Campus Chaplain Supports and Connects With Arch Students

As Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute welcomed rising juniors to The Arch 2021 summer semester — an in-person, residential experience — the university also welcomed Father Larry Rice, CSP, as the resident catholic chaplain.

With 30 years of experience in campus ministry, most recently serving as the director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Father Larry has also served as director of St. Mary’s of the Lake, the Paulist summer retreat home on Lake George. Prior to his assignment at Lake George, Father Larry was director of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He has also served on several other campuses, including Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and the University of Texas in Austin.

Father Larry earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in General Arts and Sciences from Pennsylvania State University (1983) and a Master of Divinity from the Catholic University of America (1989). In 1984, Father Larry entered the Missionary Society of St. Paul (Paulist Fathers) and was ordained in 1989.  

During the Arch summer semester and the falling then rising tides of the pandemic, Father Larry connected with students in creative ways. In addition to offering Sunday mass, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, and support during difficult times, Father Larry planned casual outdoor get-togethers including a cookout on the Chapel+Cultural Center Terrace and a night of toasting s’mores around the fire. Student feedback was positive and plans to offer similar events will continue throughout the year. 

“I urge Arch students to consciously work to avoid isolation and loneliness,” he said. “Whether they are living on campus during the summer semester or participating in their away semester, I encourage them to make a plan to stay connected to the people they care about, and who care about them. They should take some time to meet with friends, call their mom, and text their roommates. This is a great time to hike with friends in the Adirondacks, hit the Troy Farmer’s Market, or go for a bike ride.”

 In preparation for the fall semester, Father Larry is planning “grass-roots peacemaking” initiatives to help members of the Rensselaer community build the skills and capacity for dialogue so they can engage constructively with diverse people and groups. He is also working on programs to address the low-level trauma everyone is experiencing due to nearly 18 months of the pandemic. “I believe that our many religious and spiritual traditions have a lot to teach us about resilience; we need to share this wisdom with each other,” said Father Larry.

“I’m here for the entire Rensselaer community, whatever your religious or spiritual tradition or practice. If you’re unaffiliated or undecided, that’s OK, too. I’m happy to talk with no pressure or expectations,” he said.

In his spare time, Father Larry is a serious “Trekkie.” He has won several national Star Trek trivia championships, has nearly 400 autographs in his collection, and is responsible for the first use of the Klingon language in the Roman Catholic liturgy. His other favorite pastime is cooking and baking. He even has his own YouTube channel, “In the Kitchen with Father Larry.”

Father Larry is also a knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and has walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, a 1,000-year old pilgrimage across Europe to the burial place of St. James in Compostella, Spain.

Father Larry is available to meet in person outdoors on the Rensselaer campus or at the Chapel + Cultural Center. Online meetings through Zoom, WebEx, FaceTime, etc., can also be arranged by calling (614) 327-0521 or by emailing chaplain@rpi.edu. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter, where he will be sharing daily wisdom, spiritual literacy posts about diverse feasts and seasons, and ideas for maintaining spiritual wellness.