Campus minister emphasizes service and connection

Anna Gowin and Christina Brown

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Chris Lazarine, who has been campus minister of the Newman Center, the University of New Orleans’ home to the Catholic campus ministry and student group on campus, since August, said he understands why it’s hard to get college students engaged.

“[Deciding not to go church anymore] happens with a lot of students when they go to college … at the point where they can decide for themselves … They could choose not to, or they could choose to. It’s all based on your personal opinion, personal beliefs, and where you feel the most comfortable. That’s what I believe.”

But the 25-year-old minister isn’t going to stop trying to get students involved. According to Lazarine, the ministry’s biggest day of the year is Ash Wednesday. “It becomes standing room only … you’d hope to see that every day.” The Newman Center offers other services Monday through Thursday at noon, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday led by Father Paul De Rosiers.

What we do here is offer an opportunity for students who are looking for some kind of religious experience – whether it’s Catholicism or Christianity – we’re here to help them,” said Lazarine.

Lazarine said he hopes to engage with students on a personal level to help them develop their personal relationship with their faith and their own God. He meets at least once a day with students he knows.

“One thing I always stress to students: I’m here to meet you where you are – not where I am in faith – because we’re all in different places,” Lazarine said.

For Lazarine, that means any student of any faith. He spoke of President Nicklow’s support for the Muslim community following recent travel restrictions from the Trump administration.

“One thing I love about this campus: it is so diverse. This campus has so many international students and students from this community, as well as [from] other communities around the United States. We all bring our own bit of history, our own bit of faith, personality, and so on. I think on this campus the students love and support each other’s diversity and embrace it.”

Lazarine’s quest for engagement also includes what he considers to be a pillar of the UNO Catholic population: community service.

“I want to be sure we do something for students every month. Whatever it is, we want to make sure we’re engaged with the community because we are the University of New Orleans. We need to be engaged with New Orleans.”

Lazarine said that for the congregation at UNO, this means eventually getting involved with two organizations: Angel’s Place and Boys Hope Girls Hope. The former is a group that helps the families of terminally ill children; the latter is dedicated to youth empowerment through education and holistic support.

Lazarine said he found his own passion for service while in high school. It was then that he did work with Head Start, schools that cater to students who may need assistance getting a “head start” for financial reasons or home situations, and a program called Teaching Others Through Sportsmanship.

In 2013, Lazarine received a degree in finance economics and accounting from Spring Hill College, a small Jesuit university in Alabama. He said all of his electives at that time were theology and philosophy. He then came to UNO to pursue an MBA, and while working in the office of Student Involvement and Leadership got connected to the position of campus minister.

Every Wednesday, Lazarine presents a home-cooked meal as part of a program called Mass and Munch. Mass begins at noon, and lunch happens after the thirty-minute service. Lazarine is also available at the Newman Center from 9-4, Monday through Thursday.  

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Campus minister emphasizes service and connection