[Fresh] campus ministry interview

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Mon, 09 Dec 2002 09:50:22 -0500

Interview with Dr. Beth Hassel, P.B.V.M, Executive Director, Campus Ministry

Fresh@News: Those of us who live and work at Villanova know that Campus Ministry is one of
the most active departments on campus, and that its programs reach out to both Catholic and
to non-Catholic students. What are some of the things you do?

Dr. Hassel: Campus Ministry serves students, faculty and staff by offering a variety of
opportunities for spiritual growth and development. Our Mission and Ministry team organizes
service opportunities for students, faculty and staff. The Liturgy Team coordinates campus
liturgies. (In a typical week we offer from 15-20 liturgies on campus, which are attended
by between 1500 to 2000 members of the community.) The Catholic Outreach and Evangelization
team offers a wide variety of opportunities for spiritual growth including weekend and
evening retreats, faith sharing groups, ecumenical fellowships, and Bible study groups.
Although our focus grows out of our Catholic and Augustinian heritage, we serve the entire
community; students, faculty, and staff of all religious backgrounds participate in our

Fresh@News: How would a first-year student typically become involved
with Campus Ministry?

Dr. Hassel: Actually, we met many of the first-year students even before the school year
started, through their participation in one of our ecumenical retreats for new students.
This past July, over 200 students participated in either the New Student Retreat or SERVE
Retreat. At New Student Orientation we met with all of the incoming students and invited
them to be active participants of the Villanova Community through service and spirituality
programs. During the school year, there are other programs specifically for freshman such
as the Freshman Escape. The Freshman Escape was held in November. Approximately 40
students spent the weekend in Ocean City as an “escape” from the hectic campus life in order
to reflect on their Villanova experience thus far. Freshmen Serve offers opportunities for
new students to serve and learn from the marginalized. Students tutor, mentor and organize
opportunities for youth in many church related agencies. The RUIBAL (Reaching Urban
Individuals by Action and Love) Challenge is new this year and it invites students to share
their talents and skills in an after school program in Camden, New Jersey. Everything and
any talent is welcome to name a few cheerleading, coaching, arts and crafts and drama.

Fresh@News: How do you reach new students with your programs?

Dr. Hassel: We publicize our services through the Campus Ministry web page, the Villanovan,
the university weekly paper, flyers, posters, and word of mouth. Many students will come
into our office in St. Rita’s hall on main campus to find out more about the various
programs; however, we also have a presence in the residence halls. We have four graduate
student interns who work in our office and live in the residence halls (Katherine, St.
Monica, Stanford, St. Mary’s and Caughlin). Our graduate interns are in their late 20’s and
do a lot of the outreach to students; especially freshman. The interns work closely with
the RA’s and students in the building to plan service opportunities. Some of the activities
include food drives, gift sharing groups, retreats, hall masses, adopting families for the
holidays and even Saturday service projects. All of the interns hold weekly office hours in
our Campus Ministry South office, located on South campus. We’ve been very pleased with the
work our staff has been doing!

Fresh@News: At Villanova there is always a lot of talk about community service. Are first
year students involved in those programs?

Dr. Hassel: Service to the marginalized groups of society is a major part of our ministry,
and we like to see our students get involved early on in their college life. We have
service activities for our students nearly every day. For example, we regularly take groups
of students to
the St. Barnabas Shelter for Women. When the women who live at the center have group
counseling, our students tutor and design arts and crafts projects for their children. We
also have regular trips into the city where students work as tutors, in soup kitchens, or on
Habitat for
Humanities projects. This year we have a number of service projects designed specifically
for first year students through our Serve program, which consists of Saturday service
projects for first year students (http://www.campusministry.villanova.edu/serve.htm). At
however, we are not just interested in service for its own sake; we also want our students
to connect their service work to broader issues of faith and justice. All of our service
activities include a period of reflection, where students process and discuss what they have
seen and
learned through that service experience.

Fresh@News: What about the longer trips, in spring break and fall break?

Dr. Hassel: One of our most popular activities is our fall and spring break service/mission
trips. This Fall we offered 19 trips. About half were to Habitat for Humanities projects
from South Carolina to Colorado. The other half were mission trips to an established site
in a local area, which included trips to New Orleans, Alabama, and a service learning
experience with "Global Citizens Network" on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. We are
just lining up our spring trips now. The students spend weeks planning for the trips, and a
Villanova faculty member or staff member accompanies each group. It is a wonderful
opportunity for students to get to know one another, gain new insights into the community
and themselves, and to explore the questions of social justice and spirituality. It is also
a great opportunity for students to get to know faculty members outside of class.

Fresh@News: Do our first year students get involved in these trips?

Dr. Hassel: We don't encourage first year students to get involved in the break-trips,
especially for the fall break, when most are so eager just to get back home to their friends
and families. Frankly, there is so much demand for these trips that we are just as glad
that the first year students don't start right away. First year students are encouraged to
apply for the spring, but many more will be going as Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.

Fresh@News: What are some of the benefits of service activities for our students?

Dr. Hassel: For a significant number of our students, service was a way of life before
entering the University. For many, however, service is a new experience and becomes a way
of life that they will carry through their experience here and then continue after they
graduate. (One of
our Campus Ministers serves as an adviser to seniors who want to do a year or two of
volunteer work after they graduate and before going on to a career or to graduate school.)
It all comes down to Villanova's mission as a Catholic and Augustinian institution. We are
here with the development of the student as a total person. Service trips, and all of our
activities in Campus Ministry, are dedicated to helping our students grow spiritually and
morally, in addition to fostering their intellectual and professional growth. Our Patron,
St. Thomas of Villanova, was, of course, known for his activities for the poor and
disadvantaged of his own day, and we try to make those values important to our own lives

Fresh@News: What are some of your other activities in Campus Ministry?

Dr. Hassel: I have really only mentioned a few of the other things we
do. Our staff is dedicated to student leadership and offers opportunities to develop in
many areas. In addition we offer personal counseling and spiritual direction. Students
come to discuss challenges in coming to terms with their own identity or their relationships
with others. Others come to talk about issues of loss and bereavement. We coordinate our
activities, of course, with the other counseling services at Villanova, such as the
University Counseling Center and the Center Health and Wellness. We also have a new program
for Campus Ministry Outreach. Interns, who live in the residence halls with our students
and offer first year students special programs in spirituality and service. We also offer
the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Often students participate in this
program and choose to be baptized, to be initiated into the Catholic Church, or to receive
the Sacrament of Confirmation. As you might expect, many of our graduates want to come back
to Villanova's St. Thomas of Villanova Church for their marriages, and, of course, we also
work with alumni who are planning to marry. Parents will be relieved to hear that this is
not a popular activity with our freshmen.

Fresh@News: What about students who come from other religious traditions? What
opportunities for worship and prayer are available for them?

Dr. Hassel: There are dozens of churches, synagogues, and mosques in the Villanova area, so
many of our students attend worship services in the nearby area. We also find that students
of diverse faith backgrounds attend and feel welcome at our on-campus liturgies. They seem
to respond to the fellowship and community spirit of our services, and they appreciate the
fact that there is no pressure on them to become Catholic. They also appreciate the fact
that students play such important roles in our services, with many of our students acting as
Hospitality Ministers, Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, and Pastoral Musicians.

Fresh@News: If parents wants to get a sense of spiritual life at Villanova, what should
they do?

Dr. Hassel: If you are a parent and you are near Villanova on a Sunday evening, I would
advise you to attend a mass at the chapel at either 6 P.M., 8 P.M., or 10 P.M. What you
will find is a chapel filled to standing room capacity. The entire service will be planned
and coordinated by students. Students will greet you as you enter, and as many as one
hundred student pastoral musicians will provide the music. Indeed, other than the priest, a
Campus Ministry Coordinator, and the Pastoral Music coordinator, you'll have to look very
hard to find anyone in an official capacity who is not a student. The priests who serve at
these liturgies are extremely popular with students, and their homilies invariably connect
with the daily concerns of many of our students The dress is casual, of course, but I think
you will be struck by the intensity of the spiritual experience.

Fresh@News: What other advice do you have for parents?

Dr. Hassel: College can be a time of spiritual questioning for many young people, so do not
be surprised if your student raises questions about his or her religious identity. Frankly,
I wish more of our students struggled with these issues. Take the time to get involved in
the dialogue and share your story of faith and meaning with your child. I would advise
parents to encourage their students to take risks with their faith, and not to be afraid to
explore their value systems. This is a great time of their lives to raise these questions,
and we try to provide an environment that is conducive to spiritual development. I would
also urge parents to be supportive if their sons or daughters want to participate in our
spring or fall break service trips. I know how painful it is not to have the students home
for vacations, but you will be amazed by the growth in spiritual and personal development
that you will see in your son or daughter as a result of this intense involvement in service
and reflection. Parents can always consult our website
http://www.campusministry.villanova.edu/, to get a better sense of our many activities, and,
in addition, we are always available to talk to parents about concerns about college life.

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