A Dominican Presence at Youngstown State

Fr. Norbert Keliher, O.P., meets with Catholic student leaders on the Youngstown State Campus. Photo by Elaine Manusakis

A Dominican Presence at Youngstown State
By BlackFriars Staff

This school year, Fr. Norbert Keliher, O.P., began his tenure as the Youngstown State University Catholic Chaplain. While the Dominicans had a part time presence on campus in the past, taking on this ministry full time is an exciting opportunity for the friars to reach souls. Unofficial estimates place YSU’s Catholic population at over 25% of its 11,000 students.

“College students want to feel connected, to make friends, and find their place on campus and in the larger world,” says Fr. Norbert. He adds that his ministry “gives them a chance to solidify their Catholic identity and see that you can be a serious Catholic as a full adult.”

In addition to Sunday dinners, game nights, eucharistic adoration, and retreats, Fr. Norbert brings a Dominican stamp to the ministry with a video and lecture series based on the Thomistic Institute’s Aquinas 101 program. The ranks of the Catholic Student Association have swelled as a result.

“The students are very engaged and have been asking good questions. The philosophy and theology are sinking in, and they’re starting to see from the Thomistic point of view. Most importantly, it gives them a sense of how deep the Catholic tradition is. It’s not just a matter of going to church and spiritual things; it also has to do with the life of the mind and truth,” Fr. Norbert says.

Once a semester, Fr. Norbert will bring in a visiting professor rooted in the Catholic tradition through the Thomistic Institute, starting with Joshua Hochschild of Mount St. Mary’s University.

Fr. Norbert, who met the Order of Preachers as an undergraduate at Harvard and ministered at the University of Maryland as a Dominican student brother, says the witness of a vibrant fraternal life brings home the strength of the Church to questioning students:

“If you only pay attention to certain parishes, you might think that the Church is in decline. But if you’re in contact with a good- sized, growing religious order, you can see, yes, there is life in the Catholic Church.”

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