Father Seamus Casey, who has been chaplain at the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) for 31 years, spoke to Pat Kenny on Newstalk106 FM earlier today, about the varied role undertaken by chaplains as they go about each day supporting the student and staff community attending third level colleges.
Father Casey said that college chaplaincy in Ireland offers a broad range of services to both students and staff. He outlined what he saw as the three key aspects of his chaplaincy service.
The first was the provision of financial assistance to students, in particular, helping those whose grants have not yet arrived: “The biggest problem we have is nurturing these students until grants come in”. He also highlighted the need to get affordable food for students, “If you don’t have the price of a bus home, you don’t go home. But you also can’t afford food either”. He highlighted his work with FoodCloud, who help businesses redistribute food that would otherwise be thrown out.
The second key role of the chaplain is in the area of mental health and wellness support. Depression, loss of motivation and drinking are all huge problems within the student demographic, Father Casey said. He mentioned that students often come to him because they are concerned about their friends.
The final aspect of chaplaincy Father Casey detailed was the support for integration of foreign students, or of students with particular needs. He highlighted especially the moral support offered to local French students after the recent attacks in Paris, and, more generally, outlined the chaplaincy’s help with suicide prevention, including the 24 hour on-call team.
AIT has a student and staff population of nearly six thousand people.