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University chaplains on in-service day

chaplain_01.jpgCN3 (Chaplains Network at Third Level) had its Spring in-service day at St. Stephen’s chaplaincy, UCD Belfield, on Friday 8 May. The topic: how to communicate, to an increasingly secular and often sceptical audience, the uniqueness and specificity of the chaplain’s role. This theme echoes a concern among chaplains, voiced at CN3’s AGM in January, that their role is often narrowly conceived and perceived (‘Call in the chaplain when someone dies’) and that therefore there is a need to better communicate, to staff and students alike, their message and the breadth and depth of their service. Pat Coyle, Manager of JCC, ably assisted the chaplains in this task. Leon Ó Giollain SJ (pictured here), a chaplain in UCD, reports on the day below.

Report on In-Service Day by Leon Ó Giollain SJ

With consummate skill as a communicator herself, Pat Coyle first got us to ‘tell our stories’ to each other, and then to a wider audience via (mock) radio interviews. Six volunteers agreed to be interviewed and ‘analysed’ for learning purposes. Noone was ridiculed or even embarrassed! Indeed, Pat was high in the interviewees’ praise and encouraged the body of chaplains to make use of the media to ‘show’ (rather than tell) the excellent work being done.

The stories themselves showed the wide spectrum of issues chaplains deal with in their ministry, some often hidden from public view and alarming, such as ‘Starving Students’, or the increasing prevalence of ‘Eating Disorders’ or the problem of ‘Loneliness’ and the urgency of  creating Christian community on campus; others cute and quirky such as ‘Labyrinthine Spirituality in an inter-faith context’; others more sobre and serious, such as the pan-European meeting of students in Rome (July 2009) – 5000 students expected – on the theme of ‘Being Christian in a University’, etc.  Pat put it very well when she said: ‘These stories show that you are in touch with students on the ground…As a parent, I would be happy to know that there were people like you in the College which my children attend’.

Our hope as a CN3 organisation is to develop the communications aspect of our ministry, so that the light that is often hidden, becomes more visible. At a very practical level, this is vital, since, if chaplains are to be invited to continue their unique service to students, then that service must be known and valued by all concerned.

Leon Ó Giolláin S.J. (Chair, CN3).