Call for more support for uni chaplains

A chaplain at one of the largest higher education institutions in Ireland has spoken of how chaplaincy can be a “lonely” career.

Fr Alan Hilliard, who works at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), admitted that working as a coordinator of chaplaincy can be a “lonely place because nobody knows what you really are doing”.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic following a review by the Higher Education Authority that raises concern about the arrangements used in many colleges to hire chaplains, Fr Hilliard insisted that chaplaincy was “not just a matter of somebody getting a qualification”. 

“It’s somebody who understands what it is to be at third level and serve the needs of people. I think that the issue of chaplain is the issue, and it’s not to be given away lightly to people who just are religious. There’s a science in it,” the Dublin diocesan priest said, adding that he was disappointed by the lack of research that has been undertaken in the area.

“The most disappointing thing for me as a chaplain at third level is how little research and work has been put into the work of a chaplaincy by those who have been responsible for chaplaincy over the years. That there’s nothing written about what chaplaincy is, how you manage it, how you grow it, what its theology is, what its spirituality is. 

“It’s not in the academic world and that’s an awful thing considering the number of chaplains,” Fr Hilliard said.

“I think in essence, the arrangement of the Church and state is that both took it for granted without putting the hard work into it,” he added.

Fr Hilliard, who is Co-ordinator DIT Chaplaincy Service, also warned against losing common sense on the issue in favour of political correctness.

“There is a sense of political correctness and things have to be done according to standards but sometimes common sense can be missing. 

“The review of the chaplaincy shows what we do and why we do it. We’re very confident that what we do and how we do it is of the highest standard,” he insisted.