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Chaplains undeterred by decrease in numbers

When students arrived at Eastern this fall, not all of them found their dorms lit up with the presence of a student chaplain. Until the chaplain ranks are filled completely, many of those halls will be led by provisional chaplains chosen from among the laity.

Two years ago, Eastern University had 50 student chaplains on campus who advised and helped encourage their halls’ students in their walk with the Lord. The headcount this fall, 30, was significantly less.

“It’s important to realize that God knew what would happen this year, and we’re very much trusting him to multiply the chaplains,” student chaplain advisor Katie Friend said.

This year, eight students left the program before the beginning of the fall semester for various reasons. Some left Eastern for other colleges, several were struggling financially and others found different jobs.

Dealing with the shortage is a high priority that isn’t being taken lightly, said Chris Micklewright, a senior and a student assistant director of the program.

“It’s not a role that you can thrust at the RA,” he said. “You need to have someone who’s involved because they feel called to be.”

During the fall semester, the program will be looking for students on chaplain-free halls who will step forward as leaders, eventually asking them to become chaplains.

“They do what they’re able to,” Micklewright said. “They’re not held accountable to fill the role completely” right away with no training, he said.

One such volunteer, Amy Reamer, came forward when a friend contacted her about it via e-mail.

“For me it was a really big blessing – I was interested, but not bold enough or confident enough to go to the interest meeting [last spring],” she said.

“I think in a sense that God is cutting down the program to build it back up, new and stronger with new leaders,” student chaplain adviser Amy Petrilla said. “This is a way of testing it.”

Even without a full house of spiritual buddies on board at Eastern, the student chaplain leadership is confident that this will be a good year for the program.

University chaplain Joe Modica has no worries whatsoever. He said that things were going all right and that the numbers were down because of the unexpected plunge in the number of student chaplains this fall.

“It’s been a little hard to jump in so quickly, but it’s exciting and it helps keep it in perspective for me – that it’s not my ministry, but God’s,” Reamer said.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Harwick and Ruth Robinson.

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