Editor’s Note: The June 2022 issue highlights the three ecumenical chaplaincies supported by the Diocese of Niagara at Brock University, McMaster University, and the University of Guelph. This piece is one of three in the series, entitled “Spiritual Care for the Inquiring Mind: Spotlight on Our Ecumenical Chaplancies”. Our contributors highlight the challenges—and blessings—of student ministry during the pandemic. Click here for more information on these chaplaincies and ways for you to support them.
I was appointed the new ecumenical chaplain at Brock University in St. Catharines about a year ago. During that time, everything was closed and I had to work remotely. It was an interesting challenge, to say the least—to enter this new position where I couldn’t actually meet any students! But in September, things opened up so that I could finally be on campus.
The Faith and Life Centre is located in the loveliest part of campus, right on the Niagara Escarpment, with a view of the woods and ravine from the windows of the Centre. With spring in the air, it isn’t unusual to see signs of wildlife while walking to the Centre! Many students will use the quiet space to study during the day and maybe drop in to say hello to the chaplains, too.
I work with two other chaplains: one is a full-time Christian Reformed pastor and one is a full-time Roman Catholic lay chaplain. There are also three volunteer chaplains from different Christian denominations. There are also an imam, rabbi, and Buddhist monk who volunteer their time to connect with students at Brock.
Working in tandem with other chaplains is a great reminder of the things that bind us rather than separate us. Our common love and passion for Jesus binds us together even while our expressions of that love may be different. One example of the ecumenical bonds was when we led a Bible study in honour of International Women’s Day. The four female chaplains each led a group study focused on different women from the Bible. I explored the leadership of Saint Priscilla and Deacon Phoebe and it was a wonderful experience to discuss Christian leadership with university students. I was inspired by the enthusiasm and insights the students offered!
Some of the other programs I offered this past fall and winter include: “Praying with the Activists”, “Sanctuary” (an exploration of mental health and faith), and “Mission: Joy”. The latter was in tandem with the Buddhist monk, Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu, and it explored the work of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They co-wrote a book, and then a documentary was made about finding joy in the midst of turbulent times. I was reminded that even when it comes to interfaith, we have much more in common than what divides us!