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Hochschulseelsorge Hof: “We accompany people in all questions of life!”

Whether problems of any kind during your studies, homesickness due to the move to a new, foreign country or difficulties in your private environment. There are many different reasons why students want to confide in someone during their studies. This is where the university chaplains Father Rudolf Koller and Vicar Sebastian Schiller come into play.

Sebastian Schiller, parochial vicar and university chaplain at Hof University of Applied Sciences; photo: Sebastian Schiller;

The latter studied social work in Bamberg followed by a master’s degree in theology in Würzburg. Sebastian Schiller has been in the service of the Catholic Church since 2016. After working as a chaplain (pastor) in Herzogenaurach (district of Erlangen-Höchstadt) and Ansbach, he has been pursuing the office of parochial vicar in Münchberg, Helmbrechts and Sparneck since September 2019, where he assumes all pastoral duties. Since January 2020, the 39-year-old has been working in the university chaplaincy at Hof. Campuls.digital spoke with him about his ministry as a chaplain.

Mr. Schiller, you have been a chaplain at Hof University for over two years now. What exactly are your tasks?

I have always been very interested in working with young people of different nationalities, which is why I signed up for the task of university chaplaincy in the pastoral care area of Hof Land. Together with my Protestant colleague, Pastor Rudolf Koller, we both work together ecumenically here at the Hofer universities.

The most important task for me is certainly the personal conversations in which students approach me and ask me for advice, assessment or mediation, because my colleague and I are not only chaplains but also contact persons – interdenominational and actually also interreligious.

Furthermore, we always create an annual program with different offers, where students can get in touch with us, with church buildings, but also with our Franconian culture.

In addition, 8 years ago we started the gift tree campaign, where gifts in kind are donated to social institutions in Hof. All these actions of the annual program we always do in cooperation with different church communities in Hof, external speakers and social institutions in the city and district of Hof.

Gift tree campaign, where gifts in kind are donated for social institutions; picture: Sebastian Schiller;

I personally also take care of the homepage of the university chaplaincy, the Facebook presence and am a member of the DIAG Hochschulseelsorge im Erzbistum Bamberg.

Who can come to you with what concerns?

Basically, anyone can approach me – regardless of which denomination or religion they belong to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a question about your studies, about yourself or about faith and religion. If I can’t help myself, I’m happy to refer students and find the right contact person for them. Of course, the inquiries do not only have to be about problems and questions that arise during the studies or that are related to the studies. I accompany people in all questions of life.

Why is pastoral care so important at institutions like Hof University?

The Corona situation in particular showed me that pastoral care has an important place at the university. Because we as chaplains are not part of the teaching staff ourselves, we have an important mediating role and also an outside view of the institution of higher education. Especially with lockdown and homeschooling, it has become apparent that the offer of conversation and accompaniment for students in extreme situations has increased. Especially for students who come to us from abroad, university chaplaincy is an important point of contact in Germany.

University chaplaincy is also enriching for my parish work. Through the conversations with young people, through their biographies and life crises, I also receive new impulses for my work again and again.

What is special about your job as a university chaplain?

As a university chaplain, I hope above all that the students feel that I am available to them when they need me. In doing so, I hope to always have enough time to respond appropriately to requests and leave them feeling at the end, “Thank God there’s a chaplain at my university.”

How can people reach you?

On campus, we don’t have a dedicated office or administrative staff. Until Corona, there was therefore a weekly office hour in the refectory, where you could contact the university chaplains directly and without complications, and I also hope that this offer will be available again in the near future.

Father Rudolf Koller. He is also active in the university chaplaincy at Hof, along with parochial vicar Sebastian Schiller; photo: Rudolf Koller;

Until then, I can be reached via Facebook Messenger (name: Hochschulseelsorge Hof (HSH)), via the email address of the Hochschulseelsorge (hochschulseelsorge-hof@gmx.de) but also via my office in Münchberg (sebastian.schiller@erzbistum-bamberg.de) and the Catholic pastoral care area Hofer Land, phone number: 09251/14 18.

For more information about the University Chaplaincy Hof, please visit: www.hochschulseelsorge-hof.de.

Franziska Brömel

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