Freshmen aren’t the only new faces students and faculty will see on Hope College’s campus this fall. Fr. Nicholas Monco, a priest hired by the St. Benedict Institute, has started his ministry on campus this semester.
“It’s like I’m a freshman in college all over again,” he jokes.
Although he is based on campus, Fr. Monco technically works for the St. Benedict Institute, a ministry which, according to its website, “seeks to strengthen Catholic identity amongst the Catholic students as well as encourage Christians in their faith on the Hope College campus.”
His hiring couldn’t have come at a better time as Catholicism on campus is growing.
According to Hope’s website, Roman Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination represented at Hope College with 18 percent.
However, his position at Hope is slightly different from his last role. Fr. Monco recently spent the past four years teaching at Fenwick High School in Illinois, his alma mater. There, he interacted with students and teachers, some of whom taught him when he was a high school student.
“I always had this dream of going back [to Fenwick] and teaching theology,” he says. “But after four years there, the Provincial wanted to expand into more campus ministry, and he asked me to check out this possibility at Hope. After looking, I thought it’d be a great fit.”
He assures Hope students, though, that he’s excited to dive into college ministry, “It’s nice to no longer have a teaching load and instead be able to do more pastoral work.”
He may have just started at Hope, but he reports that he already feels a part of the faith life here on campus, interacting with students, faculty and, of course, our school’s chaplains.
“West Michigan ‘nice’ is a real thing,” he says. “As a new person the best thing has been how kind and welcoming everyone has been. The people in campus ministries have been especially welcoming.”
When asked about how he wishes to impact Hope, Fr. Monco points out two specific things: “Goal number one is to help deepen the faith of those who are already devoted help the faithful be more faithful. The second thing, and the harder thing to do, is to reach out to those Catholics who are not practicing.”
He has already started working towards achieving these goals, as he has started offering Mass, hearing confessions, leading prayer groups and organizing Bible studies. Students are encouraged to get involved, too. He’s looking for many ways to connect.
“If you’re interested in learning about what Hope Catholics is all about, just start showing up for Mass and meeting fellow Catholics,” he says. “Also, email me, and I’d be happy to connect people wherever would be best.”
If students would rather connect with Fr. Monco face- to-face instead of email (his email is firstname.lastname@example.org), they can stop by his office located on the second floor of Lubbers Hall.
They may also see his face on YouTube, as his video series titled “Harry Potter and Catholicism” has garnered over 25,000 views. He posted his first episode back in 2012 and now has written, starred in and directed over 20 episodes.
Therefore, students are encouraged to say hello to this fresh face, who is making magical connections with the Catholic community here on Hope’s Campus.