When the Rev. Vernon Shelton took on the role of director of ministry at St. Joseph’s University, New York’s Brooklyn Campus, his plan was to support students in as many ways as he could find.
He began with the food pantry, accepting donations and letting students know that the resource is available to anyone in need.
“We’re looking for consistent donations for the food pantry,” Shelton said. His goal for the ministry is to create a space where students can more easily find ways to serve the community and also where students in need can seek relief.
“We are trying to build partnerships, enhance our mission and give opportunities for students who desire to do community service work,” he said.
Shelton will work with the Health and Wellness Center to find ways to support students, particularly during midterms or finals.
“When the anxiousness rises, students may just want to come and talk, and I’ll just listen,” he said.
Shelton, a Baptist minister, brings an interfaith approach to St. Joseph’s.
“It’s like the chapel chaplain,” he explained. “Regardless of someone’s faith, tradition and beliefs, the ministry is based on the principles of love and everyone being treated equally, lined up with what the University was founded on. It’s about servanthood and respect.”
Faith is something he leaned strongly on in early 2020. When the pandemic arrived, he began taking clinical pastoral education (CPE) classes to help him process his own fear and emotions. The classes landed him at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.
“We had the first confirmed COVID case in New York. I was there because I was afraid of COVID, working through my own fear, and then I had to do clinicals at the hospital,” he said.
He started serving as a chaplain at the hospital during the height of the pandemic. He was assigned to work with patients, but his focus quickly turned to the medical students, helping them process their own fear and trauma.
“I was there to listen and give them spiritual guidance and faith,” Shelton said. His support quickly turned to nurses and doctors.
“There were so many deaths. I enjoyed the work, but going to work every day, dealing with death all day can become overwhelming,” he said. After completing his work at the hospital, he realized that his work with students was the most fulfilling, and so he turned to St. Joseph’s to continue his mission.
Shelton’s office is in Tuohy Hall, room 205. He accepts requests for assistance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.