From critiqued to connected

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Bethel’s outlets for Catholics are changing.

By Jasmine Johnson

Catholic students on campus are working to finalize a club for themselves and their peers from Catholic traditions. The reason? Catholics don’t always feel accepted at Bethel, a university with Swedish baptist roots.

Born and raised in a Catholic home, sophomore neuroscience major Nina Lebrun never anticipated the stereotypes by which her peers at Bethel would categorize her. People assumed she was judgmental and earned her faith by doing, rather than believing.

When LeBrun shared her beliefs with others, she often felt looked down upon.

“I told a guy that I was Catholic and he visibly cringed,” LeBrun said.

In addition to the negative remarks she absorbed from her peers, LeBrun was unable to attend mass on weekends. She checked the shuttle posters around campus, but reached a dead end.

“I don’t have a car on campus, so it’s harder for me to get to a Catholic church when I’m at school,” LeBrun said. “I looked my first week of school and there’s not even one.”

Although a few Catholic parishes have been added to Bethel’s church directory, they are still excluded from the shuttle service.

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Emily Forster now attends St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which is four minutes away from Bethel and not available for the weekend shuttling service. | Photo by Jasmine Johnson

Emily Forster attended Bethel for two years and experienced similar encounters to LeBrun. Forster wrote an opinion article in the Clarion, “I am a Christian, too,” that addressed the need for respect and open-mindedness when interacting with diverse faith traditions.

 

On the first day of a philosophy class, Forster says she had to read aloud from a handout that said she could not go back to the Catholic church.

“I’m not asking for priests, but if there are Catholic students, there ought to be Catholic professors,” Forster said.

The combination of continuous misunderstandings and lack of Catholic opportunities caused Forster to leave Bethel and further her studies online.

In response to the lack of Catholic outlets, plans for a new communal space emerged. Junior Meghan Mattheisen proposed the formation of a Catholic club at Bethel. She approached philosophy professor Dan Yim with this idea, and he agreed to fulfill the faculty sponsor role.

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St. John the Baptist, along with the Catholic church community, display the crucifix rather than a barren cross. | Photo by Jasmine Johnson

“If Bethel calls itself a ‘Christian’ school, we should be a welcoming place for Christians of all traditions,” Yim said. “Why not have a club that could also serve as a bridge for forming good relationships across the Catholic-Protestant divide?”

The Catholic Student Association accepted 15 initial signatures March 27 to take the next step towards becoming an official Bethel Student Government club.

“I hope that it makes people feel more connected on campus, regardless of their background or their beliefs,” Mattheisen said.

With past criticisms and upcoming changes for Catholic students in mind, LeBrun emphasized the underlying connection among all Bethel members. No matter how wide the denominational divide stretches, the same Christian covenantal community remains.

“We all have the same mission,” LeBrun said. “We all want to live like Jesus.”

 

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