Ashley Roberson, 19, hit the Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a mission — to help her fellow college students remain in or find the faith by creating a home away from home for them at St. John Newman University Parish.
“I wanted to continue my faith when I got to college. That’s always been a top priority,” Roberson said. “When I found the Newman Center, I got involved and have loved it since.”
As a freshman in 2021, she was elected the Newman Center council president. Now, just a sophomore, the Jonesboro native, who grew up at Blessed Sacrament Church, is entering her second term as the center’s student leader and wants to do her part to face one of the Church’s growing challenges.
Young people leaving the faith is a major issue confronting the Church and one of the Diocese of Little Rock’s main focuses during the Synod on Synodality. According to the Pew Research Center, as many as 80 percent of Catholics who leave the Church do so before the age of 23. The good news, however, is that those who participate in campus ministry are much more likely to remain in the faith and transition into active parish life following graduation.
“Many Catholics leave the faith in college and most of the students here are Baptist, so I felt like we needed to raise our profile on campus,” she said.
To accomplish her goal, her team tries to create events that college students would want to attend, have fun at and be involved with.
“I really want to recruit Catholic students to stay with and grow stronger in our faith and hope to grow the Catholic community at ASU throughout the next few years.”
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