[Fresh] Campus Ministry Interview

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Mon, 01 Nov 2004 11:06:02 -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 all members of the
community. 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. Campus ministers plan weekly and
weeklong service opportunities for students, faculty and staff. Campus ministers prepare
students to be leaders at 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.)
Ministers who are experts in faith development offer 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 activities.

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 a four day Villanova Experience called CONNECTIONS.
This past July, over 100 students participated in this experience of reflection, service and
fun. 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 is held in November and in March.
Approximately 200 students will spend the weekend at the Jersey shore as an “escape” from
the hectic campus life in order to reflect on their Villanova experience thus far.
Community Outreach of Villanova (COV) 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 invites students to share their talents and skills in an after school program in
Philadelphia. This opportunity challenges first year students to share a talent they have
developed with others. All talents are welcome such as: cheerleading, coaching, ballet,
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, church bulletin, 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
three graduate student interns who work in our office and live in the residence halls
(Katherine, St. Monica, Mc Guire, and Stanford). 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. 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 COV (Community Outreach of Villanova) program, which
consists of weekly and Saturday service projects for first year students
http://www.campusministry.villanova.edu/serve.htm). At Villanova, 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 reflect on 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 18 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 North Carolina, Texas, Guatemala, Peru, Costa
Rica, Ecuador 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 week-long
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
concerned 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, a Bishop and educator was, of course, also 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 today.

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 offer to students.
Our staff is dedicated to student leadership and offers opportunities to develop in many
areas. This Fall we offer a new opportunity for our students: the Get Real sharing groups.
These are small groups of students led by student leaders who meet weekly to share
conversation and insights in to life experiences. Some of the topics for the groups are:
transitions to college, relationships, prayer, growth in faith and integration of faith and
service. 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: This year Campus Ministry organized the 2nd annual World Religions Day whose
purpose was to educate and affirm the diversity of faith traditions present on the campus.
The office of campus ministry is a resource for places of worship for many churches,
synagogues, and mosques in the Villanova area. 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 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 want 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 explore their faith, and not to be afraid to ask
questions and 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 student home for vacation, 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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