Two nuns recently swung by Jack Magee’s Pub and Grill on campus to chat with students. While the setting was casual, the topic was serious.
The Good Shepherd Parish sisters, Elaine Lachance and Joanne Roy, work at the Esther Residence in Saco, Maine, which is a faith-based program for women. Along with Sister Elaine and Sister Joanne, three women in the program participated in the event. The adult women living in Esther House arrive there after being released from jail or from treatment programs, and the sisters help transition them back to society.
The event was part of a new campus series called Theology on Tap, organized by the Bowdoin Catholic Student Union. This year Jack Lucy ’17 and Suzanne Casey ’16 are leading the CSU.
Holding discussions about faith or social issues in a pub is not an original idea, Lucy said. Other Catholic college groups and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland organize similar events. But in the past it’s been difficult for Bowdoin students to participate in events off campus, Casey said, so she and Lucy decided to start a homegrown version of Theology on Tap.
Casey said the informal nature of the program helps dispel some of the stereotypes of Catholic students as perhaps uptight or studious to the point of being shut-ins. “Catholic people go to bars,” she said. “They drink, have fun, and care about a lot of the topics the rest of the campus does.”
Theology on Tap is part of a larger push by the Catholic Student Union to make it comfortable for students to explore their faith while they’re at college. “For me and a lot of college students, it’s tough to come out of the Catholic closet. It’s hard to be a person of faith with all the stigmas associated with it,” Casey said. Lucy added that the CSU offers support to students who want to learn more about themselves and their religion. “Your faith is strongest when there is an aspect of community,” he said.
Lucy and Casey noted that many Catholic students drift away from their religion at college. After growing up in a Catholic family in Worcester, Mass., Casey admitted she herself took some time off from attending Mass her first year at Bowdoin. Gradually, she began returning to church, finally becoming more committed during her study abroad semester in Ireland. “A lot of my growth through my college career has to do with my faith and growing with that,” she said. “I’m my best self. You remember your roots and your family and how you have been taught, and all these values can be so important when you’re in college.”
Lucy, who grew up in Orono, Maine, said being a practicing Catholic on campus has helped him maintain his sense of self. He’s also appreciated having the freedom to forge a more personal and meaningful connection to Catholicism. “This is something I’m choosing to do, so I have a different connection and a more fulfilling connection to it,” he said.
This fall, the first Theology on Tap event featured writer Susan Conroy, who served with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. The third and final Theology on Tap event will be May 5, and will cover “Fair Trade and Catholic Social Teaching” with Diocesan Missions Coordinator Ruth Oakley and Fair Trade Ambassador Elizabeth Keene. Casey said it’s likely they’ll discuss the Church’s position on fair trade and some of the mission work occurring abroad.
Katherine Churchill ’16 contributed reporting for this article