Holy Cross parishioner publishes book for college students
By Claudia Mathis
Barbara Canale, a parishioner of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, has written a book of daily devotions for college students, Prayers, Papers & Play: Devotions for Every College Student. The book is designed to keep students focused on God at a time when they are seeking their identity while away at college.
Canale was distressed after reading an exerpt from one of her college daughter’s textbooks. “Over 90 percent of college students who enter school drop their faith by the time they graduate,” stated Canale. “It’s a shocking statistic.”
The book, published in March by Liguori Publications, was inspired by Canale’s attempt to provide a daily devotional to her daughter Juliana during her first year of college.
Canale explained that the closest church was located over a mile from Juliana’s campus. “The school lacked a Newman Center,” added Canale. “She was used to attending youth groups at Holy Cross Church while in high school and she hoped her university would have something similar.”
Because the school didn’t offer a youth ministry, Canale began to search for a daily devotional that would help her daughter maintain her faithfulness to God. Unable to find one, she began to email daily devotions to Juliana.
Juliana has since transferred to Cornell University where there are two chapels, many Bible study groups and youth ministries.
Canale’s other daughter, Andrea, is enrolled at Onondaga Community College. She previously attended Nazareth College.
Canale said that the environments at the schools her daughters have attended have tested their faith at times. “They questioned their faith and the church’s teachings because of the different viewpoints from a wide variety of both professors and students,” she said. “They had to decide whether they would follow the crowd or follow God.”
Both girls were raised in a devout religious family. Canale taught religious education for a few years when her daughters were younger. She has also been a contributing writer to The Catholic Sun’s “Word of the Lord” column for the last seven years. Canale said that she might not have had the courage to venture into the field of authoring a book without the experience she gained from reading and writing for the Sun.
“Writing a 500-word passage about the Holy Scripture in a way that relates to everyday life is exactly what my devotional is,” said Canale.
Canale wrote the book of devotions in one year and it took another year to edit. Canale said that when she was editing the book, her daughter Andrea gave her invaluable feedback.
Canale believes that prayer is the answer to everything. Every morning, as she wrote the book of devotions, Canale reflected on and prayed about an issue that was troubling to Juliana. Some of the issues included dealing with an overly critical or overly demanding professor or teaching assistant and the anxiety of an approaching big exam. “I looked for biblical verses that would provide strength and encouragement,” she said. “I have a crucifix beside my keyboard and I asked Jesus to help form my words in such a way that it would help Juliana cope with the stresses and demands of college life.”
Canale said that for young people, her book reinforces the need for daily prayer and reflection with the understanding that God has a plan and that they need to have trust and faith in Him.
The format of the book of daily devotions is unique. It is designed around a college student’s academic schedule, beginning in mid-August and ending in mid-May. In addition, the book includes a section entitled “Summer Holidays.”
The themes throughout the book deal with the unique experiences of college life. Canale said she also included some stories about saints that she felt would help in dealing with the issues that college students face.
The devotions take only a few minutes to complete. Each of the devotions begins with a Scripture reading and is followed by a brief reflection and a prayer.
A full-time writer, Canale resides with her husband of 30 years, Pat, in Jamesville.
Her writing career began in 1994 when her book, Our Labor of Love: A Romanian Adoption Chronicle, was published. It was an account of her experience of adopting her daughters, two orphans with considerable medical needs. She then wrote lighthearted stories about raising her daughters, which were published in magazines such as Seek, Exceptional Family and Whispers From Heaven. In addition, she has contributed 11 stories to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She has also written for 55 Plus Magazine, Celebrate Life Magazine, Woman’s World Magazine and the In Good Health newspaper. She is presently writing a second devotional for Liguori Publications which will be released next spring.
Canale would like every student to have a copy of her new book. Not long after it was published, Juliana gave a copy to a student in her dorm. The recipient said that she wished she had had it during her first year of college, not her last. “It’s important to get it into their hands as soon as they arrive on campus,” said Canale.
Canale wants college students to know that faith in God will guide them through many difficult situations, just as her faith has done for her.
“With God, anything is possible, and that is the message I wanted to relay in my book to students: they will be successful in college if they include God in their lives.”
Prayers, Papers & Play: Devotions for Every College Student may be purchased at Barnes & Noble, www.liguori.com and amazon.com.