Inter-faith chaplain providing support for students without parents

Group meets once a week for meal and discussion

Queen’s Faith and Spiritual Life offices are located on the second floor of Mitchell Hall.

Every week, Kate Johnson, Queen’s inter-faith chaplain, makes dinner for a group of students who don’t have parents.

Johnson started the initiative, called Supper and Support (Students Without Parents), last September. In an interview with The Journal, she said the Faith and Spiritual Life office’s move from the JDUC to Mitchell Hall has allowed proper space for the weekly dinners. 

“This is my seventh year here, and I think I’ve been thinking about doing it since my second year here,” she said.

Johnson explained that her office has a bursary fund, which alerted her to the need for more support for students without parents.

“[The bursary] is kind of the last stop on the street, like when nobody else can help you with money,” she said. “Students who don’t have family support often end up in this office. It’s not unusual to be broke if you don’t have the family to support you.”

Johnson said the group has about eight regulars who meet every week to have dinner and discuss different focus topics, like how to develop a chosen family.

“People have wanted to talk about things like how to cope with the holidays when you don’t really have a place to go [and] what it’s like dating when you have to explain you don’t have a family.”

Johnson said people can have harmful assumptions about students who don’t have parents.

“Many people’s assumption is that if you’re at Queen’s, you have a family. I often talk about how this place has a veneer of privilege. There’s a stereotype that people who are here come from privileged backgrounds, and that’s not universally the case.”

“[Students] tend to only tell their closest friends they don’t have parents, and because it’s a very difficult thing to talk about, they tend to encounter a fair bit of pity, which is not helpful. These folks are actually some of the strongest, most resilient people I know, and the last thing they deserve from anybody is pity.”

Johnson added that these students are sometimes told they’ll work it out with their parents.

“That’s not often the case. Sometimes their parents are dead, and sometimes the relationships are really that toxic,” she said. “There’s a couple of people who have come out of the foster care system, there are a couple of people who have to remove themselves from their family for their own safety.”

Johnson said she plans to continue running this program in future years.

“It’s a really wonderful group of people who would be happy to support other people in the same position, so if people want to come, they should reach out.”

The Faith and Spiritual Life offices are located on the second floor of Mitchell Hall in suite 210.

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