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New campus minister gets to work in Potsdam, Canton

October 18, 2023

POTSDAM – The Newman Club and campus ministry for four local colleges has a new leader who is also a new convert to Catholicism.

Hattie Taylor took up the post of pastoral associate and campus minister for Potsdam and Canton in July.

She succeeds Conner Cummings, who left to enhance his education in Catholic student ministry.

The campus ministry is a joint undertaking of St. Mary’s, Potsdam, and St. Mary’s, Canton.

Taylor was confirmed to the Catholic faith earlier this year after serving for three years in the area as a Methodist minister.

She’s enthusiastic about her new faith. And she’s enthusiastic about her new job that brings her into contact with people at an age where many fall away from the faith.

“I’m just excited there are practicing Catholics that are young,” she said on a recent Friday evening at the Newman Club. “I’m excited there are people 10 years younger than me coming here and following their faith.”

About a dozen of them gathered on that recent Friday evening for the campus ministry’s weekly volunteer dinner at the Newman Club across the street from St. Mary’s, Potsdam.

Students gave various reasons for getting involved.

Paulo Constantino, a Clarkson University senior, laughs when he says he first came to the Newman Club a few years ago because of a “loophole” in Clarkson’s COVID regulations.

Religious practice was one of the few reasons a student could legitimately leave campus. But he said what he has found is a Catholic friendship group that enhances the faith he grew up with.

Clarkson junior MacKenzie Smith said she grew disinterested in her Catholic faith in high school. But once in college she felt something was lacking in her life.

“I was wondering, are there other people my age that are really Catholic?” she said. “I decided I wanted to give it another shot.”

In addition to Clarkson, the campus ministry draws students from SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton, and St. Lawrence University.

Not all the students attending campus ministry activities are Catholic. St. Mary’s Potsdam Pastor Father Joseph W. Giroux says one of the most rewarding aspects of the ministry is seeing the conversions that occur through the ministry.

And the same goes for reversions, students returning to the faith.

The volunteer dinners are fun affairs where students stand around, sit, eat, play board games and chat. On the recent Friday evening, the conversation ranged from the shortcomings of AI-generated research to plumbing horror stories from the dorms. Afterwards, Father Giroux talked to students about the upcoming Vatican Synod of Bishops.

The volunteer dinner is just one of the campus ministry’s anchor activities. It also holds weekly Bible studies on the SUNY Potsdam, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University campuses. A Thursday night adoration at St. Mary’s Potsdam was started at students’ suggestion.

Taylor said she has one overriding goal for the campus ministry.

“Mostly, I just want to show there’s hope through Christ,” she said.

More specifically, she’d like to find ways to increase the numbers of college students regularly attending Mass.
Local parishes have a good start with the enthusiastic group they have, but she knows there are hundreds more students on local college campuses who could benefit.

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