Fairfield University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx tries to keep Jesuit ideals alive within the student body, but he says he is puzzled by the fact that some students at Fairfield shy away from referring to themselves as religious, yet love the word “spiritual”.

“To be spiritual, you must be claiming to believe in certain things,” von Arx said earlier this semester at a student news conference.

“Any spirituality grows from a religious setting, so they are saying they see themselves in some spiritual setting, but [the two] kind of go hand in hand.”

At Fairfield, students have said they struggle with how to describe their religious orientation.

Joey LaCroix ’08 describes his religious practice as “faithful.”

“I have my beliefs and faith, and I celebrate them … alone, with a group of friends, at church,” said LaCroix.

Amber DelPrete ’08 said she considered herself “spiritually religious”

“I believe in God, but I don’t go to church,” she said. “I like prayers that mean something to me that I can relate to, not just because they are from the Bible.”

Frank Fioretti ’10 said that one reason why students may choose the term spiritual instead of religious is that “they aren’t finding the same answers in religion that our parents did.”

“To learn it at such a young age when we don’t even know what it is we’re learning or why we’re learning it, is just forcing religion,” he said. “Not everyone agrees with everything that the church stands for, and those who use ‘spiritual’ probably think that ‘religious’ means they go to church and follow religion by the book.”

Those students who feel they are “spiritual” define it as having beliefs in a higher being and practicing them. Others consider themselves “religious” and have similar views on what is it means to be religiously active.

“I’m a religious guy. I pray every night,” Tim McElroy ’10 said. “I go to Mass every Sunday at home and sometimes here at Fairfield.”

Brittani D’Andrea ’10, who also considers herself religious stated, “I have strong beliefs and a strong faith in the Word of God.

“I go to church on Easter and Christmas Eve, and then just randomly once in a while,” she said.

Other students dismiss the distinction. “I think this ‘spiritual vs. religious’ thing is just a fad right now,” said Jared Elliot ’09. “Students are finding it easier to fit in if they say they’re spiritual, and are able to avoid stereotyping too.”

Within Loyola Hall, there are organizations geared to expose students to a variety of religions and traditions. One such group is the Spiritual Committee.

Fioretti, associate director of organizing events for the Spiritual Committee, said that some of the most recent activities the group has taken part in included visiting a Buddhist Temple to meditate and seeing spiritually oriented movies at the local cinema.

“The Buddhist meditation seems like it could be considered religious,” Fioretti stated. “But I don’t take it to be. It’s more of just opening your perspective of things.”

A well-developed perspective seems important to many Fairfield students, regardless of they chose to define their beliefs .

“To me, being spiritual is about searching for and knowing your place in your relationship with others, the world, and most importantly an ‘other’ power,” said Nick Bakalov ’11. “You just search in your own heart, you look at your experiences in life and you try and find something that was present in your life that helped you get through.”

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