University Ministry welcomes students of all faiths, cultures

Retreats, prayer opportunities, quiet reflective areas and interfaith dialogue. These are what De- troit Mercy’s University Ministry offers students of all majors, cultures and faith backgrounds.

The university was established on the foundations of Jesuit and Mercy traditions that date back centuries. Today, University Ministry is utilizing the central tenets of those traditions to harbor a safe and welcoming environment for all students.

Being a Catholic university, there has always been a campus ministry presence at UDM. Anita Klueg, Director of University Ministry, has been on the team for seven years, having previously worked in youth ministry and gone on several lay missionary trips around the world, gaining insight into several world religions.

Growing up in America’s “Bible Belt” states, Klueg grew up with a strong Christian faith. She attended Marian University in Indianapolis, Ind., where she first experienced leading a ministry team.

“I learned how to lead and start from scratch…with a desire to act upon what I wanted for the faith,” she said.

It is that desire and passion to have faith and act upon it that Kleug wants the student leaders of the Ministry team to possess and share.

“I wanted to meet other like-minded people and grow my faith,” said Hannah Klatzke, a third-year

mechanical engineering major and a second-year Ministry intern. “Ministry has helped me to break out of my shell and lead in ways I never thought possible.”

But what if your faith is rocky? Or you don’t have a faith background?

“We accept everyone equally no matter what,” said Sebastian Rodriguez, fourth-year architecture major.

University Ministry’s staff members come from Roman Catholic backgrounds, but they attend to the needs and desires of members of every faith, including atheists.

“Our primary role is support,” Klueg said. “We have a responsibility to support all faiths or no faith.”

Some of University Ministry’s many efforts to include all faiths are Catholic liturgies, an Islamic prayer room and ecumenical efforts including the reflection garden and their most recent addition: the Holy Spirit Chapel in the lower level of the Student Union, across from the Ministry office.

“These are places for everyone,” said Klueg.

University Ministry also offers students several immersion experiences, led by Sister Erin McDonald. These include three trips that focus on social justice issues such as immigration, racism and the LGBTQ community. They are currently working with the Student Life office on “Faith, Hope, and Love: Faith through the LGBTQ lens.”

A large part of University Ministry is faith formation, guided by Anna Lawler and led by students. They have several retreats, and weekly opportunities such as the Examen, a guided con- templative prayer begun by St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, and “What’s the Tea?,” a time when students can engage in prayer and discussion with others.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected University Ministry’s participant numbers. Pre-COVID, up to 60 people regularly attended Sunday Masses. Now, that number is between 20 and 30.

As for the future of University Ministry, Klueg is confident that the team will continue to establish a place for all students to live their faith.

“It’s not about numbers,” she said. “I want people to know they always have a place to go.” Students recognize that their faith can be a crucial part of college life.

“Being part of the University Ministry let me strengthen my faith which has helped me have a great college experience,” said Ayanna Mendieta, a fourth-year HIMT program member.

“Even if you come for the [free] food, I can guarantee you will stay for the people and con- versations,” Klatzke said. “There is never a dull moment with the amazing group of people that make up University Ministry.”

The University Ministry office is located on the lower level of the Student Union, across from the book store.