My college journey led me to three different schools over five years as I refined my major, and then transferred until I landed on the right program for me. While I never expected to wind up a near-perpetual transfer student, this did offer me the opportunity to experience three different campuses, student cultures, Catholic centers, and more. And I learned how to seek out and find a community in each environment.
Here’s the good news: whether you’re at a Catholic college, a small liberal arts school, a giant public university, or anything in between, there are people there who are looking for you, too. One of the most beautiful things about college is that everyone—even people who arrived with seemingly half their high school friend group—is embarking on a new chapter of their lives. Everyone is at least somewhat open to the new people and experiences that chapter will bring. No one person is the “new kid”. Everyone is.
How to Find Catholic Friends in College
When it comes to finding Catholic friends in college, above all, keep your heart softened and your eyes opened for opportunities to reach out and interact with people.
Participate in the Sacraments
In college or not, participating in the Sacraments is one of the (if not the) most important, fruitful things we can do. We desperately need the strength and grace we draw from the Eucharist and Reconciliation. We need this grace to grow in relationship with God and to live out our vocations well. This includes the calling to be a student in specific seasons, like in college. As Catholics, we are asked to physically show up to Mass each Sunday. Because there, Jesus physically shows up for us. Our presence matters.
I believe God knew what He was doing when He asked this of us. He knew that someday, we’d live in a world of podcast sermons and Sunday live streams. While those things are wonderful, our physical presence matters. Not only does it give us the opportunity to grow in relationship with the Lord and to receive Him in the Eucharist, it also places us side by side with our brothers and sisters. Together, we stand and kneel and bow and sit as one.
My number one piece of advice for finding Catholic friends in college, or anywhere else for that matter? Live out your own Faith. Show up for Mass, participate in the liturgy, sign up for a holy hour, serve. As you seek to follow Jesus, others doing the same are bound to cross your path.
As Catholics, we are asked to physically show up to Mass each Sunday. Because there, Jesus physically shows up for us. Our presence matters. #BISblog //Click to tweet
Join Catholic Community Groups
Depending on your school, the opportunities to gather with fellow Catholics may be abundant or few. But most schools have at least something. I started college at Franciscan University, where it would honestly be harder to find non-Catholic friends than Catholic ones. Catholic schools are a tremendous blessing in that way! Even still, people were encouraged to gather in specific ways depending on their gifts (music ministry, service groups, mission trips, etc.) and their spiritual charisms and devotions (households, retreats, etc.).
Attending a secular school? Seek out your campus’ Catholic center (often called the Newman Center) to find Bible studies, clubs, and service opportunities through the university’s church. Check the FOCUS directory to see if there are missionaries on your campus.
I was nervous about finding Catholic friends at the gigantic University of Texas after leaving the comfort of my beloved household sisters at Franciscan. But, knowing I thrive and find so much joy in groups of women pursuing holiness together, I looked specifically for Catholic women’s groups on campus. I came across Mu Epsilon Theta, a national Catholic sorority. The friends I made there are just as precious, and called me on to holiness just as much. And for that, I’m forever grateful.
Join Campus Organizations...
...that align with Catholic teachings or culture.
Just because you’re Catholic and desire friendships with people of the same Faith doesn’t mean that church is the only place to form those relationships. Is there a cause that God has burdened your heart with, a type of service you feel called to, or a gift you can use to bring light to others? Don’t be afraid to seek out campus groups that aren’t specifically religious. If the mission of that organization corresponds with a Catholic teaching or prominent aspect of Catholic culture, chances are, you’ll find other Catholics (who share one of your passions!) there.
Get creative! Look into pro-life organizations, Habitat for Humanity, groups that serve the poor and vulnerable, opportunities to work with children or the elderly, philosophical discussion groups, campus choirs, art history clubs, and so much more.
I’m an introvert through and through, so putting myself out there does not come naturally to me. But do you want to know how I met at least half of my college friends? I went up to them and genuinely complimented something about their outfit. I’m not exaggerating. I’m willing to bet it’s around 50%. This is an especially easy thing to do at Mass when people are dressed up!
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to go first. To be the person who goes out of their way to say, "Hi, can I help you with that?" or "Are you new here?" or "I love your shoes!" I think we all occasionally fall into the trap of believing that we’re lonelier than everyone else. That it’s someone else’s job to approach us. But that’s a lie. More often than not, we can take responsibility for filling our lives with friendships. It just takes a little bit of bravery and vulnerability.
Pray for True Friends
Never believe the cultural misconception that prayer is passive. Prayer, on the contrary, is one of the most powerful things we can do. Ask God to put holy friends in your path. Pray to become a good friend yourself and to show up for people well. Pray for the boldness to say hello first, to go to an event at church even though you won’t know anyone there (yet!), or to start a Catholic group on campus. God created us to walk alongside one another and He has a perfect plan for the relationships you’ll foster in college.
God created us to walk alongside one another and He has a perfect plan for the relationships you’ll foster in college. #BISblog //Click to tweet
If you’ve been in college for a few years or have already graduated, what wisdom do you have to share with new college students about making Catholic friends?
How to Find Catholic Friends in College #BISblog //Click to tweet