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Catholic-College Authenticity

“Truth, beauty, and goodness have their being together,” said the late spiritual writer Father Thomas Dubay, S.M. “By truth we are put in touch with reality, which we find is good for us and beautiful to behold.”

The vision of the university in the classical Catholic intellectual tradition is to encourage students to seek truth, goodness, and beauty. Attention to these three elements, or transcendentals, ultimately will direct students toward a deeper knowledge of God, because what is true, good, and beautiful in creation “reflects the infinite perfection of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 41).

Franciscan University of Steubenville, Wyoming Catholic College, and John Paul the Great Catholic University are among the institutes of Catholic higher education that understand this vision. It’s a philosophy that shapes their Catholic identity and permeates their curricula, campus life, and mission.

Here’s how they do it.

Character counts

“A Catholic university presents itself as separate and distinct from other universities,” said Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville. A key difference “is its Catholic identity, which should pervade every aspect of the University’s operations.

“ Catholic character must be evident in more than name. Visitors to Franciscan University often comment there is something “special” about the campus that goes beyond its physical beauty, said Fr. Sheridan.

The entire Franciscan University family, he explained, “is well aware of the presence of Christ and, as a result, lives the joy of the Gospel in their daily lives through the manner in which they engage each other, embrace the truth of our faith, proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, and value the beauty of living lives focused on developing their relationship with Christ.”

Those transcendentals are incorporated into the core curriculum, particularly in Franciscan’s fine arts offerings and Austrian program. Through these, “our students come to a deeper appreciation of the beautiful along with the true and the good,” he said.

The campus itself reflects beauty. At the heart of campus adjacent to Christ the King Chapel is the Rosary Circle, which envelops the cross.

“Our Catholic identity is not merely etched in our flowers or our architecture. It is at the heart of our mission,” said Fr. Sheridan, “which in turn is the basis for the decisions we make here, including hiring decisions and curriculum choices that are made consistent with the mission of the University.”

Theology, philosophy, and sacred music faculty publicly take the profession of faith and oath of fidelity to magisterial teaching. “People who witness this event each year have told me that it brings tears to their eyes to know that they or their child are part of a university that is truly Catholic,” he said.

The university’s rich sacramental life includes daily Mass, Confessions, and Eucharistic adoration. The student body is overwhelmingly Catholic, and there’s an evangelistic spirit, too: more than 450 students annually volunteer on mission trips to impoverished areas, often where the faith is not fully embraced.

“The witness of the lives of our students and their zeal for living the Gospel life, however, very frequently have a profound impact” on those they serve, Fr. Sheridan said.

Creativity and innovation

“At John Paul the Great Catholic University, we believe in the power of truth, goodness and beauty to transform culture,” said Derry Connolly, president and founder of the institution located in Escondido, Calif. “Students are formed in an environment that cultivates creativity and inspires innovation, values academic excellence and applied learning, and fosters an encounter with the transforming love and truth of Jesus Christ in an authentic Catholic community.”

At JPCatholic, as the university is also known, “Our confidence comes from our identity in Christ, our fidelity to his Church, and our unwavering commitment to one another,” Connolly said.

Great art comes “from the heart,” he said, and so the college forms students by connecting their deep intellectual knowledge of Christ with the creative process inspired by the great works of art.

All students take rigorous Catholic core classes to obtain an in-depth understanding of Scripture. They study theology and philosophy, including the Church’s social, moral, and ethical teachings. A Humanities focus includes the renowned works of literature, art, and music.

John Paul the Great welcomes students of all faith traditions or none, but “Catholic identity is paramount. It is our raison d’etre,” Connolly said.

JPCatholic offers a Catholic learning environment where students can grow both professionally and spiritually. “Outside of the classroom, our unique community of artists and innovators live lives largely centered on their Catholic faith,” Connolly affirmed. Daily Mass and rosary are offered, and there are frequent opportunities for Confession, adoration, retreats, service projects, and spiritual growth.

That’s the true and the good. As for the beautiful, Escondido lies just northeast of San Diego, so students are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, mountains, and wide-open spaces for recreation.

The beautiful is reflected also in the creative emphasis. “The culture of creating art on-campus is pervasive,” Connolly said. “Students are constantly filming, drawing, editing, acting, and ideating. The ongoing productions contribute greatly to large-scale collaboration among the student body and provide major opportunities for developing deep and lasting friendships with like-minded creative students, who are brought together by their shared values based on their deep love for and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

High plains Catholicism

Glenn Arbery, a Denver Chapter Legate, presides over Wyoming Catholic College, among the newest and smallest entries to Catholic higher education. Having opened in 2007, its enrollment last year of 175 set an all-time high.

“Unique” describes WCC well. In keeping with its rural Wyoming environment, all students learn horsemanship. They study the likes of Aquinas and Aristotle, lyric poetry, Latin, Euclidean mathematics, Western literature, and field science. A Catholic Outdoor Renewal program goes beyond horsemanship to include kayaking, rock climbing, and a 21-day mountain backpacking expedition.

Also unusual is that students cannot keep cell phones on campus, “a deprivation that soon turns into the rare contemporary phenomenon of actually being present to others,” Arbery said.

That all adds up to a powerful way for students to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty.

“We are very much a college of the Mountain West, but also of the Great Books tradition and the central current of orthodox Catholicism faithful to the Magisterium,” Arbery explained. “All of our students begin to experience the good, first of all, in their experience of their leaders and of each other, and they come to know the beautiful both in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and in the sublimity of what they study. And everywhere, every day, they seek out what is true, knowing that the wrong path is a matter of life and death, just as it is in the wilderness.”

Rather than offer multiple majors, WCC has every student take the same courses all four years. There is a sequence of 12 courses each in theology and humanities, along with studies in

subjects including philosophy, fine arts, and experiential leadership. “Our Catholic identity takes shape through the very way the curriculum unfolds,” said Arbery.

Every Catholic professor takes the oath of fidelity, and nonCatholic professors pledge not to undermine the Faith. “But even an oath would not ensure a strong Catholic identity if every course did not support it,” he said.

WCC offers daily Mass and Confession, and many opportunities for spiritual direction and prayer. The Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form “about half the time,” said Arbery.

The student body is predominantly Catholic, but other faiths are welcome.

“We are not what the great English poet John Milton calls ‘forcers of conscience,’” he noted. “At WCC, we trust that truth, goodness, and beauty have their own appeal.

“Besides,” he added, “the real work is always God’s.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Know the marks of a worthwhile education

As the new school year gets underway, it’s a good time to be thinking about the quality of education that our children are getting, or in all too many cases the education that they are not getting.

The first test of what constitutes a good education is the way that one of the most important questions is asked and answered. It is Pilate’s famous question to Christ: Quid est veritas? What is truth? If the asking of this question is not at the heart of a school’s curriculum, it is not a school offering a true education. If, on the other hand, the question is asked but only with the tired indifference of the relativist who believes that it is a question that is unanswerable, the school is likewise failing to offer an authentic education. The question needs to be asked as one that needs to be answered and, furthermore, as one to which the answer is ultimately knowable and known.

As for the answer to the question, a school offering a good and true education will answer it in the words that Christ gave to His disciples when He told them that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” The way to truth can only come through Christ, which means that it can only come with an understanding of the Gospel and the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is nothing less than the Mystical Body of Christ in the world. An education that sidelines Christ, or ignores Him, or which treats Christianity as only one of several equally valid religions is not a true education at all. How can it be? In denying Christ, it denies the way, the truth, and the life, without which, or whom, there is nothing ultimately but darkness.

Having established the centrality of Christ to all authentic education, the other essential element of a true education is an acceptance of the unbreakable bond between fides et ratio, the indissoluble marriage of faith and reason, which is at the heart of true Christian philosophy. At the heart of this rational path to truth is a proper understanding of “science.” The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, which simply means knowledge. It is for this reason that the Church has always taught that theology is the queen of the sciences. Theology is the knowledge of God, the first and most important of all the sciences. Another science that is often neglected is philosophy, which is the knowledge of reality to be discovered in the love of wisdom. It is the science of wisdom. History is the knowledge of reality to be discovered by understanding the past. It is the science of the past, or, to put it another way, it is the science of human experience. If an education is neglecting these crucial and authentic paths of knowledge in favor of the so-called “hard” sciences, the latter of which are encapsulated in the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), it is not an authentic or adequate education. These subjects are important, of course, but only as part of a wider knowledge, which includes the other sciences.

Last, but emphatically not least (indeed the last shall be first!), a good and true education must be an education that teaches what it means to be good. It must teach virtue, and it must teach the Christian understanding of love, the very heart of all virtue, which is the conscious choosing of the sacrifice of the self for others. Such an education, which teaches the good and the true, can be said to be truly beautiful.


JOSEPH PEARCE is a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and editor of its journal.

A Catholic take on endorsing a college major

We make a mistake when we try to steer others into business careers, if our rationale is focused strictly on practicality.

Sure, a business degree is one of the few undergraduate majors that leads to a good job upon graduation. And pay levels in business disciplines offer some of the most lucrative starting salaries. But when we convey practical considerations alone, we miss the central reason that Catholics should chose business as a major.

I tried to convey a practical rationale to my own kids without success.

When my eldest began to think about a college major, I was quick to point out that business has the good-paying jobs. Despite my mild protests, she ended up majoring in art and became a wonderful grade school teacher.

When my second came along, I tried to encourage him to follow in my footsteps as a business guy. But he chose philosophy as his major, and became a well-published college professor.

My third was a really organized child, so I tried to convince her that she would make an outstanding accountant. But she chose theology, and became a cloistered nun. What a blessing!

So, as you can see, I took three swings and missed each time. My kids all made great choices, but my advice wasn’t very helpful.

Here’s what I did wrong. Pope Francis has remarked on several occasions that business is a noble vocation. It is noble because it requires the practice of virtue, and it is a vocation because we are called to the profession through action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses our God-given talents, interests, and yearnings of the heart to encourage us to select a career of meaning that helps make the world a better place. Our choice of major helps each of us become the unique and irreplaceable person that God wants us to be.

When business is done well, it serves to make the goods of the earth more readily available for everyone. Businesses analyze the honest needs of real people, create high-quality products and services that meet those needs, and do it all at a price that makes sense in the marketplace. If business is a calling to serve in a virtuous way, then that’s what I should have been telling my children while they were making their college major choices.

One in every five people earns a business degree – that’s more than any other field. But many people chose business for the wrong reasons. If you chose business without discerning whether God is calling you to this profession, you will likely be disappointed with your choice.

So when children, friends, and relatives ask your advice on college majors, respond this way: First, tell them that they should seek to find a career that excites, challenges, and makes the best use of their talents, interests and yearnings of the heart. The world doesn’t need another person who is bored with their job!

Second, tell them that business is a noble vocation. It’s a calling from God that is discernable through prayer. Business can make the world a better place, and businessmen and women are called to use their many talents to make that happen.

Third, tell them about the excitement you feel going to work each day in living out your Christian commitment through your work. Tell them about your frustrations, but also tell them about your joys. Tell them that in your own small way, you are salt for the earth, providing a Christlike flavor to everyday life.

Finally, encourage them to pray for guidance, and remind them that you will be praying for them as well.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Trailblazer for New Catholic Renaissance

Turning 40, Christendom College – under longtime leadership of Legate Timothy O’Donnell – maintains authentic Catholic surety and attests one man can make a difference.

When Legate Timothy O’Donnell became the third president of Christendom College 25 years ago, one of the first things he wanted to do was build a chapel at the center of campus.

But Mark McShurley, then-chief financial officer, said it couldn’t be done without a major gift.

“He gave me a figure,” O’Donnell said, “and we said a prayer to the Blessed Mother. Fifteen minutes after we prayed, he came into my office shaking and saying, ‘You won’t believe what happened.’” McShurley had just received a call from an anonymous donor who wanted to make a gift in the exact amount he had named.

“I said, ‘Goodness, she works really fast!’” O’Donnell recalled. Three years later, the Chapel of Christ the King was consecrated. Ever since, it has stood as a vivid reminder of Christendom’s mission to form and send forth an educated Catholic laity to impact society and “restore all things in Christ.”

Launched during weak-kneed time in Catholic education

Christendom was founded in 1977 by Dr. Warren Carroll at a time when many older Catholic colleges were shedding their Catholic identity and legacy. A decade earlier, 26 Catholic college administrators, bishops and presidents had gathered in Land O’Lakes, WI, to forge a statement asserting that Catholic universities would be independent from the Church hierarchy, orthodoxy and spirituality. Carroll responded by creating an academic environment where students could receive an authentic, Catholic liberal arts education that would prepare them to integrate their faith into their professional lives, whether in politics, law, journalism or teaching. In starting Christendom, he fulfilled his own oft-spoken words that “one man can make a difference,” touching off a renewal of Catholic higher education that is still unfolding today.

“Christendom is probably best described as a pacesetter,” said Patrick Reilly, founder and president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which seeks to promote and defend faithful Catholic education. “It was one of the first institutions . . . to really step out and make clear that the heart of Catholic education is fidelity to the Church.” That ideal, Reilly said, has since been emulated by other institutions that have either returned to or were established on the foundation of providing a strong, authentic, faithful Catholic education. “Christendom has really set an example that is spreading rather rapidly throughout not just higher education, but also elementary and secondary education.”

Still among top picks for Catholic fidelity

Indeed, in its first Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, published in 2007, the Cardinal Newman Society recommended 21 colleges and programs, including Christendom, for their commitment to faithful Catholic education. A decade later, the current guide lists 29, and Christendom again is among them.

Reilly credits O’Donnell’s leadership with much of Christendom’s success over the last 25 years. “Just as the key to Catholic education is strong fidelity to the faith, it also relies on leaders who are real witnesses to the faith and no one does that better than Tim O’Donnell. Teaching is his first love. If you look back to great Catholic educators, great leaders of Catholic colleges, they were educators first. And he certainly is.”

O’Donnell came as educator first … and is today

O’Donnell came to Christendom in 1985 as an assistant professor of theology and history, having been drawn to the school by its pioneering role in the effort to restore Catholic higher education. When he assumed the presidency seven years later, he did so with the provision that he would continue to teach, something he still does today. “The big thing to me is building the temple of the soul,” he said, “and I told the board I would be president only if I could keep teaching.”

Like the school’s founder, O’Donnell has been a man who has made a difference. During his tenure, which has spanned more than half the school’s history, Christendom has expanded its enrollment, physical plant and academic offerings.

When he became president, Christendom had 144 students. Enrollment since has increased to 485 undergraduate students on the main campus in Front Royal, VA. Another 175 graduate students study online and at the Alexandria, VA campus.

Staying small enough for collegium

Even as enrollment has risen, the intent has been to keep the college small enough so that there is a faculty member for every 15 students. “It’s the idea of a medieval collegium where students and faculty live together,” O’Donnell said, adding that Christendom faculty members dine daily with students and know them by name. “A lot of times conversations initiated in the classroom are carried over to lunch. It becomes a way of life.”

Indeed, that was one reason alumna Joan Watson chose Christendom, although she originally had had her heart set on a larger Catholic university where her father and brother had gone. At Christendom, she said, “I knew I was going to be known by name and that was important to me.” Watson, who graduated in 2006 and now is director of adult formation for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, said she also liked that the president of the college and other faculty went to Mass with students and sat with them at lunch. “There was such an integration of the family of Christendom.”

Devotions led by the president

Watson said when she was a student, O’Donnell would lead a holy hour the night before the monthly First Friday observance, which honors the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “The chapel would be packed and he and [his wife] Cathy would be in the front row. Sometimes those holy hours were exactly what I needed. To have the president of the college taking a spiritual fatherhood role is enormous. That may be the greatest thing he gave me.”

The holy hour since has been moved to 9 p.m. on the first Friday and is followed by allnight Eucharistic adoration, but O’Donnell still participates by leading a scriptural meditation Rosary.

Christendom has long had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart, which is depicted in a large window in the chapel sanctuary. Each year, the college community is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and O’Donnell attributes the school’s success to this spiritual practice.

“The Church hasn’t changed Her teaching … we will remain faithful”

In addition to enrollment growth during O’Donnell’s presidency, Christendom has seen a significant expansion of its campus that has included construction of a library, gymnasium and new residence halls. Now, as the college celebrates its 40th anniversary, plans are underway to build a new cruciform Gothic chapel near the existing one on the highest point of the campus overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Seating will double that of the current chapel, which will be converted to a Catholic cultural center. The project is part of a $40 million campaign that also will build up the endowment and annual fund.

Under O’Donnell’s leadership, the college has enriched its academic offerings as well by adding study-abroad programs in which juniors spend a semester in Rome and students from Christendom and other schools can attend the St. Columcille Institute in Donegal, Ireland for three weeks during the summer. O’Donnell visits students in the Rome program, giving them a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, and teaches in and serves as dean of the St. Columcille Institute, which he founded to train students as leaders in the New Evangelization. At Christendom, O’Donnell also teaches freshman history, the history and theology of the papacy and ascetical and mystical theology.

Teaching, he said, helps him relate with faculty and students, and makes him more disciplined and focused. “I find that it allows you not to be a distant figure. The faculty see you differently and the students see you not as a remote administrator, but doing the essential work of the college, which is teaching.”

Amid the uncertainty that marks these times, O’Donnell said Christendom will stay the course. “This is a time-tested education, the education the Church has always encouraged us to do, that Catholics come in contact with their patrimony, where faith and reason work together in a harmonious synthesis. There is no reason to change because in times of confusion it is even more important that students learn to think clearly, to see fallacious thinking or argument. All this is given through the rigor of education they receive here. The Church has not changed her teaching . . .. We continue to remain faithful to the patrimony of the Church and to go forward.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Education and the Truth

Editor Patrick Novecosky argues that education and evangelization are inseparable . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Given the state of the U.S. economy and youth culture here and around the world, some people may begin to believe that the world is doomed and ripe for Christ’s second coming. The U.S. unemployment rate is nearing double digits, the recession shows no signs of receding, and young rioters in England last month destroyed property and killed five people.

On the flip side, just a few weeks ago more than a million young people gathered in secular Spain to hear from an elderly scholar. It was a gathering that no rock star, no politician, no government could pull off. On a planet of more than 6 billion people, only one could make such an event happen: Pope Benedict XVI. At World Youth Day in Madrid, young people from around the world prayed, attended daily Mass, and heard from faith-filled lecturers. They stayed up late and talked about their families and their faith, their music was loud, and they came home proud to be Catholic.

Catholic youth culture is alive and well in America — and around the world. Organizations like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — headed by Legatus member Curtis Martin — are bringing the gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church to thousands of college students across the country. The Cardinal Newman Society is working for the restoration of orthodoxy on Catholic campuses (see page 29 for more). New faithful schools like Wyoming Catholic College and Ave Maria University are gaining influence and prestige (see pages 10 and 14 respectively) and established schools like the College of Saint Mary Magdalen are reforming themselves in orthodoxy (see page 17).

This is good news for the Church in America. Catholics had a hand in some of the first colleges and universities in this country. Georgetown was established in 1789 and Mount Saint Mary’s in 1808. Saint Katherine Drexel pioneered education for African Americans and Native Americans in the early 20th century. She knew that education was not only a sure way to advance one’s position in the world, but a way to bring a person closer to God.

Education and evangelization are inseparable. Young Catholics understand this. They know that they themselves must first be transformed before they can draw others to Christ. Anna Williams, an editorial page intern at USA Today and three-time World Youth Day attendee, recently wrote: “More intellectually coherent than relativism, orthodoxy is also more demanding. It makes us place others above ourselves, the truth above what we’d like to be true, the fight for virtue above the pursuit of pleasure. In a word, it preaches sacrifice.”

Ultimately, education must instill such ideals. It must pursue the truth. While our public education system (for the most part) has put ideology before reality, it’s up to Catholic educators to lead the way by pointing to the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.