New chaplain calls for real talk

By on October 7, 2009

Meet Father Hugh Vincent Dyer. And do try to meet him face-to-face.

In a college environment built on Facebook and Google searches, Dyer has entered his chaplain spot at Quinnipiac University with a hope to bring a bit of personality and real talk to campus.

“There’s so much technology around,” Dyer said with a wry smile. “You can be sitting with someone and they’re being text-messaged, and then they’re thinking about an e-mail they need to send later. It’s really distracting.”

Dyer came to Quinnipiac following the departure of former chaplain Jonathan Kalisch. Prior, he was centered in New Haven at St. Mary’s, but he has welcomed the life of a college chaplain.

“You have the three great traditions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and their history impacts our study of history, politics, art – just about everything,” he said. “The formation of the very university system was religious in its origins.”

And according to Dyer, “there is faith on this campus,” and he has quickly picked up where Kalisch left off in terms of calling for a chapel or prayer space on campus.

“There needs to be a quiet space where students can go pray,” he said. “Faith is so central, and if you don’t have such a place where it can be embraced, the community is incomplete.”

Last year, the Campus Ministry office was afforded the room next door for a prayer space, but that room has been boarded since the beginning of this year. Kalisch, now the Catholic Chaplain at Dartmouth College, was critical of the administration prior to his departure. He told The Chronicle in the Sept. 16 issue that his “biggest regret” was not pushing hard enough for a permanent prayer space on campus.

“We’re the only college that I know that has no sacred space,” Kalisch said. “Even public colleges have some sort of chapel, and that says something about a campus our size that, maybe, faith isn’t taken as seriously.”

Dyer hopes to bring about a renewed sense of interaction in faith on campus, breaking the technological mold that defines most students.

“It was always the great promise with technology that people would be more connected,” he said. “But they’ve also become more alienated. The quality of communication and depth of interaction is not the same.”

Dyer tries to bring that personal feel to Sunday mass as well, where he sits in front of the altar to give his homily.

“I extend an invitation to everyone to talk about anything,” he said.

And in fine college fashion, Father Hugh Vincent is “eager to listen and learn.”

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