Preserving Catholic Faith During the College Years

The Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA’s) surveys “indicate that only 57 percent of students remain practicing Catholics…from orientation to graduation,” says Matt and Colleen Swaim in their new book, Your College Faith: Own It! ($12.99, Liguori Publications). This is a scary statistic for Catholic parents who are sending their teen off to college this fall.


Your College Faith: Own It! gives all the advice a Catholic parents would want to give their college-bound son or daughter about the spiritual pitfalls of college, but without nagging. It’s a guide that will help prepare your son or daughter to face the distractions, challenges, and immorality that is on every campus—even on faithful Catholic college campuses. In it the students will find resources, reflections, and encouragement that will help keep them connected to Christ and His sacraments.


Each chapter of Your College Faith: Own It! begins with a quote from Scripture or a papal document and then it addresses an area of college life and possible scenarios. This is followed by a story about how a particular saint dealt with a comparable situation and also how the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the subject. The book is meant to be interactive, so there is a place in each chapter for the reader to jot down his thoughts. At the end of each chapter, there is suggested reading.


Due to the busy pace of college life, it is all too easy to rationalize oneself out of the sacramental life. In response, the authors do a good job at offering encouragement to students about the importance of Mass attendance, reconciliation, and Eucharistic Adoration. They suggest that students stay rooted in the Catholic faith during the college years by seeking out friends that share good Catholic values. “One way to do this is by connecting with Catholic campus ministries…such as a Newman Center or through FOCUS, or Catholic-faith outreach groups.”


The book also offers good advice on how to deal with some practical problems that arise from living communally. When conflict with a roommate happens, one of things they recommend to student is to “take a step back and make your own examination of conscience.” They also suggest an awesome prayer to overcome aversion written by the late Fr. John Hardon.


Living in the college environment also means that there will be sexual temptations. The authors recommend setting up boundaries to prevent the dorm room from being an occasion of sin by requesting a single-sex dorm. “Additionally, you may want to contact the local Catholic campus ministry to see if they have any tips on what living situations might have a better moral reputation than others.”


Other chapters address being financially responsible when your companions aren’t, how to live out Catholic social teaching, vocational discernment, and much more.


The bottom line is Your College Faith: Own It! should be required reading for all Catholic college students, but not just Freshman; it’s a valuable reference that should be revisited for all four years of college.

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