Tag Archives: Catholic Higher Education

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.

Entrust kids to schools teaching ultimate Truth, moral law

Parents, as the first educators of their child and participating in the selection of an institution of higher education, are faced with challenges that perhaps their own parents had not faced: Will their teenager embrace the truths of the Church after their college experience? Historically, if a young person selected a Catholic college parents felt confident they would be supporting an educational experience supportive of Church teaching. Current anecdotal evidence suggests this may not always remain the case. Numerous mandates interfere with Catholic higher education’s unique role in preparing graduates to respond to the escalating moral questions of the day. These mandates may be from regulatory agencies, policies concerning academic freedom, legal claims labeling natural moral law as intolerant and discriminatory, and most impactfully, the demands of politically correct cultural relativism.

Catholic higher education has a unique role that extends beyond the education of the next generation. During Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 address to Catholic educators in the United States, he indicated how education plays a unique role in shaping a society respectful of natural moral law based on ultimate truths: “The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity. … The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.” [Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, April 17, 2008).]

The most effective method of fulfilling this mission is by preparing graduates capable of shaping a society that respects natural moral law. However, society has become hostile, not only to the ultimate truths of natural moral law, but also to those who espouse them. Catholic colleges may find it financially and socially expedient to deemphasize such a mission. In so doing, students may be cheated of an education in ultimate truths consistent with reason, vital to the holistic development of the human person. The question remains: What is a parent, in assisting a college-seeking child, to do?

There are indicators of a Catholic institution’s willingness to fulfill its unique role. These include: the nature of institutional sponsorship; the composition of the institution’s board of directors and their membership in organizations which publicly advocate for positions inconsistent with Church teaching; the public positions taken by board members, the administration, and the faculty; the sources of institutional funding; the nature and number of mandated core courses in religious studies and philosophy; and the institution’s collaborative relationships with other agencies in meeting the educational needs of students. One very telling indicator is how the institution describes itself and its mission in promotional materials. Is its mission defined solely in terms of secular goals or in terms of the foundational goal of enabling students to discern ultimate truths consistent with natural moral law? Perhaps, most importantly, does the institution identify itself as Catholic, or merely as value or faith-based?

Catholic institutions of higher education have remained critical to the scientific, socio-cultural, and moral development of this nation. If parents, with their college-seeking children, are comfortable with what they have learned when assessing these parameters, they have a basis for entrusting the next generation to Catholic higher education.

 

DR. MARIE HILLIARD, MS, MA, JCL, PH.D., RN, is Senior Fellow at The National Catholic Bioethics Center. She has an extensive background in nursing, medical ethics, and public policy (former Director of the CT Catholic Conference). She is a canon lawyer, co-chairs the Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, is president of the National Association of Catholic Nurses USA, and is a Colonel (Ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, where she served as RN for over 20 years. Having published extensively, she has likewise won Catholic Press Association award recognition.

Why Catholic higher education

This time of year signals the beginning of another academic year for schools at every level. Ever since founding Ave Maria University and later Ave Maria School of Law (two separate schools), people have asked me why I started a new university and law school. Given this issue is focused on Catholic higher education, I thought I would share my answer with you.

Tom Monaghan

I have always had a passion for Catholic education, which I think can be traced back to the incredible impact it had on my life as a young boy. The instruction and formation that I received in the orphanage and Catholic grade school from the Felician sisters, particularly Sister Berarda, really served as a foundation for my faith development and as a moral compass for much of my life.

Years later when Domino’s Pizza started doing well, I was approached by many people with requests to support all kinds of projects designed to help the Church. I had to really think and pray about how I was going to use the resources God had given me to help His Church. I began getting involved in a variety of projects, including a couple Catholic universities… serving on their boards, etc. I also worked with the local Catholic high school in Ann Arbor, and then started a couple of grade schools (Spiritus Sanctus Academies), which I later turned over to the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

However, it was when I was preparing to sell Domino’s that I had to think long and hard about what God was calling me to do with these resources He had blessed me with… because they were really His. I knew Legatus was critically important and I planned to spend the rest of my life helping it fulfill its mission. Next to Legatus, Catholic higher education emerged as the best way I knew that I could help the Church and society as a whole.

Building grade schools and high schools is critically important, but it is expensive. I knew that even with the proceeds from the sale of Domino’s, my resources were limited. So, I began to think globally… who are the ones who will be teaching and running the grade schools, high schools, colleges, law schools and seminaries? And where are they going to be formed? It was the idea of helping to mold the future teachers, principals, priests, religious, executives, etc. that really got me excited about the importance of Catholic higher education.

In addition, I thought not many people have the resources to start a new university or law school, so I felt a certain responsibility to do so. Therefore, I wanted to do everything in my power to found a university and law school, which would be faithful to the Magisterium and intellectual traditions of the Church and in turn to create a ripple effect that would be felt for generations to come.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman and CEO.