VANESSA SANTILLI | CATHOLIC REGISTER
Lucy Schmidt is active in the university pro-life club, choir, campus chaplaincy and social justice ministry.
TORONTO - For Lucy Schmidt, getting involved in the faith groups available on campus at Toronto's University of St. Michael's College has made her university experience incredible.
A second-year student at the Catholic college on the University of Toronto campus, Schmidt stays busy outside the classroom as president of the university's pro-life club, a member of the liturgical choir, part of campus chaplaincy and an Out of the Cold program co-ordinator.
"Choosing a Catholic university adds a whole different level to your university experience," said Schmidt, a Christianity and culture major in the concurrent education program.
"I know when students are applying, they're thinking about their academic experience but a huge part of it is student life. And a huge part of student life is growing in faith and finding like-minded people who can help you do that."
Heather FitzGerald, registrar at St. Jerome's University, a public Roman Catholic university federated with the University of Waterloo, said Catholic students benefit from attending Catholic universities because of the support they receive.
"There's the academic aspects, the emotional aspects, the social aspects and the spiritual aspects that fill a person's life and through attending a Catholic institution you can study in an environment where you can have all of those different aspects nurtured," said FitzGerald.
The university offers students a campus ministry group whose main focus is to respond to the call of social justice through community outreach, she said.
"It provides an opportunity for students to explore the spiritual dimensions of life and to grow in global awareness."
Specifically, St. Jerome's offers the Beyond Borders program, which sends students on international service learning trips as a way of creating leaders for the service of the community and the Church, said FitzGerald.
"It's a credit program where students study academic courses through the religious studies program and during their third semester, after completing their course work, they're sent abroad to volunteer in a Third World country."
FitzGerald said social justice is a big part of what sets Catholic universities apart.
At St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, a Catholic undergraduate institution, director of communications Jeffrey Carleton said there are three areas for students interested in the Catholic faith, regardless of their religious background.
The liberal arts university offers a Catholic studies program, has an active campus ministry group and places a strong emphasis on social justice.
"We're exclusively liberal arts . . . and when you look at the range of liberal arts programs that we offer, a student who would be interested in social justice would find a lot of courses, extracurriculars and student organizations interested in social justice issues."
As for Schmidt, she's happy with her choice to attend a Catholic institution. "I fit in so well and I think any Catholic youth could too."