Finding God at University

May 31, 2022

We all know that our time at university can be a time of new experiences, intellectual exploration, broadening horizons and making new friends. But what about our faith and relationship with God?

University chaplaincies (including our three Jesuit-led Catholic chaplaincies) help provide support and a space for students to deepen their faith. This can involve anything from a hosting a pizza and film night, offering Mass or Eucharistic Adoration, to a talk on an aspect of the Catholic faith or social justice project. Students also need to be fed spiritually, so the Jesuits in Britain help support university chaplains and their students by offering retreats for students and staff in universities, helping students begin their journey of prayer, deepen their faith or discern next steps.

What we offer

The retreats are subsidised, which makes them very inexpensive to host. They provide a great opportunity for a chaplaincy community to make a retreat in daily life (also called a week of guided prayer), and for the offer to be extended to staff and friends of the chaplaincy. We usually run the retreats on an ecumenical basis. We can cater for any number between 10 and 60, and we now offer both face-to-face and online accompaniment. Stephen Hoyland of the Jesuit Institute has been leading these retreats for the last 15 years using teams of trained, volunteer prayer guides who are all supervised during the week.

How it works

Each retreatant is assigned a prayer guide for the week whom they meet for half an hour each day. We organise opening and closing meetings to explain how the week works and to help the participants reflect on their experience, as well as workshops to teach different ways of praying, discernment and explore images of God.

What one chaplain has to say:

I was a university chaplain in London for many years. Each year we had fifty or sixty students involved in the Week of Guided Prayer, organised by the Jesuit Spirituality team. They committed to a time of prayer and reflection, and met one-to-one with a prayer guide each day. These weeks made a profound impression on those involved and on the whole chaplaincy community. For some, it was the first time they had begun the journey of prayer in a personal way. For others, it was a time of conversion or renewal – deepening their faith or discovering their vocation. For all of them, it was a significant time of growing closer to the Lord and listening to his Word. There were so many blessings, and we were so grateful to the prayer guides and organisers for their dedication.
It’s not the kind of project that most chaplaincies or parishes can organise themselves, and it needs the wisdom of experienced leaders to make it work. I wish that every young person in the country could have the opportunity for a “Retreat in Daily Life” like this, and indeed I wish that every parish could offer this possibility as well.

Fr Stephen Wang - former Senior University Chaplain at Newman House Catholic Chaplaincy, London; currently Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome

Find out more

Dates are available in the coming academic year in all three terms, so if you are a university chaplain and are interested in hosting a retreat, please contact Stephen for more information or to speak to a chaplain who has taken part over the years:

If you’re student or staff member who has taken part in one of our weeks of guided prayer, we’d love to have your feedback:

Support our work (please choose ‘Spirituality Outreach’ in the designation field):

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

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