By Tim Harfmann
August 31 was a big day for Brennen Bailey and other new students at St. John’s University.
They moved into their dorms, where special neighbors waited to greet them.
Brennen is from Colorado and traveled across the country to the school in Queens because St. John’s is a Catholic university.
“Along with my great education I’m receiving, I’ll also get a moral perspective on the world around me.”
Helping to steer that moral compass are campus ministers — religious leaders who live in the residence halls.
“I’ll say, ‘so, what is your experience of God like?’ Just a simple question like that. I’ve been amazed how that open up possibilities,” said Brother Mike Sherrin, a campus minister who is ready to talk and listen.
Campus ministers have been at St. John’s for 20 years, helping over 33,000 young men and women cope with homesickness, separation from parents, and their faith.
Catholics make up a big chunk of the student body, but the college is open to students of all faiths.
“College is not easy. There are so many deadlines that they would have to meet, and having a strong faith is very helpful,” said Doctor Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, university president.
Megan Rodriguez is another campus minister who lives in an apartment with her husband, Jerry, and five-month-old daughter, Gianna.
Megan’s devoted to assisting students get through the early days of college life.
“This is a tough time. This is a time of transition. They’re trying to figure out their vocation, and so as we accompany them in that process, that’s what we’re here to do,” said Megan.
Brennen added; “To have that guidance so close is so valuable and important to seek out that help, so you’re not alone in this thing we call life.”
Besides talking and listening, the ministers reach out to students, encouraging them to attend Mass and participate in retreats.
Brother Mike hopes the students will find Christ in the university’s corridors; “We’re not miracle workers, but we are invitational to consider the reality of God in their lives.”
As the students settled into their new lives, Megan had great advice; “stay close to your faith, find good friends, talk to people if you’re struggling with something, and definitely stay close to the Eucharist.”