‘What’s the meaning of life?’ … and other questions
Spiritual care professionals can help make sense out of our lives
How do you cope when facing challenges in your life? Some people turn to religion, whereas individuals who don’t identify with any particular faith tradition might not know where to go for advice on issues they are facing. Still others are agnostic or atheist, and don’t believe in a “higher power” yet can need some guidance when dealing with tough choices or when life gets them down.
These are situations when spiritual care professionals can help.
“Ultimately, all of us are trying to find meaning in relation to life’s purpose and our relationships with others,” says spiritual care coordinator Edgar French. With a Master of Arts in Theology, French sits on the provincial executive board of the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care has ten years of ministerial experience providing spiritual support to individuals and families of all backgrounds and beliefs.
French’s work on campus is to help students cope with loss, crises and transitions. He assists by assessing and addressing how a person’s values and beliefs provide resilience in times of need. These values and beliefs that contribute to our sense of purpose, meaning, and identity can be included as part of what is understood as “spirituality.”
French explains: “Whether you consider yourself religious or not, spirituality is relevant to all people. At heart, spirituality reflects a human longing to make sense of our place in life and find meaning. This longing exists well before we come to think of ourselves as spiritual, agnostic, atheist, or religious.”
Students entering university are usually at an age when their values and beliefs are solidifying and starting to take definitive shape as they seek a trajectory or direction for their lives.
“While this is a time of great possibility and potential – your future is yours to determine – it can also be accompanied by great struggle and apprehension. What do you do when your values and aspirations no longer make sense? How do you deal with grief, fears and losses along the way?” asks French.
French is available at both the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses to promote balanced health by attending to the spiritual well-being of students.
Spiritual care can help anyone who has ever asked or struggled with concerns such as:
- What is my purpose in life?
- What is my place in the world?
- Is this all there is to life?
- Why am I suffering?
- Where is God? Is there a God?
- How can I overcome this setback in my life?
In addition to providing confidential one-on-one spiritual support, spiritual care providers seek to promote spiritual pluralism: the acceptance, respect and understanding of diverse spiritual values, beliefs, and customs.
French is exploring ways to encourage the growth of multi-faith engagement among students. How can the University cultivate an environment where religious pluralism is not only accommodated but actually embraced and celebrated?
French says: “We live in a pluralistic society where diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation are normative factors of life. Sectors of society, including universities, are making great efforts in helping people relate, understand, coexist and problem-solve the unique social challenges that come with diversity. Religion and spirituality should be actively included in this effort, and particularly in institutions of higher learning in order to equip students with the skills necessary to thrive in our diverse world.”
He adds: “Health is not simply the absence of a physical or psychological ailment, but a person’s ability to find meaning, hope and purpose in the face of adversity.”
To speak with the spiritual care coordinator, drop by his office at 102C University Centre or Student Support Services at Bannatyne Campus, visit the website or contact him directly at: 204-474-7005 or email: spiritualcare [at] umanitoba [dot] ca