In a time when Irish society is becoming increasingly secular, Matt Gregg investigates what role the Chaplaincy has to play on campus

UCD owes its roots to the Catholic University. Though no longer a denominated institution, UCD has certainly maintained a “catholic ethos” throughout its 157 year history. In its origins, the Catholic University sought to offer Ireland’s Catholic majority an avenue to third level education that the non-denominational Queen’s colleges or the Anglican controlled Trinity College did not. Each of the three colleges had their own chapel and the majority of the professors were also members of the clergy, while all public university functions were conducted in the University Church. When the university’s first rector, Cardinal Newman, reflected on his university he foresaw “a land both old and young; old in its Christianity, young in the promise of its future”.

Fast forward to 2011 and Christianity in Ireland certainly feels old. Secularism and apathy are on the rise as the Catholic Church, still Ireland’s main Christian representative, is rocked by scandal after scandal. Yet, even without this catalyst, religion in Ireland has long been in decline. Church attendance in the Archdiocese of Dublin this year averaged 18% of the Catholic population, while in certain dioceses this figure fell to as little as 2%. Furthermore, youth participation is at an all time low, a plummet that has not escaped the notice of UCD’s current Chaplains.

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