Although founded and steeped in Catholic tradition, Mount Carmel College of Nursing nurtures and fosters spiritual growth among students, faculty and staff of all faith traditions. It is not a new phenomenon and has its roots in the values of Mount Carmel’s founding congregation, the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Although they’ve taken on different names over the years, today we know them as the Trinity Health Core Values of Reverence, Commitment to Those Who Are Poor, Justice, Stewardship, Integrity, Compassion and Excellence.
Ellen O’Shaughnessy, D. Min., Director of Campus Ministry, says that students often find this stage of life a place where they seek their “place in context with their respective faith backgrounds. Some without a religious background are seekers and are looking for meaning, spirituality and community. Regardless, a strong theme resonates among them: giving to others, serving others. Various faith backgrounds are all expressions of the way we belong to God—beautiful diadems or jewels that make up the presence of God among us.”
Cheryl Mace, Chief Mission Leader for Mount Carmel East, West and Grove City, who formerly worked at MCCN as Coordinator for MCCN-FMC and Student Development Specialist, concurs. “Helping balance school and life is part of the spiritual journey for a student. Taking that inner journey is the most important journey any of us can make. It brings an awareness of who you are and how you fit in the scheme of things. This is the time when students ask ,‘Where do I fit?’ ‘Do my core values sync with those of the College? With the discipline of nursing? With the hospital setting?’”
Although certainly all students ponder their spirituality personally, Campus Ministry serves as the formal channel to do so with others on the same journey. Using the mantra “it’s better together than alone,” Campus Ministry enables students to come together on a weekly basis to discuss their thoughts, reflections, prayers, concerns and outreach. “As we encourage one another we reach out to others,” said O’Shaughnessy.
Campus Ministry welcomes and includes students of all faith traditions. Participants include Roman Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Vineyard, Young Life and students of the Jewish and Muslim faith traditions. Some students attend their respective places of worship regularly and some are more loosely connected to their religious congregations.
Each meeting has a giving component as well as an encouraging theme. In November, Campus Ministry participants prayed the theme of “Thanksgiving and Forgiving.” In October, the theme was “Saints in Students’ Lives.” In each case, the theme serves to teach students how to call on faith in the midst of stress and adjustment. When participating students cannot attend, Campus Ministry reaches out via check-ins to maintain the connection and offer support if needed.
“I am involved in campus ministry because of the opportunity to meet weekly to discuss the different aspects of how God is a part of our lives: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Going to campus ministry is always a refreshing break from reality and a boost of guidance for the week,” said Elizabeth Wells.
Nicole Dunlap says that “Campus Ministry has made a huge positive difference in me since I joined. It is, for me, my therapy for one hour every Monday just to talk about being connected with the Lord as well as with other people. It has given me the courage to be more social about my faith, Roman Catholicism. What that means to me is being connected with the Lord - I talk with Him every Saturday in adoration about what has been bothering me and He listens to me. For me it is therapy, it helps me clear my mind from the problems I am having.”
In addition to the weekly meetings, Campus Ministry also serves the greater MCCN community by organizing College programs like the Thanksgiving Interfaith Prayer Service, during which individuals representing different faiths, such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism, reflected on what their faith means to them.
As a distinct office of MCCN, Campus Ministry is an integral part of the College and as such is included in planning and events such as Orientation, Convocation, the recent Presidential Inauguration and others. “I’m grateful for how I can work with administration, faculty and staff, for being part of Convocation, for being in community and meeting with them as frequently as I do,” said O’Shaughnessy.
Campus Ministry also participates in giving opportunities and spiritual retreats in conjunction with Downtowners Campus Ministry, which provides for the campus ministry needs of six colleges and universities located near downtown: Capital University Law School, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus State Community College, DeVry University, Franklin University, and MCCN.
MCCN and Downtowners Campus Ministry have been working together for more than 30 years. Sister Louisita from MCCN was on the board for the Downtowners, during which time O’Shaughnessy, who worked for Downtowners, became acquainted with MCCN and frequently made trips to campus for ministry activities. After the departure of MCCN’s previous director of Campus Ministry, O’Shaughnessy took on the role in addition to her duties with the Downtowners ministry.
Through this partnership, MCCN Campus Ministry students have taken part in spiritual retreats and mission opportunities. Some of the retreats have included week-long trips to Washington, D.C. this past May and in 2012; the October retreat at the Cincinnati Zoo celebrating the Feast of St. Francis; the annual retreat over the upcoming Martin Luther King Day weekend January 16-18 at the United Church of Christ Templed Hills and the upcoming mission trip to Washington, D.C. in 2015. “When students participate, they’re not just doing mission activity; the entire experience is rooted in shared prayer that gives meaning to that service” said O’Shaughnessy.
In addition to participating with the rest of the MCCN campus community in the Avondale holiday giving program, Campus Ministry students also will participate with Downtowners in Christmas activities for Bethlehem on Broad Street, a multi-church partnership to make Christmas more joyful for those in need. Students will lead children’s activities and face painting while 1,200 families receive food boxes. On Christmas Day, students will help serve dinner to the more than 900 expected homeless people.
If you would like to get involved with Campus Ministry, they meet every Monday at noon in the Rec Room, unless another all College event is taking place. All are welcome.