Ryerson prides itself for its diversity, but it’s undeniably difficult to cater to an increasingly diverse community here in the middle of downtown Toronto. Still, students of different beliefs and religions need a space to express themselves, and religious groups at Ryerson are continuously working to expand.
Among these groups is Ryerson Catholics. In the past, they have held socials and dinners with other cultural groups like the Nigerian Students’ Association and the Caribbean Students’ Association. But despite its comfortable size of around 40-50 people, the group plans to expand by helping their members develop leadership skills.
Taking steps to work towards this, the group is teaming up with a national movement called the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) next year to guide its members to increased knowledge and better leadership among its members. Through Bible studies and discussions about the Catholic faith, Ryerson Catholics’ president Augustine Dimagiba hopes CCO’s integration will encourage more understanding within the student community.
“There are still Catholics who are still young in their faith and there are some Catholics who are more mature in their faith who want to learn more,” he said. “Having (CCO) here would help us encourage evangelization.”
According to Lauren Kennedy, president of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), part of her group’s goals is to provide a safe and inclusive environment for its members, and to develop relationships with one another. Of course, a big goal is also to ask and answer questions about the Christian faith.
But while the group conducts weekly prayer groups and Bible study sessions, Kennedy stresses that IVCF is open to everyone.
Recognizing that many Ryerson students who don’t have a faith might shy away from joining religious groups on campus, she says IVCF makes an effort to hold accessible events that aren’t based on Christianity. Through crafting parties, movie nights and book club meetings, the group continues to help in building a community on campus.
“We actually have a number of students that wouldn’t identify themselves as Christians but still come to a lot of our events,” she said. “One of our goals is to be a place that’s open to any faith.”
But while some students may not agree with being part of a religion, there is the rare number of people who join faith-based groups on campus just to meet other friends.
“There are some who join for the social aspect of it, but those are very few and far between,” said Hannah Plavnick, who serves as the women’s internal care exec for the Chinese Christian Fellowship. “I’ve definitely seen some people come out who were spiritually not sure where they were at.”
Though, having seen its members’ list jump from 35 last year to around 90 registered students at the beginning of the semester, CCF consistently sees growth each year.
Plavnick says part of this success is the group’s willingness to accept all people regardless of race or religion.
“I know definitely from our side, we don’t want there to be a stigma,” said Plavnick. “We work hard at making sure that there’s not anything weird for coming if you don’t agree with us or if you don’t have a declared religion.”