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Journeys of faith thrive at Scottish universities

Beginning in this week’s SCO, the Scottish Network of Catholic Students revamps Strong in Faith to created a new SCO monthly section by Catholic students called FAITH BY DEGREES

By Michael Kearns

Interview with Gabriele Franchi De’ Cavalieri, president of the Scottish Network of Catholic Students, who is a phd student in economics at Glasgow University, and Clare Logan, a 3rd year PE teaching student at UWS, who is the network’s event coordinator.

What is the Scottish Network of Catholic Students?

Clare: The SNCS is an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, within its department for the laity, which is run by Archbishop Leo Cushley and Bishop John Keenan. The network brings together the Catholic groups, societies and associations from each of our Scottish Universities, and helps to set up similar groups in those Universities where there isn’t one currently.

Why was it formed and what are its goals?

Clare: The network was formed in July 2013 in order to help try to deal with two issues, which it was felt young Catholics are currently facing in Scotland. Firstly, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of opportunities for people our age to be able to ‘cultivate’ their Faith and join a strong community of students. And secondly, we really feel that students and student life can be vital to re-engaging the Catholic faith with what is an increasingly secular society.

Gabriele: We use the traditional Catholic principle of subsidiarity, meaning that the Network helps local university groups rather than directs them, and facilitates co-operation between them, really so that we can make sure we are providing more opportunities for young people on campuses to develop their Faith and for the Church to be more integrated into university life.

Clare: Some of the universities have a long history of having very fruitful Catholic societies and associations, the network wants to see that same positive standard being achieved across the board.

How do the individual Catholic associations and societies benefit from the network’s existence?

Clare: In many ways. Regular meetings are organised for members from the different universities in which everyone is able to exchange ideas and discuss success stories from each of the individual associations and societies. The network also helps with ‘national profile’ advertising on behalf of each of the groups, through the SNCS Facebook and Twitter pages.

Gabriele: And crucially, the network is also able to offer societies and associations financial support, which can be a much needed boost, especially for the newly-established chaplaincies. In addition, the network organises a spiritual retreat for board members and a summer pilgrimage for all students involved with the Catholic societies and associations. We also go into schools to talk to the pupils about the work of our constituent groups as well as attending various events such as the Caritas Award in order to engage and encourage future students to get involved with their Catholic society/association when they reach university.

What are your views on the general climate and direction of student Catholicism in Scotland today?

Clare: I’d say that now there is a really positive climate as far as Catholic students in Scotland are concerned. There is a lot more going on now than in recent years, especially in student-led activities at the universities which don’t have Catholic chaplains, as well as at those which do. It’s great that the bishop’s conference has endorsed and embraced the movement in this direction and in the work of the network which we hope will help us even further along the path.

Gabriele: It speaks to a wider ‘awakening,’ as it were, that is taking place amongst the laity in general, but particularly the youth, which is exactly what the Church wants to see in the context of the New Evangelisation.

What do you hope to see in the future?

Gabriele: What I really hope is that this new wind of change and renewal that we are witnessing among university students reaches out to the parishes as well. I hope that the students who have experienced the importance of living their faith in a vibrant community at university will go back to their parishes and put what they have learned  during their time at university at the service of their local community.

Clare: That’s really one of the main points of a university Catholic Society or Association. To help provide well-formed young adults for the parishes and families of Scotland into the future.

What can we expect to read in Faith by Degrees in future?

Gabriele: Faith by Degrees will be a monthly column, with contributions from all of the student groups in the network. Each month we’ll tell you something about our student activities in the chaplaincies across Scotland.

Clare: The aim is to share with the wider Scottish Catholic community what young people are thinking, discussing and reflecting upon, and also to give some hope: the Faith is much more alive in many of our young people today than what most people think.


— What do you think about this new monthly section in the SCO? Have your say on the Scottish Network of Catholic Students Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/scotncs



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