Catholic Community Connection partners with three local educational institutions to provide intergenerational opportunities throughout Northeast Ohio. We interviewed the sitting presidents of each of those institutions about Pope Francis’ remarks regarding “Church in the field” and “Serving the Lord with gladness.” Here’s what they had to say about how these principles are integrated into the culture at their colleges/universities.


How does your college/university contribute to “Church in the field?”

Alan Miciak, Ph.D., John Carroll University

Embracing Pope Francis’ call to go out into the world is highly encouraged at John Carroll. Jerome Nadal, one of the first Jesuits, said, “The World is Our House.” In that spirit, every academic and experiential opportunity that our students receive is meant to be taken out into the community to help others—to tackle challenges like homelessness, climate change, immigration, and issues of social, economic, and environmental justice.

Our goal is to not only provide experiences but to help our students reflect on those experiences so they can explore life more deeply and lead others in a similar way. 

Sister Chris DeVinne, OSU, Ph.D., Ursuline College

We trace this principle to our founders and St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline Sisters, who said, “Be bound to one another by the bond of charity.” When we are talking about “church in the field,” we are first referring to how we become a church and a community for one another, and then how we get to know ourselves through community.

All people are different, but we can all value and recognize the importance of community. We talk to our students from the beginning about finding purpose in what they’re doing and how that translates from the classroom into real life. They’re taught to understand the relationship between a commitment to their studies, their future, and the greater good of the world around them.

Michael Pressimone, Ph.D., Notre Dame College

We recognize that many of our students come to us with a vague sense of spirituality—or “unchurched” you might say. They may not know how to apply their belief systems to the work they’re doing. What we do at Notre Dame is infuse the Catholic intellectual traditions and social teachings into our programs, so that students can begin to make connections between the work they’re going to do, the communities they’re going to live in, and the need to serve the greater good.

Part of our mission is to serve the underserved. We give preferential treatment to the poor and dedicate some of our resources—our time and the talents of our faculty—to reach out to students who are on the margins, so they have the opportunity for a rich and spiritual education. That’s how we see “church in the field.”

“Serve the Lord with gladness” is the theme for Catholic schools across the diocese this school year. What do those words mean to your college/university?

Alan Miciak, Ph.D., John Carroll University

Our inspiration to serve the Lord with gladness comes from The Society of Jesus and the Four Universal Apostolic Preferences. We’re committed to showing the way to God by finding God in all things, walking with the excluded, and taking care of our common home, which includes dedication to our environment and stewardship of the earth.

Finally, we’re doing our part to accompany youth to a hope-filled future, despite indicators in today’s world that sometimes make this difficult. We offer internships where students can work with various community benefit organizations in areas like early childhood education, community organizing, and addressing Ohio’s food insecurity issues. In leading our students to discover their own hope and joy, we also find opportunities where they are leading us.

Sister Chris DeVinne, OSU, Ph.D., Ursuline College

As Psalm 100 notes, “Serving the Lord with gladness comes before him singing for joy.” These are reminders to always remain anchored in our religious faith and scriptural tradition. On a college campus, there are unique ways to make that possible. At Ursuline, one way we do this regularly is by creating markers of professional identity and professional joy.

For our nursing students, we have a blessing ceremony before they head out to their first clinical experience. We share a Psalm, read from the gospels, and dedicate the hands that will be taking care of patients. That’s a moment of professional identity, but also a great moment of joy for our students entering the profession.

There are moments of institutional joy, too. Every time we open a new program or hire a new faculty or staff member, we’re able to share God’s gladness with everyone at the school.

Michael Pressimone, Ph.D., Notre Dame College

Colleges and universities are by nature joyful places. At Notre Dame, there’s always a link between moments of joy and faith identity.

  • Not all our students come from the same traditions, so we offer an all-student mass on Sunday evenings, prayer time, and Bible study groups throughout the week.
  • Our days of service involve hundreds of students going out into the community to do good work—a celebration and direct link to our mission.
  • Our senior team meetings open with prayer, which radiates through the cabinet members.
  • And football season is about to begin. While there’s nothing more joyous than a football game on a college campus, our players gather for prayer with our campus chaplain before every game.

In everything we do, we emphasize that we’re doing it in the name of the Lord, linking faith with this joyful college experience.