HANOVER, N.H. -Father Jonathan Kalisch is the chaplain at Dartmouth’s Aquinas House, a Catholic center on campus. He eagerly awaits the naming of the next pope, the most important figure in his faith.
“Can encourage, can give the joy amidst the sorrows of the world to those who do believe and also to engage the nonbelievers,” Kalisch said.
On this college campus it is easy to find nonbelievers. About 20 percent of the students are Catholic, but almost an equal number do not affiliate with any religion. A trend, according to research from Gallup and Pew, that is on the rise in the United States.
“The youth don’t need religion as much. They are not institutionalized in a way where religion is a part of their lifestyle. Plus, I think everyone has a form of religion, even if it is not God, you worship something,” said Sayeh Gorjifanrd, a senior.
“I think in some sense people are a lot more free thinking. I think there is a lot more information out there and you have also seen things like the Catholic abuse incidents where people are seriously questioning the institutions themselves,” said Sean Schultz, who is not religious.
“The statistics about young people falling away from their faith, that wasn’t really surprising to me because I lived it myself and I lived with it with my family,” Samantha Victor said.
Victor enjoys her Catholic faith. She is a junior and found the Aquinas House last year.
“Coming here, I was very pleasantly surprised because I saw that that is not the whole story,” she said.
“My experience it that there is sort of a resurgence of faith within my generation,” said Dominic Filiano, a junior.
Filiano chose Dartmouth because of the Aquinas House and the student community it supports.
And as the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world watch what’s happening in Rome, students have hope for the future of their faith.
“For me I am very excited,” Filiano said. “And I think the Catholic world is quite excited.”
“This is very exciting because it is a whole new thing for me,” Emmaline Berg said.
Berg converted to Catholicism last year, which she says it’s becoming more common among her peers.
“Getting to know those people and what their stories are and what brought them here is really wonderful to see, especially in today’s time when there are so many people falling away,” she said.
“John Paul II went around actually apologizing for the church and for members of the church over the previous 2000 years,” Kalisch said.
And Kalisch says the next pope will share the same traits of those who came before.
“One who can propose the truth, who can live it by example, by his words,” he said.
A time of hope for Catholics on campus and around the world.
Black smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel Tuesday, meaning a pope was not selected. Cardinals will continue voting Wednesday.