Why College Chaplaincy?

Post Author: Kate Smanik Moyes

An Imaginary Dialogue Between a College Student and Her Chaplain

Chaplain: That sounds fine to me. What are you researching?

S: Well, we were supposed to interview a professional woman about her job. I was kinda curious about
why you are a chaplain so I thought I’d ask you, if that’s okay, that is…um, well, and if you have time…

C: That sounds good to me. I’ve got some spare time now. Ask away.

S: So why are you a chaplain?

C: I’ve always understood it to be a call.

S: A call?

C: Something God has asked me to do, not in so many words, but through my life experiences. When I was a sophomore in college, I came to the realization that I had some of the gifts that indicate a call to ministry. It was a scary prospect, but at the same time, the minute I said the words out loud I felt at peace and a little excited. That inner sense of peace and excitement all at once has always been an indicator to me that the Holy Spirit is involved in whatever decision I’m about to make. I had the same feeling about volunteering in Northern Ireland for a year and about coming to Wilson.

But back to your question, at that point I really loved my college chaplain. She was a fantastic role model, and I idolized her a little. Well, maybe more than a little. I guess at the time I thought, “I would hate to work in a church, but I could totally work at a college. That sounds like fun.” Working in a church sounded stifling at the time while working at a college sounded liberating. I spent a lot of time exploring all of the ministry options while I was in graduate school, and after all that searching I came back around to the same place. This is the work I love.

S: What do you love about it?

C: A lot of things. College students live in the space between childhood and adulthood. You are forming your adult beliefs and values while exploring what it means to no longer be a child. It is an exciting time in your lives. And it’s exciting for me. I love to meet you when you enter Wilson as a first year student, and I’m often astounded by what amazing young women you have become when you graduate. (pauses) I guess the other reason that I love this work is that I just plain love people. I like to get to know you, to see what you will do next, to laugh and to cry with you. It’s a gift to walk with students when they are at this time in their lives.

Oh, and I really love the hours. I’m not a morning person so I really like the fact that during the academic year I’m not usually needed in the office before 9:3 am or so. It feels like a total luxury to sleep in until 8am. I also love running late night programs even when they exhaust me. I’m at my best between 6pm and midnight so it just suits who I am. That might sound crazy, and sometimes after a really long week I think it actually is crazy. But I still love it.

S: What do you hate about it?

C: Well, I’m not a fan of paperwork, and I have a little bit of a phobia about phone calls. I hate to talk on the phone. But it’s worth the paperwork on my desk and the necessary evil of talking on the phone in order to do the rest of the work. I suppose in an ideal world I’d give all the paperwork and business-y stuff to someone else and just spend all of my time planning events and talking with the students, faculty, and staff of the college. But working as a one woman office in a small college gives me the experience of getting to know all aspects of a chaplaincy. I figure that will be great information for the future.

I also find that by the end of each semester I am completely exhausted. I think that to do the work well you have to be able to really push yourself to work exceptionally hard through the semester, understanding that there will be a bit of a break in the summer. When graduation comes each year I find myself wondering if I will be able to do it again, but by August I’m bored out of my mind and can’t wait for the students to return. There are moments when I wish for a more balanced year, but I don’t think that any job really has that.

S: Ok, final question. If someone else wanted to become a chaplain what would you tell them?

C: Hmmmm. I guess I would tell them to start by listening to the spirit by looking at their own gifts. We each have unique talents that we can use in a variety of ways. In high school I thought I really wanted to be a professor, but that doesn’t quite suit my set of skills. Being honest with myself about what I was good at led me to a call that fits me. Next, I would tell them to start in college by getting involved in their own chaplain’s office. It’s always good to try to look at a job from the inside. Then, while in seminary, look for an internship that would allow them to explore the field. Finally, talk to other chaplains to see what they do. You can track people down through the National Association of College and University Chaplains (www.nacuc.net) or by asking people in your faith community if they know any chaplains. Or, just give me a call!

S: Thank you. This was actually kind of interesting.

C: Not a problem. Glad it wasn’t too tedious! Good luck writing your paper.

S: Thanks!

Kate Smanik Moyes is the Helen Carnell Eden Chaplain at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In her spare time she knits, reads, and tries to get to the big city as often as possible.  She loves to be interviewed by students.

Image by: Tim Gouw
Used with permission
1 reply
  1. Callista
    Callista says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve enjoyed being interviewed by students lately too. Not sure if I want to know what they write about me or chaplaincy in the end, but the process is a fun way to connect with students and reflect on the work we do!


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