Tag Archives: education

Real Catholic education promotes elevated, eternal ambition

In a day when some smaller Catholic liberal arts colleges struggle to survive amid spiraling education costs, certain others thrive and even grow – all the while remaining true to their Catholic mission and identity. Three such exemplars are the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas; Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Ca; and the University of Mary in Bismarck, Nd 

‘CORE’ VALUES

A University of Dallas education centers on its Core, a rigorous and integrated program that emphasizes the Great Books of Western culture, with common coursework in more than a dozen disciplines ranging from theology and philosophy to Western civilizations, literature, art, languages, and the sciences.

“The University of Dallas is justly celebrated for its Core,” said Dr. Jonathan J. Sanford, UD’s provost and a professor of philosophy. “Our goal is that our students receive an education that enables them to understand the differences between the different disciplines but also, and more significantly, how all knowledge is interrelated since it proceeds from and converges upon the same source: God.”

More than 80 percent of undergrads spend a semester abroad on UD’s campus outside Rome, usually in their sophomore year. It’s an experience referred to as “the Core of the Core,” Sanford explained, “because it is there that our students are enabled to see how all their studies in the Core are anchored in some way in Rome.” Students, he said, return “transformed in mind, body, and spirit.” 

The Core provides an excellent general education that “liberates the mind from ignorance and trains the character to be free from slavery to the passions,” thus equipping students “to do great works in service to God, country, Church and community,” Sanford said. What completes the UD education, however, are the academic majors, which encompass the humanities, the sciences and business. The fruit of this excellence is evident in the high acceptance rates of UD grads in law schools, doctoral programs and med schools, as well in their professional success. 

Unlike some colleges that rightly celebrate the reclaiming of their Catholic identity, the University of Dallas never lost sight of its own since its founding in 1956, Sanford said.

“You might think of us as like a cradle Catholic who keeps maturing in his faith, as opposed to a revert Catholic who had some wayward years and has come back home,” he explained. “The University of Dallas’ early leaders held firmly to their aim to make of us a great university, and to do so as a faithfully Catholic university, and we not only live out but are building on that legacy now.”

 INTELLECTUALLY FREE

 Located along the picturesque California coast, Thomas Aquinas College has long distinguished itself for its Great Books curriculum, its small classes governed by Socratic Method dialogue, and its unwavering fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church. That all now extends to the east coast with the opening of a branch campus this fall in Northfield, MA, just 86 miles west of Boston.

 The establishment of the New England campus “marks a milestone in the life of the college and provides dramatic evidence of the college’s growth and evangelical character,” said Dr. Michael F. McLean, TAC’s president. “We are grateful for the opportunity to make our education available to a greater number of students who are able and willing to undertake our academic program and to graduate more young people who will serve their communities, their country, and their Church.”

 Nearly 60 students will be enrolled in Northfield in August, and hopes are to swell those numbers to 350 or so by 2029, effectively doubling the total student body.

 “When our founders designed the College’s curriculum, they wanted to give students the best possible guides in the study of the various disciplines,” McLean explained. That meant eschewing textbooks and going straight to the source: the original writings of the great thinkers who have shaped our civilization.”

Studying thinkers like Aristotle, Euclid, Shakespeare, our Founding Fathers, and Aquinas himself invites students to grapple with important questions about nature, humanity and God.

“We do not want our students simply to accept what they read,” McLean said. “We want them to think deeply, to ask questions, and to challenge conclusions that do not seem correct, all with the goal of coming to a deeper understanding of what the author is saying, and then of forming a reasoned judgment about whether it is true.”

 This pedagogy is ordered to freedom, which is the purpose of Catholic education, McLean said.

 “One of the aims of the college is to make each student, to the extent possible, a ‘self-mover’ in the life of the mind,” he said. Understanding the principles of each particular discipline and undertaking lively discussions in which they shape, defend, and articulate their views “gives them the power to make truth their own, to become intellectually free.”

 The curriculum “introduces students to the best of the Catholic intellectual tradition and helps them to understand and appreciate the harmony between faith and reason,” McLean added.

 VISION AND INNOVATION

The University of Mary is in the midst of an impressive growth trend of its own. Last fall, it welcomed 533 freshmen to its Bismarck campus, a 22 percent increase from the previous year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Eight satellite campuses – three in North Dakota, one each in Montana, Kansas, and Arizona, and overseas in Rome and Peru – raised enrollment to some 4,600 students last year.

The university demonstrates confidence in its continued success in forming Catholic professionals for the 21st century workforce. Its YearRound Campus program allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree in 2.6 years or a master’s in four. Its Catholic Studies program, with 160 students last year, is the nation’s largest outside of seminaries. New master’s degrees are offered in Virtuous Leadership and in Catholic Bioethics. And the university broke ground this spring for a new $12 million engineering facility to open in fall 2020.

Those are gutsy initiatives considering the financial and cultural challenges faced by liberal arts colleges today, particularly those with a Catholic identity. Yet “as the beneficiary of a 1,500-year legacy of Benedictine education, we at the University of Mary believe that panicked reactions to the current challenges can be dangerous to a school’s actual survival,” Monsignor James Patrick Shea, the university’s president, wrote recently in Prairie Business magazine.

“As a Catholic university, we gain wisdom from Scripture, and so we remember the book of Proverbs, which says, ‘without vision, the people perish,’” he added. 

The satellite campuses extend a Catholic university education to regions where it might not otherwise be available. One of these, Mary College, operates from an old brick church in Tempe, AZ, offering theology and Catholic studies courses in partnership with Arizona State University. A small program with major ambitions, it’s “an innovative model for Catholic higher education going forward,” Monsignor Shea told America magazine.

Providing a solid education within an authentically Catholic context defines the mission of the University of Mary, said Jerome J. Richter, vice president for mission advancement.

“By sharing with our students the truths and beauty of the Faith in an integrated way, they are able to recognize that life without the Church and its sacraments leads to a life less than what it was meant to be,” Richter said. “The University of Mary provides its students with intentional experiences abroad, in the classroom, and in service, so no matter where they are in the moment, they know they are part of something with eternal meaning and hope.”

These experiences “provide each with a greater meaning, a greater hope, and a greater witness to a full breadth of life,” he added. “That is why we consider ourselves to be faithfully Christian, joyfully Catholic, and gratefully Benedictine.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The high stakes of Catholic education

Our mission is to study, live and spread the Catholic faith. Each year, the September issue of our magazine is dedicated to Catholic education… not only because September marks the beginning of another academic year, but also because this is a topic of critical importance to the Church. It is of course the mission of our Catholic schools to provide an environment where the truths of the Church (along with the array of other academic disciplines) are faithfully taught to the next generation. Thus we see a very practical means of our promoting the studying and spreading of our Catholic faith.

Tom Monaghan

Along with the expansion of Legatus, this area of Catholic education has been where I have felt called to devote the vast majority of my time and resources since selling Domino’s Pizza more than 20 years ago. We all know that if you want to impact future generations, the battleground is in our schools. I was blessed to receive a faithful Catholic education when I was in grade school; it was a firm foundation for which I am very grateful. While I did not always live my faith the way I should have, the gift of this Catholic education served me as an unwavering guide.

As my time and resources permitted, it was natural that Catholic education became an area of focus. I started by getting involved in the local Catholic high school, and later built a series of private Catholic grade schools. During this time, I received a crash course regarding some of the struggles going on in Catholic education from a well-respected Catholic who was a good friend. For example, I had never heard of the 1967 Land O’ Lakes Conference or the statement issued by these leaders of Catholic universities from across the country. Obviously, this conference did not take place in a vacuum and was in a sense a sign of the turbulent time the Church and our society was going through in the ‘60s. With that said, this conference in many ways opened the doors for secular influences to creep into Catholic universities and a move away from the Church in the name of academic freedom and secular prestige. 

Thankfully, in 1990 Pope St. John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic universities, finally began a renewal of Catholic identity in some Catholic universities. Almost 30 years later, we continue to wrestle with this issue, not only in our universities, but also in our Catholic schools at every level. So, as this new school year begins, I encourage you to pray for our Catholic schools and ask the Lord if there is anything He wants you to do to help them to be places where our future generations are formed according to the Truth.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CEO.

Sound Catholic education involves parents as ambassadors for Christ

Throughout the centuries, Christianity has taught that parents are the primary educators and shapers of their children. This includes parents’ jurisdiction over their children not only socially and morally, but religiously and academically.

Parents are ambassadors for Christ in all phases of education for their children: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers and Mothers, take heed.

The Fourth Commandment, “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” (Exodus 20:12), teaches us that children honor God by honoring their parents. It is also the first Commandment to carry a promise:: “that you may have a long life….”. Parents have every right to require honor from their children or they (both parents and children) are doing an injustice to God – keeping honor away that is due our Heavenly Father. Naturally, this message is the same for all parents, whether married, single, separated or divorced.

The honor of children – whether minors or adults – for their father and mother (cf. Proverbs 1:8, Tobit 4:3-4) is nourished by the natural affection born of the bond uniting them: the bond of the family. Such honor is required by God’s commandment (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16). While strict obedience toward parents may cease after a child becomes emancipated from home as an adult, respect and honor are always owed them.

How can parents dutifully require honor from their children? By gently nurturing and educating them in their Christian faith, parents can teach and foster within their children natural virtues like respect, fidelity, obedience, tenderness and forgiveness, not to mention other virtues like faith, hope and love. The home is well suited for education in virtues. This first requires an apprenticeship on the part of parents in areas of sound judgment, self-mastery, and self-denial. These Gospel principles serve as preconditions of true freedom.

Parents should associate their children from their most tender years with the life of the Church. If parents set an example, children are naturally inclined to follow it (cf. Proverbs 6:20-22, 13:1; Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3). Parents have a grave responsibility to educate and give good example to their children in things both spiritual and temporal. Also, parents should teach their children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences that threaten human societies and the worth of the human person. Every person is unique, precious, and unrepeatable –made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).

Surely, the home is the natural environment for initiating a youngster into solidarity and communal responsibilities. St. Augustine (d. 430), in fact, called the Christian home the “domestic church.” Having grown-up on a dairy farm, I can still appreciate the spiritual and temporal values instilled by my parents in my siblings and me. Sunday Mass and regular reception of the Sacrament of Confession were mainstays, as were daily chores and tasks assigned to me and my brothers and sister on the farm. Even our years of involvement in 4-H and FFA melded well with our Christian upbringing: we learned, for example, the importance of healthy and charitable competition in the show ring when showing dairy cattle, or building farm equipment in high school shop class and exhibiting it at the county fair.

Parents begin true and authentic education of their children by first solidifying their own faith. They must pray for themselves and for their children. They should also maintain a realistic attitude that the road traveled in raising children will not always be smooth. Parents must work to recapture their God-like leading role, focusing on a return to childlike innocence, peace in the family, and growth in faith and virtue (cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14).

FR. WADE L. J. MENEZES, CPM is the assistant general of the Fathers of Mercy, an itinerant missionary preaching order based in Auburn, KY. He is host of EWTN Global Catholic Radio’s “Open Line Tuesday” and the author of The Four Last Things: A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell (EWTN Publishing).

Engendering wisdom beyond knowledge

If education’s purpose is to teach us how to think, a Catholic education is necessary for thinking in alignment with God – about one’s unique identity and purpose in this life, proper use of his talents, and the manner of his life-journey toward his ultimate meeting with God. That meeting is life’s most important one, called at a time we least expect.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Today’s secular educational institutions have abandoned any sense of immutable Truth and reality – even in the natural realm, and replaced them with soft ideologies and ephemeral identity-politics. Reality of God is relegated to mythology. The kids don’t get authentic education, but indoctrination – which doesn’t teach them how to think or even how to learn. Indoctrination pushes thoughtless, baseless conformity for feel-good, popcult rewards. Such group-think is rampant at the most prized secular schools, and with the steepest of price tags.

But a proper education, a good Catholic one, trains the whole person (his intellect and his will), not just his mind alone. And it affords three incredible benefits.

First, it acquaints a student with real, unchanging Truth – about everything from science, to literature, to the study of mankind and of God. A student should realize why he is here on earth, where he is headed, and what the whole of his life means in that regard. Those who keep these in mind throughout life have stronger resolve, and don’t as easily fall prey to anxiety, fear, distraction, and despair.

“When we put truths into our minds, we … live out those truths in our lives. But if we put falsehood and vice into our minds, they [eventually] work themselves out into our lives,” said the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Second, there’s a correlation of studies in the student’s curriculum, among all branches of knowledge to which he’s exposed. Some courses are more overarching and substantive than others – and the truths of these serve to illuminate the teachings of the lower courses. But everything fits and synergizes.

Third – and of critical import – is the depth, the deepening knowledge a student realizes from his education. This is when he is able to construct a philosophy of life garnered from his learning. His philosophy of life will serve him for life – in times of abundance and hardship, emotional highs and duress, triumph and rejection, camaraderie and loneliness, busy-ness and languish, health and hospice, and ultimately to his last moment.

This is wisdom, which cannot be bought or faked.

Most secularized colleges stress freedom – from tradition, from social mores and morals, from parents, from laws, from anything. But freedom doesn’t comprise truth. Real freedom actually derives from Truth.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints” (Prov 2: 6-8).

Isn’t this the education we want for ourselves and our children?

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Most Catholic kids in public school leave the Church

What percent of applicants were accepted to Yale last year? Only 6 percent.

Pretty poor odds, right?

Now consider this: What percent of Catholic kids who never attended Catholic school will go to weekly Mass as adults? Only 5 percent.

Pretty poor odds, indeed. Consider further that most Catholic children (about 84 percent) will never attend Catholic school, and the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. We are losing the next generation of Catholics with stunning speed. By the time they graduate from public school, most young Catholics will head for the Church’s “exit” door, never to return. These aren’t faceless statistics: these are our children and grandchildren.

In spite of all the handwringing within the Church over why young Catholics are leaving the faith, few Catholic adults (or clergy) have faced this fact: public schools are toxic to our children, poisoning their self-understanding and undermining their faith. Why aren’t we talking about this? More importantly, why aren’t we fixing this?

Perhaps older Catholics, who grew up when the culture largely supported Christian living, fail to appreciate the magnitude of this cultural shift. Previously, the cultural undertow generally pulled most people along in the right direction. Today’s cultural undertow is a riptide, brutally yanking our children far from shore, submerging them in polluted waters and suffocating their faith. Public schools, along with entertainment, social media, consumer culture, and celebrity influencers, are our cultural waters.

Perhaps Catholic parents who attended public schools themselves think, “Well, I turned out all right,” not realizing that today’s public school environment is radically different.

The game-changer is public education’s reckless stampede towards full-blown gender ideology. Under the guise of “inclusivity” and “tolerance,” schools are indoctrinating our children in a false anthropology that is destructive, destabilizing, denies scientific reality (that we are male or female, forever), and contradicts Catholic teachings.

Put plainly, the public schools are lying to our kids about who they are. Rather than a unity of body and soul, the human person is presented as a jumble of disconnected dimensions such as “gender identity,” “sex assigned at birth,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation.” Gender ideology says it’s normal for these dimensions not to align. A person with a male-sexed body can identify as a girl, and insist that others address “her” by female pronouns; classmates must nod along, “affirming” the child’s chosen identity. Gender ideology also teaches kids that it’s normal for transgender-identifying persons to pursue body modification through cross-sex hormones or radical surgery. Put differently, teachers, counselors, and administrators will “affirm” a transgender-identified child, even if this means supporting a 16-year- old girl’s desire for a double mastectomy (because she feels like a boy) or an 18-year old boy’s hopes for genital surgery to validate his identity as a “real” girl.

Worse, schools are keeping parents in the dark about kids’ exposure to gender-affirming curricula, whether transgender-identified students are sharing restrooms or locker rooms alongside opposite-sex students, or even their own child’s “gender identity.” State legislatures and local school boards pass regulations forbidding school staff from telling parents if their own child shows signs of gender confusion unless the child consents. The schools comply under the pressure tactics and litigation threats of LGBT activist groups bent on influencing how other people’s kids understand themselves.

As parents know, there are no do-overs on childhood. One hour a week of religious education cannot possibly counter a child’s daily immersion in gender ideology. Parents, clergy, and Catholic philanthropists need to see what’s happening and enable all Catholic kids to receive a Catholic education. The alternative is to watch helplessly, as the Pied Piper of gender ideology pipes our children over the mountain, never to return.

MARY RICE HASSON, JD, is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow and the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. She co-authored, with Theresa Farnan, PhD, Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late (Regnery, 2018) and was a speaker for the Holy See’s panel on gender ideology during the 2019 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Curriculum Imbues Aquinas’ Virtue-Teachings

St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings on the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit can be daunting enough for most adults, let alone school kids.

But the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have developed a curriculum that effectively communicates the Angelic Doctor’s insights to students from kindergarten to high school about the virtues they will need to live and cope well as Christian disciples.

“We wanted to instill the importance of that, because what virtue really is, is this internal disposition toward goodness,” said Dominican Sister John Dominic, one of four foundresses of her community, which has its mother house in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“We aim to form adults, a generation of young people, who desire to be good, that see that this way of life leads to an interior peace and happiness,” Sister Dominic said.

Sisters spiritually adopted Legatus

Communicating the value of the virtuous life has been a staple of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, which began in 1997 with four members from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, more commonly known as the Nashville Dominicans.

Sister Dominic and her three foundresses felt called to begin a new religious foundation. They were aided by Tom Monaghan, founder of Legatus, who arranged to bring the sisters to Ann Arbor so they could operate a new Catholic school that would teach students to excel in academics and the spiritual life.

“We were aligned with our vision for Catholic education,” said Sister Dominic, who added that Monaghan also helped build the community’s mother house. She said the sisters have spiritually adopted Legatus and regularly pray for the organization’s intentions.

“We’ve always felt very close to Legatus,” Sister Dominic said.

400 schools use the program

The sisters operate the Spiritus Sanctus Academies, which are two private Catholic Pre-K-to-8th grade schools, in the Ann Arbor and Plymouth areas of southeast Michigan. The community has its own publishing company, Lumen Ecclesia Press, that publishes books written and music recorded by the sisters.

“When we had to get our books printed, the printer told us we needed a press name,” Sister Dominic said. “So we came up with Lumen Ecclesia Press, for Light of the Church, with the symbol of a torch because we want to be a light out there to praise, to bless, and to preach.”

The Education in Virtue curriculum was the first project the sisters published through Lumen Ecclesia Press. Sister Dominic said an education in the virtues is closely linked to Dominican spirituality, teaching, and preaching. She added that the sooner children are taught about virtue, the easier it is for them to grow in the virtues.

“I found that when I was the principal of Spiritus Sanctus Academy, people would ask other teachers, ‘How do I teach virtue and temperance to a kindergartener?’” Sister Dominic said. “That’s why we develop resources, with virtue cards that contain illustrations of what a particular virtue looks like, a phrase of what it sounds like, and what it looks like in action.”

In addition to the virtue cards, which are similar to flash cards, the virtue curriculum’s resources include videos, professional development courses for teachers, and videos for parents who are interested in the materials.

“We’ve tried to make the content not too intellectual, but so that any person can understand it,” said Sister Dominic, who added that more than 400 Catholic schools across the country use the virtue curriculum.

“The materials are attractive, engaging, and infused with Sacred Scripture, insights from the lives of the saints, and a Thomistic understanding of the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Father Steve Mattson, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, wrote for a testimonial published on the Education in Virtue’s website.

 ‘Echoing the mystery’ for catechists

The sisters’ other big project has been the publication of Echoing the Mystery, a book for catechists based on the teaching approach of Barbara Morgan, the retired foundress of the catechetics program at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Before retiring in 2005, Morgan taught Sister Dominic and many notable Catholic apologists and authors, including Jeff Cavins, Tim Gray, and Edward Sri, among others.

“Her love and deep understanding of God’s revelation make her an effective catechist,” Sister Dominic said, adding that Morgan, who lives in Michigan, understands that a catechist is a person who “echoes down” the truths God has revealed.

Echoing the Mystery was released in 2018 after about 12 years’ hard work and planning. Sister Dominic said the community wanted to compile Morgan’s insights and catechetical approach for future generations of catechists.

Morgan, who was seriously ill at times and nearly died from pancreatitis, said she was unsure if the book would ever be published, but was thankful that God enabled her and Dominican Sister Athanasius Munroe, her co-author, to finish Echoing the Mystery. Morgan credited Mother Mary Assumpta Long, the superior of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, with allowing Sister Athanasius to work exclusively with her.

James Pauley, a theology and catechetics professor at Franciscan University, said Echoing the Mystery represents the “lifework of a master catechist” that meets a profound need in the Church.

“It is the most comprehensive and incisive treatment of how to communicate the content of the Christian message available today,” Pauley said. “The book does not advocate for a merely conceptual presentation of Christian doctrine, but it puts doctrine in proper relationship to the kerygma (Greek, for “preaching”), the Scriptures, the sacramental encounter with God, and the call to conversion.”

Firsthand research from Church documents, scripture, experience 

Barbara said her knowledge of catechetics and teaching approach is rooted in the era before the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published in 1992. She learned how to research Catholic doctrine in Church documents. She also attended 12 years of Catholic schools, went to a Catholic college, and had a mother, a former Baptist, who knew Scripture and could tell her how Catholic teachings were rooted in the Bible

“The thing the catechist has to give people is that which they will not get on their own,” Morgan said.

Sister Dominic said Morgan’s effectiveness and moral clarity as a catechist are the result of prayer, her relationship with God, and her lived experiences.

“And she’s so humble,” Sister Dominic said. “Her humility is such that she delights in anyone she is teaching becoming a better catechist than her. That’s humility.”

Sister Dominic said Echoing the Mystery is written for catechists and people who have the responsibility to hand on the Catholic faith to future generations. She added that the book can be used with any catechetical series on the market.

“I’m really excited about this,” Sister Dominic said. “I think anybody who teaches religious education or catechesis just needs to have a copy of that, the Catechism, a Bible, and they’re good to go.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

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.

Education – getting it straight

No one appreciates being patronized or deceived. No matter the situation, we expect truth the first time around. Anything else wastes our trust.

An authentic education —pursuit of truth in a given subject area — is no exception.

Media frequently run features on best-college values, but they use cost as the key variable. Catholic families must tease out where unmitigated truth is found, and where real threats to kids’ faith and well-being lie. Which schools will prepare the student well for his profession, and synergize it with full Catholic witness?

The Catholic Church teaches the purpose of man’s existence is to know, love, and serve God here, to be happy with Him eternally. Since God’s plan for marriage is procreation and education of children, kids must be taught what is essential to get to heaven. It’s the most important thing they can learn.

Yet, the typical parent sees a kid’s release into college as his official consummation with the world — complete with all its electrifying points of departure. In washing their hands of what they see as inevitable ‘falls from grace,’ parents commonly surrender with “What are ya gonna do?” But that cannot be Catholic parents’ collapse — to resign themselves to kids’ regrettable choices, many of which prove irreversible and destructive. God expects parents to be reliable guides in steering kids away from vices and serial mortal sin, toward the things of God. College can be a profligate abyss, or a magnificent enlightenment in Catholic truth, logic, and appreciation for God, regardless of chosen study.

As many kids (and parents) learn belatedly, boundless liberty isn’t the happiness they’d envisioned. Rather, life in Christ actually is.

Statistics bear it out. Studies over the past 20 years show those who practice their Christian faith and pray regularly are less stressed, healthier, happier, more financially stable, more compassionate, and more optimistic than those who don’t. And these findings aren’t from Catholic think-tanks, but from Pew Research and others.

So how should Catholic kids be educated?

St. Alphonsus Liguori, 17th-century doctor of the Church, says Catholic education begins at home, since kids absorb what parents embody. “Vices are not born to children,” he says, “but are communicated and exemplified.”

“To educate a child is to develop his intelligence, direct his reason, inspire him with love for good and horror for evil, form his character, correct him in what is reprehensible … and form him in knowledge, love and imitation of Jesus Christ,” the Christian Brothers say.

God says directly, “Listen to me, my son, and acquire knowledge, and pay close attention to my words. I will impart instruction by weight, and declare knowledge accurately.” (Sir 16: 24-25).

Ultimate and complete truth comes from God, and His teachings ground all fields of study.

Christ’s question thus remains: “What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (Matt 16:26)?

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

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.

Hybrid homeschooling

When homeschooling emerged in the ‘60s and ‘70s among a largely conservative counterculture, it was actually outlawed in some states. By the early 1990s, however, every state had legalized it and participation now reaches into every sector of the population.

Many Catholics began to take up homeschooling in response to some parochial schools becoming more secular, unaffordable, or unavailable. In turn, options grew with online and correspondence Catholic schools and cooperative classes (co-ops) where groups come together for resources and specialized teaching expertise for a few classes.

The movement continues to grow among Catholics for a number of reasons including: growing disparity with the culture, the influence of Catholics in the public eye who homeschool, and positive reports such as the 2017 survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University finding homeschoolers are four times more likely to enter seminaries than those educated in Catholic institutions.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 1999 to 2012, the number of homeschooled children more than doubled, from 850,000 to 1.8 million. According to EdChoice’s 2017 Schooling in America survey, about three percent of students are homeschooled, but some seven percent of families say that they would if they could.

Burgeoning options

As resources multiply it is becoming easier for families to make the commitment. A growing trend that lightens the burden for parents and increases opportunities for students is to take a hybrid approach, mixing homeschool with outside classes. Many public and Catholic schools that once shunned homeschoolers now allow part-time enrollment and participation in extracurricular activities for homeschoolers. It has also become popular for high schoolers to take college classes that also satisfy high school graduation requirements.

Actual hybrid schools — both secular and religious, which alternate school days between home and school — have also come onto the scene. For instance, the Regina Caeli Catholic schools — centered around the great-books and classic-texts approach — operate in 12 cities and 11 states, with an enrollment of about 1,100 children. Children learn at home three days a week and attend class wearing uniforms on the other two.

Adapting to children’s needs

“We homeschool because it’s the opportunity for a daily infusion of our cultural Catholicity that is important to us,” says Carolyn Smith, mother of nine children ages 23 to 5 in her 13th year of homeschooling. Her husband, Michael, is a senior network engineer who works on contracts for the federal government. They live a couple of miles outside of Mason, New Hampshire, a small rural community.

“We keep them home to school them but don’t hide them,” Carolyn said. “They are part of the community.” Their children use correspondence studies before high school and have participated in co-op classes. Thus far, the three older boys have chosen to attend Catholic high school full-time, but the two oldest girls stayed home, taking college classes during their junior and senior year, enabling them to enter Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia as sophomores.

There are four more still at home including one daughter with special needs. “Mary is just doing readiness with her Downs Syndrome,” Carolyn said. “She is non-verbal, but our lifestyle is tailored to help her; that’s why we have a horse and animals. Homeschooling affords us the ability to help her thrive in this environment.”

Daughter Sarah, finished her first year at Christendom and is returning as a junior this fall. Her sister Racheal graduated there last spring and is now enrolled in an accelerated nursing program. “I liked being with friends and socializing at co-op classes like music theory and Gregorian chant choir,” Sarah explained. “I took an algebra co-op class because it was a subject I needed more help in.” She also played softball at a local public school from seventh through eleventh grade.

Shannon Marie Federoff and her husband Matt are in their 22nd year of homeschooling “with 13 more to go,” according to her. They have 11 children ages 26 to 5 and also live on a hobby farm in Vail, Arizona. The family actually built their own 2,100-square-foot “straw bale” house with 14-foot ceilings and lofts for sleeping. Both Shannon and Matt were once public-school teachers and Matt now works as the chief information officer for the school district.

Shannon explained that they wanted a classical Catholic education for their children and to create a strong family culture. In addition to co-op classes, Shannon said that since they live in a conservative area and know who the good teachers are, once the children reach sophomore year, they supplement home education with math, science, and Spanish classes at the public high school. The children have also been involved in a number of outside activities such as ballet, 4-H, sports, drama, Trail Life, youth group, and altar servers.

Shannon’s daughter Isabel, 18, is heading off to Franciscan University as a sophomore this fall after mixing homeschool, public school, and college classes. “I really enjoyed going to school —I’m pretty social — but I was glad I didn’t have to go for the whole day,” she said. “I liked leaving early and the freedom of doing things at my own pace.” Isabel explained that she has dyslexia so that using audio books at home made English literature classes easier for her.

A family tradition

Deacon Mike and Gina McKeown of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota have homeschooled for 23 years. Their six children range in age from 34 to 17, and two married daughters are now homeschooling their own families. Another daughter, Sr. Mary Elia, is a Carmelite cloistered nun, and the fourth is starting her second year in college.

Once their children became juniors in high school, they enrolled with the Minnesota Department of Education Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), a program that allows 11th and 12th graders to earn college credit online or on campus at no cost whatsoever. Three of them took full-time classes at the college while two took classes online.

Cole, who just received his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, said he took classes online to make time to play sports with the public school. He and his wife Teresa, who homeschooled through eighth grade then attended Catholic school, became new parents last February and plan to continue the family tradition of homeschooling.

Kyle, the youngest McKeown, took religion and music classes at the Catholic high school last year and will do so again this year. He is also enrolled in shop classes with the public school since he plans to go into construction.

“A lot of times parents have apprehensions about being able to handle teaching their children,” Mike said. “There are a lot of resources out there. We did research, talked with people, and took a hodge-podge approach, not using just one particular program.”

Changing Dynamics

Schooling typically evolves within families, tailored to individual needs and interests and changing family life. When James and Noreen Peliska moved from Naples, Florida to Bismarck where James took a job at the University of Mary as professor of biology and director of the pre-med program, four of their six children were already out of the home.

“Every year we set priorities for each child,” Noreen said. “Every kid is different, and dynamics change. I loved it when everyone was home and there were so many options to focus on the things they loved.” For instance, homeschooling enabled one son to dedicate many hours to music and get accepted at a prestigious music school, while another son who excelled at running in high school and college enrolled full-time there.

When they moved to Bismarck, Rose during her senior year chose to take full-time college classes that also satisfied high school requirements. Their youngest son, Edmund, took two classes at the Catholic high school and enjoyed it so much he is enrolled full time as a sophomore this year.

After 17 years, however, Noreen is still not quite done with schooling. She just started her studies in the radiologic technician program at the University of Mary.

 

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.