National Catholic Reporter

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Next generation

 |  NCR Today

At first glace, the report about Smith College in Massachusetts firing its three chaplains seemed to be about the big-bad administration cutting the budget at the expense of religious life at the school.

Turns out, however, that there wasn't much "religious life" going on. According to the school's dean of religious life, only about 50 students were participating in regular religious services offered to Catholics, Protestants and Jews.

This, out of a student body of 2,600--all women, who at least traditionally have been more regular church-attenders than men. Of course, Smith is not a school with religious roots, and some 40% of students check "no religious affiliation" as incoming freshmen, the New York Times article said.

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Granted, attending formal religious services isn't the only way to be religious, especially during one's college years. And it's sad that today's financial realities have made head-counting like this a necessary way to determine which services stay and which go.

But it also is a stark reminder that the "next generation" isn't "doing religion" the way previous generations did. It's unfortunate that Smith didn't find a more creative--and perhaps less expensive--way to meet the spiritual needs of young seekers. Less regular services combined with online outreach, perhaps?

I'm curious what other college and university campus ministers think.

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