Even with Lafayette’s predominately Catholic background, different Protestant organizations on campus still seem to thrive, stand firm in their faith and, for some, even feel welcomed by the heavy Catholic influence that is deeply rooted into Lafayette culture.
Although much of Lafayette’s population is Catholic, there are still a diverse amount of Protestant organizations, specifically on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus, that have decided to move on a college campus and bring their beliefs with them.
“I was looking for a way to connect the Episcopal faith with young people. Our church, in the past, hasn’t really been our strong point. I felt that there was a need on campus for people to explore their faith and their spirituality in a safe place that affirms who they believe they are, and that is kind of how we started,” said Katy Campbell, the Chaplain of Canterbury The Episcopal Campus Ministry at UL Lafayette.
Campbell has been the Chaplain of Canterbury for three years now. She said that every day as chaplain, she has to give it to God because it is God’s ministry. It is God who leads and who sends whoever needs to be there as part of the ministry. Before doing campus ministry, Campbell was involved in youth ministry, parish ministry and was even a teacher for 20 years.
Kenneth Bailey, president of UL Lafayette’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry, has had mixed experiences with being of a Protestant background while on a majority Catholic campus. Bailey said he believes that because of the Lafayette area being mostly Roman Catholic, he automatically assumes that a person who tells him that they are a Christian come specifically from the Roman Catholic background. He refers to Lafayette as a Catholic country.
Bailey said he believes that he and his ministry are affected by the area being predominantly Catholic in some particular ways. For example, at Get on Board Day, which happens during the beginning of the year each school year, many students are hesitant to even entertain the idea of signing up and joining the BCM because many say that because they are Catholic, they cannot join. For Bailey, that seems to be the least of his concerns. He simply wants them to believe in Jesus.
“As long as you believe the quick Gospel and set aside your denominational ties. If you believe that Jesus died and rose to pay for your sin. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a believer to be in; there is no in. You just come and fellowship with us,” said Bailey.
While the Catholic presence on campus may or may not affect the directors and leaders of the Protestant organizations present, it is important to recognize whether or not it affects the students of their organizations as well.
Dakota Billiot, a junior at UL Lafayette studying architecture, is currently a member of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational organization on UL Lafayette’s campus. Billiot does not let others put him in a box, when determining one’s beliefs and where he fits best.
“I have my beliefs and it is not going to line up with everybody’s, no matter what denomination they like to put themselves under,” Billiot said.
Although Billiot is completely aware of the heavy Catholic influence in Lafayette, he said he strives to maintain a sense of realization that many of his close friends are Catholic and are walking their own faith journey out day by day. He said believes that their beliefs do not cause division within their relationships.
“We’re kind of like all on our journey, and I think they realize that, and I realize that. I believe that they know that there are some differences in our belief systems as well, and I think that they are okay with that in the same sense that I am okay with that,” Billiot said.
While there are Protestant students who may or may not be affected by the Catholic presence on campus, there are also students who practice Catholicism and are involved in Protestant organizations.
Trace Trahan, a junior at UL Lafayette studying industrial technology, said he considers his denomination to be Roman Catholic, but is actively involved in a Protestant organization on campus.
“I’ve never been reached out to by a Catholic organization on campus, and I even go to church there,” Trahan said.