Chardonee Wright, Staff Writer:
As James Furlong described his duties as the university’s chaplain, his face lit up as he spoke about how he helps people.
“Any faculty, staff, student, or graduate student who’s looking for a faith community, I help them find a faith community,” said Furlong. “I help them find church and spiritual direction if they are looking
for that. If they are Catholic, I talk to kids about any faith issues they may have or God issues they may have.”
The Interfaith Office is sponsored by Southern and is an open office space available for ministers and anyone of all denominations to use the room.
“My role as Catholic chaplain, I run prayer groups, worship study, and Catholic oriented prayer groups and worship. All of that is on campus,” said Furlong.
According to a study done by researchers from UCLA, undergraduate students tend to be more “spiritual” during their freshman to junior years of college.
Yet, also according to the study, students are less religious; meaning they don’t attend religious services as much.
Furlong said Southern has always been a helping hand in helping keep students connected to their spirituality.
“This school has always recognized that spirituality is a significant part of who we are as people. So they want to offer an opportunity; safe, non-judgmental, and non evangelical. We are not there to sell God. We are there to nurture the spiritual side of faculty, staff, or students who are interested in doing it,” said Furlong.
Ryan Flynn, a junior journalism major, said school and religion should be separate. “I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t think it should be required that schools have,” said Flynn.
Flynn said that family influence had a huge impact on why he is Catholic and that if he agreed with another religion’s values and morals, he would be open for change.
“If I didn’t grow up on it, I would change,” said Flynn.
Researchers from the study concluded two reasons why college students are more spiritual than religious.
The first reason is because many students are away from home and that religious observance before college is influenced by the presence of the family.
The second reason that was concluded from the study is that a greater deal of time is devoted to studies during college, and that students may not have time to engage in religious activities.
Shelby Ford, sophomore elementary education major, said that her parents attend a Protestant church but she doesn’t.
Ford added that campuses should only have some types of religious ministry if their student body is large in size.
“If there is a large population that wanted something like that, they should try to accommodate
them if it was needed,” said Ford.
When asked for reasoning behind why more students are spiritual, but don’t engage in a lot of religious activities, Furlong said that being an undergraduate student is the time for students to search and explore.
He said students engage more in activities when they feel a reason or benefit from their involvement.
The environment, feeling needed, and the community that surrounds a student –these are the reasons Furlong said will attract students to becoming more involved in religious activities.
“Young people respond when they can physically become involved with something,” said Furlong.