[Fresh] Campus Ministry Interview

Kelly Donio (kelly.donio@villanova.edu)
Wed, 08 Feb 2006 14:13:25 -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 one of our
ecumenical retreats for new students. This past July, over 200 students
participated in the Connections 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 is held
three times a year. Approximately 50 students spent the weekend away 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 West
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, email, 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 eight graduate student interns who work in our office and
live in the residence halls (Katherine, St. Monica, Moriarity, Caughlin,
McGuire and Stanford). Our graduate interns are in their late 20’s and
do a lot of the outreach; especially to first year students. 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 22 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, Costa Rica, Ecuador.
In the winter students went to Cambodia, South Africa and Slidell, LA.
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

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. We offer many
opportunities for our students including: 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

Dr. Hassel: Campus Ministry coordinates a campus wide event, World
Religions Day whose purpose is 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. A
Campus Minister facilitates the Inter Faith Coalition, an Interfaith
Retreat and is Primary Minister to students of various faith traditions.

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.
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.

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 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. As parents you have given your son/daughter so
much and now is the time to support, watch and be amazed at their
personal, academic and spiritual growth.

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