There are many clubs, organizations and communities at Keene State College for students to join that reflect different aspects of their identity. Several of these organizations exist to serve KSC students’ different religious affiliations. These organizations include CRU, Hillel, Interfaith Community Club and the Catholic Student Organization.
Director of The Newman Center and Campus Minister Cindy Cheshire is available upon invitation to serve KSC students, though she is not directly affiliated with the college. Although Cheshire herself is Catholic, she said that she functions on-campus as a generalist, meaning that she will support any student’s spirituality.
“Everyone has spirituality, whether or not they have religion. It’s just a part of human development. When I’m on campus… I’m just trying to make sure that people are attending to that spiritual part of themselves,” Cheshire said
KSC senior Courtney Janvrin has been involved in the Catholic Student Organization the entire time she has been attending the college. She said she started going to the organization’s meetings as a first year, became the treasurer as sophomore, and then vice president as a junior. Janvrin is currently President of the Catholic Student Organization.
Janvrin said it is really easy to get involved. The organization’s meetings are non-mandatory and everybody’s welcome. “You don’t have to be Catholic at all. Any religion or non-religion is absolutely welcome,” said Janvrin.
KSC students meet in the L.P. Young Student Center at 6:45 on Sunday nights and walk over to The Newman Center together, where their meetings are held. Each week, the Catholic Student Organization has a discussion that focuses on a specific topic, a prayer activity, games and time for fellowship.
The Newman Center, which is operated out of St. Bernard Church on Main Street, is open to any community members and has a projector, board games, chess, a pool table, books, a kitchen and plenty of space with couches and bean bags to hang out in. “It’s just a really great space for celebrating community,” Janvrin said.
However, community is not the only goal of campus ministry. Every year, the Catholic Student Organization and Interfaith Community Club work together to host the event Ask a Blank. The organizations brings in representatives from different religious affiliations in hope that students will ask questions and start conversations. This includes Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and many others. The tag-line for the event is “Conversation, not conversion.”
The purpose of campus ministry is for students to be able to develop their spiritual identities without feeling alone.
Cheshire said, “College is…a point when you’re moving from the faith of your parents into your own faith. That’s an important step, but it’s also a very tumultuous step. There’s lots of really hard questions, lots of experimenting, lots of stepping out of your comfort zone. The Newman Center is a place where students can go through that together.”
Of course, to get involved with campus ministry, you do need to know about it, which Janvrin said she does not think many students do.
“I don’t think [campus ministry] is super well-known, because a lot of people don’t talk about faith at… the college age,” said Janvrin. She added that she thinks people who are really looking for a faith based community will be able to find one, because there are many options on-campus.
KSC first year Nathan Houle said he does not know much about campus ministry, but thinks it is a good thing to have here at KSC. “It’s good that [students can] have a place to go for what they believe in, where they can be surrounded by peers who also share those same beliefs,” Houle said.
Kalila Brooks can be contacted at email@example.com