Being Catholic on a Protestant Campus

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It should come as no surprise that being in an unknown setting that one has never been in before takes some getting used to. As a diverse campus, Greenville University has students that come from near and far with different backgrounds. One difference, in particular, is religion. In order to obtain more insight on what it’s like to be a different domination on this campus, I asked the former student and current CRE, Johnny Hinton about his personal experience.

Johnny Hinton grew up about an hour east of Greenville in Louisville, IL. After earning a degree in education from Greenville, he became the Coordinator of Resident Education (CRE) of Hood Hall and is currently working on a Master’s in Higher Education from Geneva College in Pennsylvania.

As a child, the Roman Catholic church was all Johnny knew. His mom was a lifelong Catholic, but his dad grew up going to a protestant church. He currently attends St. Lawrence Catholic church on most Sundays. Hinton’s passion and love for his church is remarkable. When asked, “what does being Catholic mean to you?” His response was, “for me, it’s all about the word catholic. If I go to another state this weekend, I could attend a mass very similar to the mass here. I would be able to fully participate in the mass even though I’ve never been to that church before. I also share a similar faith to 1.2 billion other Catholics. And when I’m here in Greenville celebrating mass at St. Lawrence, there are 223,000 other parishes celebrating the same mass. There is so much more about the Catholic church that I love so please, stop me sometime and ask!”

Upon deciding to come to Greenville, Hinton felt a tad guilty about not choosing a Catholic college. Despite the challenge, he would not have traded his time at Greenville for the world. Hinton said, “all my life, I have worshipped a God that I believed only belonged to my church. Greenville has shown me that our God is so much more than that. I also get quite a few opportunities to talk about my faith and my church because people are curious.” Hinton has learned to take a difficult situation and make the most of it.

A Mass Service 
Source: kokuracatholic.com

As expected, the transition to Greenville for Hinton was not the easiest when it came to religion. As a new student, he felt very uncomfortable in the first few chapels. Not seeing the priest wearing the correct color, seeing words on a screen, and wondering why people were on their phones were some of his biggest questions. Communion at chapel was a very extreme change for Hinton. However, over time he has come to enjoy chapel and Vespers greatly. “I’ve learned that contemporary services are beautiful and so are liturgical services. Both offer a different way of worshiping,” Hinton states.

When asked about his experience on a Protestant campus, Hinton stated that there are many misconceptions about the Catholic church. This campus gives him the chance to have great conversations with other students, staff, and faculty about their views and misconceptions. This gives him an opportunity to share his faith with them and to hear about their faith, too. Hinton expressed, “experiencing all of these new ideas has truly given me new eyes to see the world. I love the differences that we all have inside this community of people. These differences should establish a space for learning and love.”

Photo by Shelbi Fisher 

Moving forward, Hinton offered advice to others experiencing this protestant campus as a person from a different denomination. He advised being ready for critique. People are curious but also skeptical of any belief that is different from their own. He believes that it’s better to ask how protestants on campus should react when encountering people that are different from themselves. Protestants should be respectful and willing to listen. You don’t have to agree, but you should be willing to have a conversation.

Hinton is just one example of the many students that experience being different than the norm. I hope that his perspective has opened your eyes and heart to hear and see stances from both sides of a barrier. If you have not already, attend chapel on Friday’s to explore your faith on a new level through the Alpha course.

Media by Shelbi Fisher.

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