If you’re looking to explore or strengthen your religious and spiritual beliefs during college, you’re not alone! According to Niche’s Class of 2024 Fall Survey, which gathered insights from over 24,000 high school seniors, religious life is the fastest growing desirable feature on a university campus.
At University of the Pacific, Religious and Spiritual Life works in collaboration with the university community to provide you with diverse opportunities and spaces to explore many different faith traditions and practices.
“Our mission is to engage all of our students, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey,” said Reverend Kim Montenegro, director of Religious and Spiritual Life. “We support them in discovering themselves and either beginning or continuing on their spiritual journey.”
The value of exploring your spirituality in college
Whether you grew up in a religious household or have never spent much time thinking about spirituality or religion, Montenegro believes that college is a crucial time to explore your beliefs.
“It may be the first time you’re considering these thoughts and perspectives on your own without your parents, so it’s really important that you begin to think critically about them,” said Montenegro. “College is the time to be exposed to a whole bunch of different things as we grow into a more diverse community and world.”
Montenegro and her team are dedicated to cultivating an environment where students feel free to engage with religious and spiritual ideas and practices on campus without fear or judgment.
“We always want to make sure our students are engaged in respectful communication and dialogue, but one that gets us thinking and in which we’re able to see the threads of sacredness throughout all of our traditions,” she said.
Getting started with Religious and Spiritual Life
So how should you get started? Montenegro said the first step can be as simple as a conversation.
“Come talk to me, or when people are out tabling, stop and talk! In our clubs, people are always eager to talk to you and have a conversation,” she said.
There is a wide variety of religious and spiritual communities active on campus at Pacific, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, secular and interfaith groups. If you can’t find a group you’re looking for, you can also reach out to Religious and Spiritual Life to learn about how to start a new campus organization.
Religious and Spiritual Life also hosts events through the academic year to encourage students to learn more about the different religious organizations on campus, including an interfaith barbecue at the beginning of the fall semester each year.
“That kind of allows people to begin to feel things out and see if there is a particular group of people or a club that they feel particularly at home with,” explained Montenegro.
Montenegro also recommended being open to trying a certain service or group a few times before you make up your mind about it.
“The first time you’re just figuring out what to do, just the logistics: ‘Where am I? What am I doing? Do we sit? Do we stand?’ So sometimes you need to go a couple of times to get the rhythm, and then after that you can figure out how you felt about it,” she said.
Religious and Spiritual Life spaces on campus
In addition to religious organizations and student clubs, Pacific offers a variety of spaces for worship, prayer and meditation on campus. Morris Chapel, a multifaith space, serves as a religious and spiritual center for the university and welcomes students of all religious and non-faith beliefs and traditions.
Next door to Morris Chapel, the Sacred Space is another interfaith location used by Muslim, Jewish and students of all religious traditions to pray and meditate. Outdoors, the Meditation Garden also offers a quiet space for prayer and reflection. There are also designated prayer spaces located around campus, including in the library, so students don’t need to leave to do their daily prayers in the middle of studying.
“We want everyone to feel like they are able to freely practice their faith and religion as easily as anyone else’s on campus,” said Montenegro.
However, if there isn’t a space that represents your specific faith tradition on campus, Pacific’s Religious and Spiritual Life team also has relationships with faith communities in Stockton and can connect you with them.
“Stockton is really uniquely situated because it has been a historically immigrant community and has some very rich religious communities,” said Montenegro. “For example, we have the oldest Sikh temple in the United States and the oldest Jewish synagogue west of the Rockies. So, we have some really amazing ways in which our students are able to engage in the community.”
To learn more about Religious and Spiritual Life at Pacific, reach out to the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.946.2538. You can also visit Religious and Spiritual Life in person at Sears Hall (connected to Morris Chapel).