Father Christopher Colavito, TCNJ Catholic chaplain, proclaims the Gospel during the Mass with Bishop O'Connell.
Father Christopher Colavito, TCNJ Catholic chaplain, proclaims the Gospel during the Mass with Bishop O'Connell.
The relationship between faith and religion was unpacked for Catholic campus ministry members and friends at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, during a visit by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

Bishop O’Connell was invited to celebrate the Oct. 30 Mass, held in the college’s Spiritual Center, by Catholic chaplain Father Christopher Colavito. During his homily, Bishop explained that “faith is what we believe in,” while “religion is a different thing, related to faith, rooted in faith, flowing from faith.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Mass at TCNJ

“Faith is our acceptance of and connection with truth, something that our minds grasp but without proof,” the Bishop said, citing numerous Scripture passages and quotes from theologians.

“Religion is a way of organizing our faith, of bringing the truths of what we believe together, of expressing our faith in ways that we share with others who believe,” Bishop O’Connell continued. “Faith and religion, though different, go hand in hand and need each other, depend upon each other. Faith leads to religion and religion reflects faith.”

With student participation picking up again after a slight decline since the pandemic, the campus ministry program now welcomes between 70 and 80 students at one of two scheduled Sunday Masses, according to Father Colavito.  Through the ministry, students also are encouraged to take part in social service events, weekly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confession.

In response to several students who expressed an interest in becoming Catholic, Father Colavito established an on-campus Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process and is preparing them to receive their Sacraments at the 2023 Easter Vigil in nearby Incarnation Church.

“I was pleasantly surprised at the number of students who wanted to become Roman Catholic,” Father Colavito said, noting that the group includes one catechumen (who will be baptized, confirmed and receive First Eucharist), two candidates (who will be confirmed and receive First Eucharist) and one Orthodox Christian who will make a Profession of Faith and enter into the corresponding Eastern Catholic Church tradition.

After the Mass, Bishop O’Connell took photos with the students and received a number of gifts, including a TCNJ sweater and sweatshirt.

Several students shared their feelings about their faith and having the Bishop visit.  Raised in devout Catholic homes, freshmen Eddie Young and Christina Gorman said they wanted to continue practicing their faith while in college.

“There aren’t any Catholic churches within walking distance of our campus,” said Young, who is from North Jersey. “The campus ministry gives us a great opportunity to attend Mass.”

Gorman, a member of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, and graduate of Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, said that campus ministry allows her to meet Catholic peers “who share the same values I do.”

Both Young and Gorman added they look forward to being part of the diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Nov. 12.

Junio Lauren Farrell, who is a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, also appreciates meeting other Catholic students through campus ministry.

“This is a great place, and there is a real sense of community here,” Farrell said, then noted that she has even brought fellow students who were not Catholic to Mass.