Club & Greek

Catholic Campus Ministry Appoints New Chaplain

The Campus Catholic Ministry welcomes Father Richard Tomlinson as their new chaplain. Tomlinson will serve as the religious leader of the campus Catholic community and its weekly masses, and is a spiritual link between God and college students, faculty, and employees.

“I want to help people experience the spiritualty of church and assist them in the search for their spiritual values,” said Tomlinson. “I want these people to experience the richness of the Catholic tradition and make it meaningful today while still embracing the college culture.”

Tomlinson was appointed to the position by Bishop David O’Connell of the Trenton diocese in mid-September, replacing Father William Lago after he was moved and named pastor of two local parishes.

Vice President of the Catholic Center Eryn Siddall said, “Father Bill was an excellent priest who was very involved with our group and he is greatly missed, but I’m sure everyone can agree that Father Tomlison is doing a great job so far.”

Tomlinson was relocated from his church in SC where he has been for four years celebrating mass in both English and Latin. “The catholic identity is much stronger in NJ than it is in SC. Fifty percent of people consider them Catholics here, whereas only five percent are Catholics in SC. Baptists are much stronger there, so it is definitely a different cultural atmosphere,” said Tomlinson.

According to, the purpose of the Catholic Campus Ministry is “to be an expression of the Church’s special desire to be present to all involved in higher education, reflecting the Church’s long history of cultivating the intellectual life.” Its goals include promoting theological study on the religious nature of human beings, sustaining a religious community on campus, integrating its ministry with other local ministries within the community, and serving the Catholic community. 

Siddall said this is going to be an exciting year for the Catholic Center due to the change in location of mass back to the Catholic Center as well as the change of the chaplain. According to Siddall, mass has always been held at the Catholic Center since its establishment in the sixties. Three years ago, the location was changed to Withey Chapel in the lower level of Wilson Hall due to extensive water damage from Hurricane Irene.

“[Executive board members and the Catholic Center organization] moved mass over to Withey  Chapel  as a temporary location, but ended up keeping mass there even after the basement was finished being refurbished. It was eventually decided to move mass back to the Catholic Center (located near Birch Hall) this semester because we want to raise more attention as to where the actual Catholic Center is and to also encourage attendees to stick around for our social events after mass,” said Siddall.

The campus ministry gathers Catholics on campus for prayer, worship, and learning in relation to concerns of the academic community with mass. Tomlinson is present on campus for afternoon mass every Monday through Friday at 12 pm in Withey Chapel. Weekly Sunday mass is celebrated at 7 pm in the Catholic Center.

Siddall mentioned that a main difference between Tomlinson’s and Lago’s masses is the way communion is received; Tomlinson dips the host into the wine cup and places host onto the tongue of the person receiving communion, whereas Lago would allow the person receiving communion the opportunity to decide.

“Intinction (the Eucharistic practice of dipping the host in the wine) is the standard practice for most Eastern churches, but it seems to have gotten lost in the West. The host is literally the body and blood of Christ, so I want to treat it with respect and dignity. It is more reverent that way. And of course, I wash my hands before and after communion,” said Tomlinson.

Siddall said, “It’s definitely something new. It really makes sense though because it’s a more hygienic way to receive the body and blood of Christ and will prevent the spread of diseases such as meningitis. I think once you get over the initial discomfort of it, it’s actually really cool.”

Confessions are available Sundays before mass or by appointment to acknowledge sins and have God forgive them. As described by, the intent of confessions is to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain the grace of God.

“It is both a spiritual means of forgiveness and a psychological mechanism to deal with guilt so we aren’t burdened. It sets us free,” said Tomlinson. “I try to spend time with everyone to give them encouragement to not repeat their sins and to help put it in perspective.”

After each mass members of the Catholic community gather for dinner and to socialize.

One of Tomlinson’s goals for the semester is to increase awareness and publicity for the Catholic Center. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know where the chapel is, or just don’t know about it in general, so we definitely need to advertise,” he said.

Siddall added, “I feel that general participation in Catholic Center events has been slowly dying down over the years since my freshman year. We hope to bring more people in and show others what a fun and welcoming group we are.”

Siddall said on average there are approximately ten people that attend weekday masses and about 15 to 20 who attend Sunday masses. “This number is definitely less than previous years. I think this is because people are becoming less involved in general on campus and are becoming more focused on other aspects of college life.”

“Many people may attend mass regularly at home,” commented Siddall, “but once they have their own freedom at college they may feel less inclined to make that individual step to attend mass. Others simply prefer to attend mass in the mornings or at a local parish.  But it could be anything.”

Nicole Gafanha, a junior business marketing major and Catholic, said, “I know where the Catholic Center is, but I just never thought of going to mass on campus. I’m really used to going to Portuguese mass back at home.” Gafanha is part of her church’s choir. “Going to mass back at home is just more familiar to me and I feel a lot more comfortable going and praying in Portuguese. I also don’t necessarily know anyone on campus that would attend mass with me,” she said.

Tomlinson plans to bring in speakers and talk about issues relating to students and values, with a hope that it will increase attendance at Catholic Center events.

“We are coming to the end of the liturgical (church) year, so we have many fun and exciting events planned,” said Tomlinson. The chaplain, executive board leaders, and general Catholic members are hosting a Thanksgiving food drive for St. Jerome’s parish. For the start of Advent in December, the Catholic Center is offering a penance service and hosting a Christmas party.

Tomlinson is also open to helping non-Catholics convert if anyone is interested and is possibly looking to start a Knights of Columbus College Council at the University.

Joseph Palazzolo, adjunct business professor, said bringing Knights of Columbus to the University, under the jurisdiction of St. Jerome’s Parish in West Long Branch, would provide support for the activities of the Campus Catholic Ministry.

“Our plan is not to recreate the wheel in terms of service, but instead make our membership available to these existing local councils to engage in their service events… Bringing together an active College Council will provide a resource for Catholic men who know that they should be more involved in their faith, but aren’t quite sure what that means in a college setting,” Palazzolo said.

“I want to make faith accessible to our young people,” said Tomlinson.

Siddall said, “Religious people can function in a college setting and still be involved with other campus activities and social life.  Being connected with the Catholic Center gives me strength to get through my studies and everything going on in my life. I wouldn’t be able to function as a college student without God in my life. Father Tomlinson is now that link between me and God.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Kathie Poracky