Finding a religious community in college

Getting plugged into a spiritual or religious community can improve students’ mental health


Samuel Damon

Trinity Baptist Church, located only a block away from Trinity University, is a close site for some students to practice off-campus worship.

Many students come to college hoping to find a religious or spiritual community within Trinity and the larger San Antonio area. However, finding one can be a daunting task as San Antonio is home to hundreds of chapels, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and more. The Trinitonian talked to students and faculty around campus about their experience finding a religious community in San Antonio.

A great place to start when looking into religious life on campus is to schedule a meeting with Trinity’s chaplain, Alexander Serna-Wallender. Serna-Wallender can help students gain access to a number of on and off-campus religious resources.

“One of the best ways to get plugged into the religious spiritual life on campus is to get connected to one of our great spiritualist student organizations…. So that’s everything from our Jewish Student Association, Hillel, our Muslim Student Association, Catholic student group, there’s a whole spectrum of them that allow students to get plugged in …” Serna-Wallender said.

A study published in the Journal of College & University Student Housing demonstrated that getting involved with spiritual institutions may help foster a healthy separation from campus that leads to a richer college (and life!) experience. This may be especially important for students living on campus, like those at Trinity, who are required to live on campus for at least three years. As students encounter new ideas and struggle to reconcile faith with their changing worldview, connecting with religious centers in the surrounding community may help to center and ground individuals.

Religious organizations on campus can help students get connected to religious life in the broader San Antonio area, with many organizations offering carpool coordination to local religious centers. Serna-Wallender told Trintionian that Hillel, for example, will often coordinate rides to the temple Bethel on Shabbat. Many Christian organizations, such as Younglife, offer coordinated rides to local churches as well.

Many Trinity students have found that getting in touch with their spirituality has proved to be a rewarding experience. Saqhib Syed, sophomore business analytics major, told Trinitonian about his experience as part of the Muslim Student Association.

“As freshmen, we’re all very hesitant to join and get involved. But I think just taking the first step, what’s kind of scariest once you get involved and you get to see what kind of things are available here, just how many different organizations you can join, you get to see that like, there are a lot of people that are just like you [that] want to learn about different communities, cultures…” Syed said.

If students wish to get connected on their own with religious and spiritual communities outside of San Antonio, the Trinity Chapel and Spiritual life webpage offers a full list of Sacred Spaces and Places of Worship around San Antonio, many of which are within walking distance.

Baha’i Places of Worship
-Baha’i Center of San Antonio (1.6 miles)
Buddhist Places of Worship
– Shambhala Meditation Center of San Antonio (4.8 miles)
Christian Places of Worship
– Protestant
– University Presbyterian Church (0.1 miles)
– Trinity Baptist Church (0.6 miles)
– Roman Catholic
– Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church (0.6 miles)
– Our Lady of Sorrows (Spanish Mass) (0.5 miles)
Jewish Places of Worship
– Temple Beth-El (Reform) (1.4 miles)
– Congregation Beth Am (Reconstructionist) (6.1 miles)
Muslim Places of Worship
– Islamic Center of San Antonio (8.4 miles)
Sikh Places of Worship
– Sikh Center of San Antonio (11.4 miles)