Blog: On Catholic and Ecumenical Student Chaplaincies

Maranatha Catholic Student Church, Tilburg (photo: BD).

Last month several media (e.g. InCaelo and Univers), reported about the Maranatha Church, the Catholic student church of Tilburg. A new priest has been appointed there: Rev. Fr. Michiel Peeters, priest and a Dutch blogger at the critical and active blog And Fr. Michiel is going to do things quite different: no more ecumenical services: true Catholic Mass celebrations in this Catholic place of worship. This, of course, causes a lot of discussion in the Maranatha community but also in Catholic student communities nationwide.

Ever asked yourself the question: is this service Catholic? One can say that the situation in Enschede is quite clear: meetings by ecumenical student organizations are ecumenical. Meetings organized by Ariëns Katholieke Studenten are always Catholic. We don’t often do ecumenical meetings ourselves, since we think the ecumenical student chaplaincies of the UT and ITC are excellent in that.

It only becomes confusing when Catholic pastors claim their ecumenical ‘Word and Communion’-services to be a substitute for Catholic Holy Mass. It is one of the main reasons why communicating our faith is one of our pillars: Ariëns Katholieke Studenten wants to be ‘your guide in Catholic Enschede’ in a time and country where Sunday services in Catholic churches are not always Mass celebrations. These ‘Word and Communion’-services are never a substitute for Sunday Mass, even if the Catholic pastor claims them to be. This is the reason why Ariëns Katholieke Studenten acts as an independent entity, always in unity with the Roman-Catholic archdiocese, but sometimes following a different path then the parish. It has been no earlier than 2010, when the new parish priest arrived, that we intensified our relation with the parish.

Before that, in 2009 Ariëns Katholieke Studenten had introduced ‘priestergarantie’. With this label we claimed that all Mass celebrations mentioned on our website were celebrated by a priest. Other weekly services were listed too, but - if necessary - we always noted that these services are not a Mass every week. This is still the case. We also claim that if you need a Catholic priest, our website offers you the possibility to contact one immediately and sometimes even in your own language.

Ariëns Katholieke Studenten celebrates – under supervision of the parish priest – Catholic Sunday Mass in English twice a month. We consider the parish responsible for safeguarding the integrity of Mass. However, in accord with our own knowledge and competence we too keep an eye on the prevention of liturgical abuse, without denying our own youthful and vibrant character. So this way we hope to offer a true Catholic Mass in English, refreshing, vibrant and modern, but with respect to liturgical laws, in full unity with the local archdiocese, in full unity with the Holy Roman-Catholic Church and therefore in full unity with the Roman-Catholic parish of your own hometown.

On the ecumenical side, the student chaplaincies of Enschede offer the ecumenical Sunday services at the Vrijhof Cultuurcentrum and ITC International Hotel. They do not claim to be Catholic, nor do they claim their Sunday services to be a substitution for the Catholic Mass. Our relation with the ecumenical student chaplaincy of UT is in fact very good. While they offer to Ariëns Katholieke Studenten their excellent support and facilities to organize Catholic activities on campus, we promote their ecumenical activities that can be truly valuable for your own growth in faith and your general knowledge.

So what about the Maranetha Catholic Student Church in Tilburg? The problem with this church was that it often replaced Mass by an ecumenical service, even though the building and the priest were part of the Roman-Catholic Church. The new parish priest, Rev. Fr. Michiel Peeters, now wants to bring the community back to the Catholic flock. This causes friction within the Tilburg student community. It raises the question what is the most important thing about a Catholic student community. Is it as Catholic church community important to act according to church law? Or is it important to have a community based on compassion and peace? What do you think?

The most important thing about a Catholic student community is that by its people, liturgy, symbols and other activities it shows to be a community where students...

1. ...can discuss their philosophies and ideas on Catholic teaching.
2. ...feel invited to meet in Jesus’ name and share and dine together.
3. ...can find spiritual or psychological care, counseling and sacraments.
4. ...can learn about and share the beauties and goodness of Catholic culture.
5. ...feel encouraged to worship the Lord as one Catholic community.

You can vote on Facebook!