Campus MinistryNancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service
Participation in campus ministry programs increases the likelihood that college men will consider a vocation to the priesthood and plays a significant role in other aspects of Catholics' faith lives after college, according to a new study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.
The study by CARA researchers Paul Perl and Bryan T. Froehle said campus ministry participation increased the frequency with which Catholics currently attend Mass, the level of involvement in parish and other religious activities and the likelihood that they had donated money to a parish or other church organization.
Some of the differences were significantly larger for those who attended non-Catholic colleges than for those who attended Catholic schools.
"This survey shows the importance of campus ministry activities in the day-to-day lives of Catholics," said Perl in a July 1 statement. "We see that involvement on a college campus with church-related activities opens people up to a new level of commitment to their church."
Based on telephone interviews with 1,203 college-educated Americans who identified themselves as Catholics, the survey divided the respondents into four groups: those who attended a Catholic college and participated in campus ministry (5 percent of the total); those who did not attend a Catholic college but participated in campus ministry (10 percent); those who attended a Catholic college but did not participate in campus ministry (12 percent); and those who did not attend a Catholic college or participate in campus ministry (73 percent).
Depending on the subgroup cited, the margin of error for the survey ranged from plus or minus 3.3 percentage points to as high as 13 percentage points.
The CARA study found little relationship between present Mass attendance and campus ministry participation for those who attended Catholic colleges.
But among those who attended non-Catholic colleges, 81percent of those who participated in campus ministry said they currently attend Mass at least a few times a month, compared to 62 percent of those who did not participate in campus ministry.
Similarly, 72 percent of those who participated in campus ministry at a non-Catholic college said they are at least "a little involved" in parish and other religious activities, compared to 54 percent of those who did not participate in campus ministry.
Asked whether their household had donated to a Catholic parish or other Catholic organization during the previous year, 91 percent of campus ministry participants and 76 percent of nonparticipants at non-Catholic colleges said they had. The difference for those who attended Catholic colleges was not statistically significant, the CARA researchers said.
Among men who attended a Catholic college, 63 percent of campus ministry participants said they had given at least some consideration to becoming a priest or religious brother at some point in their lives. In comparison, only 37 percent of nonparticipants gave it any consideration.
Nearly half (48 percent) of men who attended non-Catholic colleges but participated in campus ministry programs had considered a vocation, while only 21 percent of those who did not participate in campus ministry had considered one.
For women, the survey found, the likelihood of considering a vocation to the religious life was more closely linked to attendance at a Catholic college than to participation in campus ministry.
Campus ministry participants also were significantly more likely than nonparticipants to report that they had encouraged another person to pursue a vocation.
The report -- titled "Exploring the Impact of Campus Ministry on Catholics in the United States" -- was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Education.
In a note at the end of the report, the CARA researchers said that "the existence of correlations between campus ministry participation and several aspects of religious commitment does not necessarily mean that the former has caused the latter."
"For example, it is possible that the reason some Catholics participated in campus ministry in college while others did not is that the participants were relatively more religiously committed than nonparticipants to begin with and that their participation did not further increase their relatively stronger religious commitment," they said.