Religious organizations encourage students to explore faith on campus

Going to college is a drastic and sometimes even a traumatic experience. Kids who thought they knew everything are suddenly questioning their every thought and move. Many might question their beliefs in themselves, the things around and in God or your faith.
Quinnipiac has no religious affiliation. For many, this was taken into consideration when applying here and deciding to come. For other students who have a strong faith, the fact that QU has no on-campus place to worship could be a concern.
So, how does Quinnipiac accommodate different religions on campus? The school has allowed the establishment of different religion affiliated groups to come together and create clubs where all students are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the exploration of different faiths.
There are three official religious groups on campus: Hillel, Branches and Christian Fellowship. Hillel is a Jewish group, Branches is a Catholic organization, and Christian Fellowship is a nondenominational Christian group.
Jon Kroll is an active member of the group Hillel. He said one of the reasons he came to Quinnipiac was to become part of the club.
“In high school I was a member of NFTY, a National High School Jewish Youth group, and I new I was going to be part of this organization,” he said.
Kroll, like many others involved in religious clubs, feels students share several misconceptions concerning what these organizations are about.
“I am a firm believer in having fun and just hanging out,” he said.
Lauren O’Leary from Branches agreed.
“People think we’re a cult or that we sit around and read our Bibles all day,” she said.
She explained that religion is very often not even the topic of conversation when the group is gathered together.
“We get a lot of interesting conversations here,” O’Leary said.
Christian Fellowship, Branches and Hillel are all directed at certain religions but they are also open to different beliefs and faiths.
“It doesn’t matter what religion you are, we’re not going to sit here and nit- pick,” said Susie Allen from Christian Fellowship.
She said they encourage people who are not sure of their beliefs to come to meetings and try to figure it out.
Each of these three religious organizations sponsor activities to help students become more active members in their religion, or to learn about other religions. Hillel, for example, sponsors a trip to D.C. every year to visit the Holocaust Museum.
“We celebrate most Jewish holidays and we do cultural events such as Israeli dancing,” said Kroll.
Christian Fellowship sponsors the Sunrise Service in the quad and the Harvest Party, which takes place between Halloween and Thanksgiving. They also take part in retreats once a semester.
Branches does retreats as well, but they organize them for local high school kids who are going through the process of confirmation. They also offer training sessions for those students at QU who which to become Eucharistic Ministers.
All these groups have a religious leader on campus who takes part in events and guides the students in making right directions. Rabbi Steven Steinberg is an active member for Hillel and he conducts a service here at QU one Friday a month.
Rev. Vernon Thompson is the pastor who helps Christian Fellowship. Although there are no services for this group on campus, they get together on Thursday nights to worship, and said everyone is welcomed to worship in whatever way they wish.
Father Louis “Padre” Evangelisto is the on campus priest for Branches. He conducts a Catholic mass every Sunday evening in Alumni Hall.
After talking with the representatives from each group it seems like all have the same mission: to help people understand and want to learn more about their faith.
O’Leary said that too often kids are afraid to say, “Hey I’m Catholic, or hey I’m Jewish.” Or as Kroll put it, “they’re in the closet Jews.”
This might be partially because people are unsure of how other students are going to receive this information.
For many here at school it is also the first time they have the ability to choose their own faith. Many kids have earlier relied on their parent’s influence growing up in a certain religion.
“We’ve been put into a surrounding where we have a lot of choices and faith is one of them,” said Allen.
All three religious groups on campus are open to everyone, and they all encourage students to explore their faith and find out what they truly believe.