not because I am overly religious but because ‘who I am’ as a person is the byproduct of my education and the environment in which I received it.”

Flaherty said other factors that led to his decision to attend St. Anselm was the strong Benedictine presence on campus, as well as the college’s renowned New Hampshire Institute of Politics, which offers solid academic programs in political science and international relations.

“Another aspect of the college which I found not only appealing but amazing was the overall demeanor of not only the faculty, but the students as well,” Flaherty emphasized. “Everyone just seemed so genuinely happy and passionate.”

Flaherty credited LaSalle Academy for playing a big part in his college selection decision. He wanted to attend a college where Catholic ideals and morals were present, the same values that were instilled in high school and at home.

Bishop Hendricken High School alumnus Nicholas Tasca selected Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., because of its “strong Catholic identity, friendly atmosphere, small campus, impressive academics and competitive athletic program.”

Tasca, a parishioner of Holy Apostles Church, Cranston, is a political science major.

“Because I had an incredible high school experience, Hendricken certainly influenced my college decision,” he said. “I knew that the only way to have a comparable experience was to choose a school that had an identical environment and similar values.”

Tasca admitted that while there are times when the school’s Catholic identity becomes obscure, there are many students who follow church teachings, live moral lives and promote strong Catholic values.

St. Anselm freshman Grace Keating, a recent graduate of Mount St. Charles Academy, said that being a student at a Catholic college has reinforced the “caring, loving values” she was taught at home and in school.

“For instance, I find myself going to Mass even when I have other options for things to do,” she said. “It’s just a great environment that was so easy to transition into as freshman.”

Keating, a member of St. Joseph Church, Woonsocket, added that while there are many similarities between Catholic and secular campuses, such as an active social scene, there are some distinctions.

“A noticeable difference though is the amount of people who willingly go to Mass on a Sunday night, the amount of people involved in choir, service and campus ministry,” Keating acknowledged. “In this sense, I would say there is a strong Catholic presence here.”

For Alysas Marciniak, a sophomore at St. Anselm College, community service is a major component of her education. She volunteers about 20 hours a week and receives some college credit for her work.

The 2009 Mount St. Charles alumnae emphasized that attending a Catholic college has allowed her to grow closer to God.

“Life on a Catholic campus is what make of it,” she said. “Yes, there is a chapel on campus but some people just walk by it on a daily basis and have never been to a Mass. The monks are so involved on campus, whether giving humanities lectures, teaching classes or working in campus ministry.”