Melding faith and school life
The Wilfrid Laurier Univesity student body is nothing if not diverse. We have in the neighbourhood of around 14,000 undergrad students, all of which come from different places around the world and bring with them unique customs, traditions and languages.
The Wilfrid Laurier Univesity student body is nothing if not diverse. We have in the neighbourhood of around 14,000 undergrad students, all of which come from different places around the world and bring with them unique customs, traditions and languages. These cultural cadences are quite visible on campus through around 100 clubs and associations made to educate, advocate and celebrate all ethnicities on campus.
A big part of that diversity among Laurier students is religion.
Whether family instilled or individually motivated, there are plenty of students here who have ties to a wide variety of religions from around the world.
Ever since it was founded in 1911 as Waterloo Lutheran University, Laurier has had ties to religion.
When the university became publicly funded in 1973, it became less religiously-oriented but still kept areas of campus life available for those who made faith a priority.
Laurier currently has the Multi-Faith Resource Team, which represents eight different faith traditions and offers support to students, faculty, staff and the community.
On top of that Laurier has several religion and culture oriented clubs, including the Tamil Students Association, the Muslim Student Association, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Afghan Students Association, to name a few. These associations are used to encourage and celebrate different faiths on campus — but what how do students balance it all?
“I personally find it easy and natural to balance school, faith, work and extra curriculars,” said second-year student Sumaiya Moosa.
Moosa believes it’s manageable to be involved in faith along with all other aspects of student life if you have the right support system.
“Being Muslim I have to pray five times a day and so I generally split my days and my goals up accordingly. Also, there are quite a lot of other Muslims on campus so we’re always checking up on each other and we almost always pray in congregation.”
Praying five times a day seem like a daunting goal when there are assignments due and deadlines to meet, but for Moosa her priorities have always been straight.
“I find it keeps me on track in remembering what my faith means to me, as well as it establishes a solid sense of community and support,” she said.
Others take things more casually while still wanting to practice when they can.
Recent Laurier graduate Robyn Maister doesn’t claim to be too religious but tries her best to fit in some traditional Jewish practices. Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest and is often celebrated by the Jewish community, something Maister finds the appropriate amount of time for.
“I go to the Rabbi’s in Waterloo for Shabbat which is on Friday nights. You do the prayers, wash hands, eat challah, drink wine, eat soup, chicken and the traditional Shabbat dinners,” she said.
One night a week is definitely do able for Robyn as she claims Waterloo has a lot of flexible outlets for her to periodically engage in Jewish traditions. For Maister, faith is a part of her life but at school her religious habits are more laidback.
Things get a little trickier for fourth-year psychology student Al DeCiantis.
“To be honest it can be difficult at times — so many things fall on weekends and I’ll have to work around them to find time to go to church.”
DeCiantis is Roman Catholic and juggles a full course load, multiple extra curriculars, sports and his own charity on top of his religion.
“Just being a busy person always makes it a challenge to make time for religious life,” he added.
“I practice my faith by going to mass on Sundays as well as participating in religious holidays like Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday.”
In order to make something like this work with all the prior commitments of student life DeCiantis said that “discipline” is the key to success.
Religion is a visible entity on the Laurier campus and can be that “x factor” some students need to have the perfect post-secondary experience.
There are plenty of students who believe balancing faith and school is a requirement that must be made. Religious practices vary across the board with some students taking it sternly while others may look at it more casually.
But either way you slice it, celebrating religion at Laurier is always an option.