Contrary to the trend during the 1960s, college students are now turning to religion for help in answering questions about life's problems.
That's the opinion of the Rev. Thomas DeMan, who has ministered for 22 years on university campuses.The Rev. DeMan will be installed as the new pastor of St. Catherine's Catholic Church and Newman Center at the University of Utah early next month. His appointment coincides with the opening of the new school year at the U.
Before coming to Utah six weeks ago, the Rev. DeMan was director of the Newman Center at the University of Arizona for seven years. He celebrated his silver anniversary as a priest last year.
Although he has been in Utah only a short time, he has already set goals for "a greater outreach to the undergraduate community."
He said the last pastor at the Newman Center was involved with building projects and his energies were directed towards "brick and mortar." However, the Rev. DeMan's energies will focus on a different kind of construction - "building a stronger student outreach program."
His goals have been influenced considerably by the research he did for his recently published book, "Campus Ministry, 1908-1988." The manual answers questions like "Have students changed much over the years?" and "What are the attitudes of college students today about religion?"
He said when he started his campus ministry in Berkeley during the 1960s, he found students indifferent toward religion. Today, many of them - particularly the "shakers and makers" on college campuses - are turning to religion for help, he said.
"They are looking for answers regarding the problems and crises in the world."
The Rev. DeMan pointed out that in the 1960s, pastors at colleges felt they were getting somewhere when they could get a college student to move from being an atheist to an agnostic.
"Today, few college students are atheists," he said, adding that college students today are looking for values. If they don't find them in their church, they will "shop around" in other churches until they do find them.
"Generally speaking, college students will challenge me as a preacher," he said. "They will demand that I give a good sermon."
The Rev. DeMan will be installed Oct. 2 at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Catherine's Catholic Church and Newman Center, 1327 E. Second South.
As a part of the installation, he will be presented with various objects. As they are brought forward, he will be asked if he is prepared to commit himself to serving in specific areas. For example, when presented with the scriptures, he will be asked if he is prepared to teach the word of God.
Another of the objects will be a collection basket. "A lot of my job will be paying the bills," he said.
After he is installed, the Rev. DeMan will focus on his outreach program.
Of the approximately 25,000 students who will attend the U. this year, he said about 8 percent of them will be Catholic.
"I figure there will be about 400 active Catholics."
The Newman Center will provide a number of services for any interested student - scripture and theology classes, a lounge area where students can study and visit, and a number of social activities throughout the year. He has planned a student retreat to the Uinta mountains next month.
He said that although some of the "active" Catholics will not participate in the programs provided by the Newman Center, many will. And he's certain those who do will find the experiences rewarding.