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Colleges Keep It Catholic Amid the Epidemic

While avoidance of COVID-19 has forced many schools and colleges to shift to online classes this fall, a few faithful Catholic colleges are attempting in-person education — and they are making extraordinary efforts to preserve the spiritual life on campus.

Impressively, the fast-growing Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, doubled the number of priests on campus this year and added additional Mass times to help offset limited seating in the campus church due to COVID-19 restrictions. There are now four Masses on campus every Sunday and three every weekday, including a new 9:00 p.m. weekday Mass.

“At Benedictine College we are committed to providing a dynamic, faith-filled environment for our students,” says Father Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain at Benedictine College. “I like to advise students to be intentional about prayer, sacramental life and Christ-centered community.”

The campus ministry office at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, is also adjusting to best serve the spiritual needs of students. Since the university altered its class schedule this fall to better ensure student safety, it also changed its Mass and Confession times to be available to the most students. A Sunday Mass was added, and campus chaplain Father Thomas More Barba says he is open to adding more as needed.

Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, decided that its education “can only truly be offered in-person, with our students studying together and challenging each other to be better leaders and better Catholics.” Its reopening plan received laudatory remarks from the Virginia State Council of Higher Education, and the college even proceeded with its week-long summer conferences for prospective high school students, immersing them in the faith and giving a taste of Christendom’s courses and faculty.

Also opening in-person this fall is Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, which had the distinction of never fully closing its campus last spring when the COVID-19 epidemic began. “Sacramentally, after only a six-day hiatus, our community returned to receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist,” reported President Christopher Ice. “We live-streamed Mass daily out of our St. Sebastian Hall Chapel and distributed Communion outside,” he said.

Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, is “ensuring students have access to the Sacraments and to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, even though our spaces might look a little different with social distancing,” says campus minister Sarah Gohn. The college also plans to make frequent use of outdoor space and small-group Bible studies.

“In a time when people in our world are feeling very isolated from one another, we know that Christ still unites us as brothers and sisters and that we have communion with one another through the Eucharist,” Gohn says.

 

Prayer, sacrament and community

Such opportunities are important for young adults, whose faith is seriously endangered. After college graduation, nearly 75% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And even among those who attend Catholic colleges, nearly one in eight Catholic students leaves the faith by graduation.

It is crucial that students preserve their faith in college. But even more, the college years are a time when students should be formed for sainthood, and that requires a lot more than simply “holding on.”

Prayer, the sacraments, and community are key to helping students keep the faith on campus, according to campus ministers at Catholic colleges across the country. And its very difficult to find the support students need, even at a Catholic center at a secular college. Faithful Catholic colleges like those recommended in The Newman Guide offer a truly Christian environment, where students are free of the toxic lifestyle at many colleges today.

“At the University of Mary, I see every week more and more students who are ‘catching’ the routine of prayer, visiting the chapel, attending Holy Mass, going to confession,” says Father Craig Vasek, chaplain for the athletic teams at the faithful college in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Even if people aren’t doing it, they are seeing people, hearing of people, and it brings God to mind.”

He recommends that college students “go to Mass and a chapel more than just your Sunday obligation. It changes things. Daily study of the Catechism with daily practical application, or even monthly ones, to establish a new virtue each week or month.”

“Surround yourself with others who are striving to live their faith,” he adds. “You are who you hang out with. Don’t be the best person in your friend group — I mean, strive to be — but if you are the best person in your friend group, who is going to call you upward?”

Gabriel Salamida, coordinator for household life at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, agrees. “Community is absolutely vital during one’s college years. Students are ‘on their own’ for the first time, and they are faced with an opportunity to grow into a better version of themselves.”

More than 900 students at Franciscan are a part of its faith household system, which connects students to accompany one another on their faith journeys. “Jesus didn’t draw us into relationship with him to keep our faith to ourselves. If we don’t share it, then our faith will die,” Salamida says.

 

Don’t be a statistic

At secular universities, students are often taught by professors who push ideologies that are contrary to the faith. They are surrounded by a binge drinking and hook-up culture on campus and in the dorms. Access to campus ministry offerings may be limited and vary in quality.

At a faithful Catholic college, students see the integration of the faith across campus. They are formed in mind, body and soul for this life and for the one to come.

“College is such a time of questioning and growth, and attending a faithful Catholic college allows young people to find the answers to their deepest questions in Christ and his Church,” says Gohn. “I have so many peers who abandoned their faith in college or allowed it to dwindle, because when challenged in their faith, they had no community around them to support them, and they were easily swayed by alternate ideologies.”

Students should “not simply have the mindset of keeping the faith, but growing it,” advises Austin Schneider, director of campus ministry at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, California.

“In the spiritual life, staying where we are at is stagnation and ultimately leads to a weak, tepid faith,” Schneider says. “Instead, Christ calls us forward and draws us by the beauty of his love. Holiness isn’t simply keeping or maintaining the faith. Holiness means gaining momentum, accelerating toward Christ.”

While many students will tragically lose their faith on campus this year, others attending faithful Catholic colleges have the support they need to grow into sainthood. A Catholic college that fully embraces its mission — and sadly many do not, so investigate carefully — can do so much good for the souls of students.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

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Catholic University Founded to be ‘Guiding Light’ for Higher Education, Says Provost

“Catholic University was founded to serve the Church and the nation as a comprehensive research university — to be a guiding light for higher education,” says Dr. Aaron Dominguez, provost at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

At Catholic University, which is recommended for its strong Catholic identity in The Newman Guide, students receive an education in the Catholic intellectual tradition, and also have the opportunity to engage in research opportunities with faculty. The Newman Society recently asked Dr. Dominguez to discuss the unique offerings, and Catholic identity, of Catholic University today.

Newman Society: The Catholic University of America is sometimes referred to as “the bishops’ university” or “the national Catholic university.” How does this distinguish Catholic University from other faithful Catholic colleges? How is the Catholic identity maintained, and what do you see for the future?

Provost Dominguez: We are unique in the United States as being the only university founded by our bishops with a charter from Pope Leo XIII. Our mission is to serve the Church and the nation as a faithfully Catholic research university in the capital of the free world. Our fidelity to the Church and her teachings is not only part of our past, but is a vibrant part of the present and is in fact the only way we could truly fulfil our mission in the future.

The Catholic University of America

Newman Society: President Garvey transitioned Catholic University’s campus housing to single-sex residences and supported a student petition to screen pornography from the campus internet service. Why is promoting a Catholic culture on campus important to the academic work of the University?

Provost Dominguez: We respect the inherent dignity of the human person and the call to participate in God’s beautiful plan for us. This is why we put in place conditions that encourage and facilitate the kind of mutual respect needed to do so, which also allows us the kind of true freedom for our academic pursuits.

Newman Society: Catholic University describes itself as a research university, which is distinct from the Catholic liberal arts colleges also recognized in The Newman Guide. How does the University integrate research and the scientific disciplines with teaching the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition? How do Catholic University’s research initiatives benefit the Church?

Provost Dominguez: A research university is a place where new knowledge is discovered.  A Catholic research university is also a place where we search for truth, while acknowledging the origin of the truth in God and we can do that in all of our disciplines: in the humanities, the sciences, the arts and in professions. We are truly an authentically Catholic, global research university. We unite faith and reason. In all of our departments and schools, we carry out research as part of our teaching mission. All of our students, both undergraduate and graduate, have the chance to work with world class professors making new discoveries. By adhering to the teachings of the Church, we are more free academically to explore the natural world, our place in it, our connection to each other and to God.

Newman Society: Catholic University was founded as a graduate school and stands out among the Newman Guide colleges for its extensive master’s and doctoral programs. How does this commitment to graduate programs impact the experience of undergraduate students? And what makes Catholic University a good choice for graduates of other Newman Guide colleges, if they pursue graduate studies?

Provost Dominguez: Catholic University was founded to serve the Church and the Nation as a comprehensive research university — to be a guiding light for higher education. Our graduate students are some of the best and brightest from around the world.  With their graduate degrees in hand, they are set to become future leaders carrying with them the knowledge they have discovered and our mission in their hearts.

Newman Society: What do you think makes Catholic University such an exciting choice for Catholic families today?

Provost Dominguez: Catholic University is not only an academically rigorous institution, it is a caring community where students can grow both intellectually and spiritually. Catholic is also just a very fun place to be! We have a beautiful large, green campus in the heart of the nation’s capital with a vibrant campus life. It is an academic oasis with direct access to all the history, culture, food, music and beauty that the District of Columbia has to offer.

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Take a New Look at Catholic Education

After a summer of disappointment — closed camps, museums, movie theaters, even many pools, beaches and restaurants due to COVID concerns — the decision of many public and private schools to go entirely online is a crushing blow to parents.

Now I see that some localities are doing everything possible to interfere with Catholic schools that want to open for in-person learning. Montgomery County in Maryland backed off a ruling that Catholic schools were forbidden from opening, only after families and educators heroically opposed the order. Catholic schools are demanding that California Gov. Gavin Newsom allow in-person classes.

Why is this happening? Because public schools — which increasingly embrace anti-Catholic, radical secularism and feed it to our children — are afraid of losing families to Catholic education.

This should stir every Catholic parent to ask the question: Have I given serious thought this year to the option of Catholic education? Whatever the barriers that stood in our way in prior years, might something have changed that makes it possible now?

Cost is the most significant barrier to Catholic schools, and it remains a major concern. But increasingly there are cost-effective ways to provide your child a Catholic education. (Keep reading to the end.)

Also, fidelity and Catholic identity have been a serious concern over the past 50 years. Tragically, many Catholic families have found that the experimentation, immorality and downright nuttiness at many Catholic schools is scandalous. Many families have turned to homeschooling, but others have chosen public schools rather than confusing students with wayward Catholic education.

These are important concerns! However, the declining numbers of Catholic in faithful Catholic education is a catastrophe. Today we have a laity and even clergy that seem far less concerned about ensuring a Catholic education for every Catholic child.

That’s not a utopian dream. It is a clear teaching of the Church that every child has a right to a Catholic education… that every parent is the primary educator of their child and has the responsibility of ensuring a Catholic education… and that the Church is obligated to do everything it can to serve the needs of parents in providing Catholic education.

Sadly, we are far from this today. But the options are increasing, and unlike many public schools, much of Catholic education is open for in-person formation this fall.

Parochial schools: If you haven’t looked lately at the local Catholic school managed by your parish or diocese, it’s worth another look. There is an ongoing renewal of fidelity and Catholic identity across Catholic education, and many schools have re-emphasized the Mass, Eucharistic adoration and prayer. Catechesis is improving at many schools. Perhaps most importantly, there is growing emphasis on hiring teachers who fully embrace the Catholic faith and witness to Catholic moral teachings in both their words and their behaviors.

The cost of a parochial school education is still generally high — much too high, in my opinion. But dioceses have made a concerted effort to ensure financial support for low-income families. It’s the middle class that often has the greatest difficulty affording parochial schools.

Most parochial schools still embrace methods of modern education and the Common Core State Standards, which have been detrimental to education across the U.S. Some dioceses, however, are embracing explicitly Catholic curriculum standards, classical learning methods and a renewed focus on the liberal arts, with great results. Overall, Catholic schools still boast higher graduation rates and college acceptance rates than public schools.

Lay-run schools: There is a growing number of lay-run schools that provide a superior Catholic education at far less cost. Not every diocese is willing to recognize these schools, so you need to look very carefully to ensure that they are faithful to Catholic teaching, but I have visited and studied many of them, and for the most part they are very faithful schools that do an outstanding job of education and Catholic formation.

If you are looking for first-class facilities, computer labs, well-funded athletics programs and Ivy League graduates among the faculty, generally these schools are not the place for you. Most make every effort to keep costs low, aware that they serve the needs of parents before school prestige. You are highly likely to find teachers who graduated from faithful Newman Guide colleges and were homeschooled and classically trained.

Homeschooling: It is difficult to get exact numbers, but Catholic homeschooling seems to be growing rapidly. Whereas its growth initially was fed by the decline of American schooling and especially problems with Catholic identity in many Catholic schools, today it has much to do with the multiplication of strong, faithful curricular materials and online services that make homeschooling easier and better.

It would be a big mistake to confuse homeschooling with what many schools are doing this year because of COVID. Homeschooling is a lifestyle that prioritizes the family’s needs and the complete formation of the child: intellectual, moral and physical. It is a rare homeschooling parent that would put their child in front of a computer each day for long hours, taking direction from a teacher and supplementing class time with homework. Even online homeschool programs rely heavily on self-learning with the aid of the parent and course materials that promote observation, contemplation and confidence in knowing truth.

Hybrid options: It is becoming increasingly difficult to label programs a school or homeschool curriculum — the lines are blurring rapidly. Many homeschool programs are far more than a curriculum, providing advice, tutoring, grading and a community of faithful Catholics sharing experiences and resources. To save costs, some schools are sending students home for a couple days to engage in self-learning. Homeschoolers are developing school-like tutoring programs for a day or two each week, with tutors in classrooms and students in uniforms, engaging in dialogue and public speaking. These hybrid options enjoy benefits of both homeschooling and brick-and-mortar schools, with Christian community and shared formation.

Parents may think that homeschooling or hybrid schooling are not available options, because they usually require one parent to stay at home, but it is worth a careful review of the family’s finances. The cost is low, and a truly Catholic formation for your children, the renewal of family relationships and even the opportunity to welcome more children are enormous blessings.

The most important point is that Catholic education is a responsibility of every Catholic parent, so if there is no good option for a formally Catholic school or program, then the parent must supplement with Catholic formation — and this should not consist only of sacramental preparation and catechesis, but also integrating the truths of the Catholic faith into every area of study. If parents understand this to be essential — and if dioceses and parishes acknowledge that parochial schools serve the needs of many Catholic families, but not all — then together we might continue to develop new solutions.

I’ve worked for the renewal of faithful Catholic education for 27 years. In that time, The Cardinal Newman Society has worked to identify the key elements of Catholic education as defined by Vatican documents. We have seen the exciting growth of truly outstanding Catholic schools and colleges, such as those recognized by our Catholic Education Honor Roll and Newman Guide. My own family has experienced the great benefits of Catholic homeschooling and a classical hybrid program that my wife developed.

Catholic education is moving in the right direction, better fulfilling the needs of Catholic families who take seriously their responsibility to their children. But it’s tragic that not every family finds adequate solutions, especially as public schools flounder amid the COVID challenges. Still, Catholic families should be aware of the growing options for a strong Catholic education and strive to make it work.

This is critically important for young people, for the Church and for society. If your child is in a public school, now may be a great time to reassess your options.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

Tips for Keeping Your Faith Alive in College

College brings momentous changes in life and exciting opportunities. Having studied at several colleges and universities—both secular and Catholic, in the United States and abroad—and now teaching as a professor, I want to share with you what I hope is both important and useful advice about how to stay Catholic in college. In terms of your long-term happiness, in this life and the next, nothing will be more important than whether you love God and neighbor as you live out your faith.

I remember going running with one of my best friends from high school after we had graduated from college. He was facing some difficult decisions: what career to pursue, where to live, finding the right person to marry. We were talking about how to reach good decisions. I told him that in my life I’ve had success in praying about what the future holds.

“I don’t believe in God,” he replied.

I was shocked. After he spent eight years in a Catholic grade school, both of us attended a Catholic high school for four years. His loving family had a background and culture tightly knit with the Church. Yet college had changed him profoundly, into an avowed atheist. He found himself missing the guidance, security, beauty, and holiness that only a relationship with God in Christ can provide.

My friend was not alone in losing his faith during college. Various surveys show patterns of decreasing belief and participation among Catholics attending college (whether or not they are Catholic schools).

It doesn’t have to turn out this way. I know others who, during college, greatly deepened their appreciation of the beauty and wisdom of the teaching of Jesus, found their vocations, and became much better friends of God.

College is a time of new beginnings, first explorations, and novel experiences. It is also a time of crisis, a turning point, a time of decision, where the direction of travel of adult life is undertaken. I want to share with you some insights gathered from my own experience as well as from trusted friends with even more experience to help you make the most of this turning point. The Church recognizes that college can be a key moment in a person’s spiritual journey.

 

Be a Good Student

You are laying the groundwork now for a productive future and, in some way perhaps not now known, serving people in a profession. It is a great privilege to be able to go to college, so make the most of it by trying not to miss class unless you are really sick, doing your schoolwork (including starting projects and papers with plenty of time before the deadlines), and taking care of your physical well-being through exercise and eating well. If you get sick, you won’t be able to study well. Do your best both in terms of grades and actual learning.

As a Catholic, you have nothing to fear from embracing learning and acquiring wisdom. There can never be a contradiction between a truth of faith and any truth that you learn in higher education. No area of knowledge is forbidden, off limits, or contrary to spiritual development. Whether you major in history, engineering, biology, English, or psychology, nothing true that you learn can jeopardize or undermine your faith.

That said, there are some ways of approaching these subjects that are indeed incompatible with the Christian faith. Suppose your history professor is a Marxist (both of mine were) who believes that religion, Catholicism in particular, is the “opium of the masses” and a fanciful fable standing in the way of the communist revolution.

Such a professor may slant the telling of history in a way that biases your understanding against the Church and in favor of communism. Weeks will be spent exploring the intricacies of torture in the Spanish inquisition so as to drive home the point that religion leads to violence. But killing and torture in the atheistic former Soviet Union and other Communist countries will be passed over in silence.

Do not be afraid of history, but do be discerning. It is true that members of the Church at times in history have committed acts incompatible with being a follower of Jesus. But as Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13). Christians, like everyone else, are people who sin and need God’s mercy. That fact is bound to show up in history—and in the world today. As a Catholic you can acknowledge that without fear, but do not be too quick to condemn the people of the past, for you may not be hearing the full story in class.

An objective and fair assessment of the Church’s role in history must also take into account the great good that members of the Church have done through time. It includes: the founding of universities, the establishment of hospitals, the upholding of the rights of young men and (especially) women to consent, or not consent, to marry, as opposed to the older system whereby the children could be forced to marry whomever their parents chose, the preserving of Western culture during the “dark ages,” the invention of musical notation as well as pretzels and beer by monks, and most of all the saints through the ages who have helped, taught, healed, and inspired countless people. It is the saints, not the sinners, that most properly represent the Church.

Learn as much as you can about Catholic culture. Make yourself familiar with Dante, medieval history, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture, Gregorian chant, John Henry Newman, Ronald Knox, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger).

Alongside your academic reading, read Catholic classics and perhaps the Catechism of the Catholic Church (or the abbreviated Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Just read a little bit each day, ten to fifteen minutes. Over time, you will gain invaluable perspective and enlightenment.

Most importantly, read a little bit from the Gospels each day. Get to know who Jesus is and ask Him who you should become. As you read, don’t be afraid to stop and wait. Ponder. Reflect. What insights can you gain from the passage? What is Jesus saying through it to you? If you want to delve a little bit deeper into the meaning of Scripture, try the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible with its commentary, notes, and study questions.

Questions will inevitably arise from your experiences inside and outside the classroom. You will have questions about the faith as well as many other matters that you may not be able to answer. The questioning of your mind, the lack of rest it will experience, is a wonderful thing, for it is an invitation to go deeper.

Don’t be afraid of such questions, for even if the answers are not on the tip of your tongue, that certainly does not mean that the answers are not to be found. Many things that are puzzling for years become easier to understand as you investigate the matter over the course of time.

In order to find the answers, you will have to search out books that are specialized. Your questions will be your questions, so it is impossible to say beforehand what would be best to read in terms of answering them.

But answers are there. We are so fortunate to have the benefit of so many great minds who have considered deeply virtually any matter that might come to mind.

 

Make Good Friends

As important as learning in the classroom is, you will learn much more outside the classroom. The most important choice you will make in college is not about your major or which classes to take, or even where to live, but the choice of friends.

The friends you choose to have are going to be essential in enabling you to do well in your academic life and in your faith life. Be discerning and picky. Do these people “bring me up” in terms of doing well and living a Catholic life, or do they “drag me down”?

I would find friends at and frequently attend meetings of a solid Catholic group, on campus or off. You could look to a pro-life group, a “faith and reason” group, a parish organization for college students, or a service club. Look for friends who are not obsessed with activities that are at best a waste of time (such as hours of video games or Internet surfing) and at worst can derail your well-being (such as hardcore partying).

Do not use illegal drugs of any kind, even once. If you end up not liking them, you’ve wasted your time and put yourself in needless danger. If you end up liking them, then you could find yourself in short order addicted and miserable.

My best friend from my freshman year in college started out on marijuana, graduated to other drugs, and was expelled from school my senior year after getting into a fight with and injuring a police officer. The changes I saw in him were gradual, but in the end the difference between the person I knew my freshman year and the one who got kicked out was dramatic.

In your future, as you apply for jobs, you may be faced with the question “Have you ever used illegal drugs?” Even if you tried them only once, the only honest answer will be yes. Avoid the conflict. Staying clean is not only the right thing to do; it allows you to always be comfortable answering such questions. (The same is true for any serious violations of the law, such as driving under the influence.)

Be careful of alcohol abuse. During my own college stay, two people from my class died, and another nearly died when he fell out a dorm window eight stories up and impaled himself on an iron fence. Others began a path that would end with a lifelong fight against alcoholism.

Concentrate on your studies rather than getting into sexually intimate relationships. The emotional roller-coaster ride of physical relationships can derail your academic and spiritual development. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Do your best to follow God, and He will help guide you to a good spouse if your vocation is to marriage.

 

Grow Closer to God

As a Christian, you are a friend of God. A friendship with God cannot exist without spending time together. As you go to college and begin your life as an adult, resolve to make deeper your friendship with God by means of a few good habits:

Attend Mass each weekend, no matter what. Jesus asks few things of all his disciples, but this is one of them.

Speak and listen briefly to God each morning and each night, no matter what. Each morning thank God for another day, offering yourself to God that day. Each night, thank God for the good of what has past and consider whether you are better friends with him now than you were this morning.

Look for opportunities to volunteer to help others: for example, elderly shut-ins, disadvantaged children, or those in physical or spiritual poverty. In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.In helping other people, you’ll not only be helping them; you’ll also be helping yourself know and love God more.

Go to confession at least once a month. Each sacramental reconciliation is a time to “begin again,” to restore and strengthen your friendship with God. If you get your hair cut more often than you go to confession, you should consider whether your spiritual appearance before God is more important than how you look in a mirror. Be honest with yourself about what you know is right and wrong, and then, if your behavior does not measure up, make a good confession and start again.

One of the most important things that you will be doing in the next few years is figuring out your vocation, your call from God. Should you get married? If so, to whom and when? Should you consider life as a priest or religious? Does God want you to remain single and pursue ordinary work? Perhaps God has a special call for your life, one that you have not yet even considered. In times of doubt, decision, and discernment of your future plans, ask God repeatedly for help, using perhaps the words of Mary at the Annunciation: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) or the prayer of Jesus himself, “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Find someone trustworthy, such as a good priest or well-informed lay person with whom to talk whenever needed. You will have questions that no book can answer about your own life and spiritual journey. It should be a person you can see frequently and who is knowledgeable in spiritual direction. A spiritual director or confessor, like a coach, helps you maintain accountability, encourages you to keep perspective, and enables you to do your best.

This is an exciting new chapter in your life; it is really the start of adulthood. You owe it to yourself and to God to take the road less traveled—the way that will help you face the challenges before you and find the fulfillment that God created you to have.

Originally published Jan. 1, 2015. The essay was adapted from How to Stay Catholic in College, originally published by Catholic Answers. We highly recommend the entire booklet, which  is available for purchase from Catholic Answers for only $2.95 at shop.Catholic.com.

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A Checklist for Growing Your Faith

Participate in Mass

Bishop Ricken

There are frequent opportunities for you to have a personal encounter with Jesus on campus. This occurs most immediately in the Eucharist. Regular Mass attendance helps strengthen your faith through the Scriptures, the Creed, other prayers, sacred music, the homily, receiving Communion and being part of a faith community.

Go to Confession

Like going to Mass, you will find strength and grow deeper in your faith through participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession urges people to turn back to God, express sorrow for falling short and open their lives to the power of God’s healing grace. It forgives the injuries of the past and provides strength for the future.

Learn about the lives of the saints

The saints are timeless examples of how to live a Christian life, and they provide endless hope. Not only were they sinners who kept trying to grow closer to God, but they also exemplify ways a person can serve God: through teaching, missionary work, charity, prayer and simply striving to please God in the ordinary actions and decisions of daily life.

Read the Bible daily

Scripture offers first-hand access to the Word of God and tells the story of human salvation. You can pray the Scriptures (often times in a group setting in dorms or led by your campus chaplain) to become more attuned to the Word of God. Either way, the Bible is a must for helping you sustain and grow your faith during college.

Read the documents of the Church

College is a time of learning and studying, and expanding your knowledge of our Catholic faith is an important part of that. To become the kind of well-formed person you surely wish to be, you must understand what the Church really teaches and how it enriches the lives of believers.

Study the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers the beliefs, moral teachings, prayer and sacraments of the Catholic Church in one volume. It’s a resource for growing in understanding of the faith. Another helpful resource is the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).

Volunteer in campus ministry

Growing your faith can’t only be about study and reflection. The solid grounding of the Scriptures, Church teachings and the Catechism must translate into action. Campus ministry is a great place to start, and each person’s gifts help build up the community. Helping others brings Catholics face-to-face with Christ and creates an example for the rest of the world.

Invite a friend to Mass

A personal invitation can make all the difference to someone who has drifted from the faith or feels alienated from the Church. Everyone knows people like this, so everyone can extend a loving welcome.

Incorporate the Beatitudes into daily life

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) provide a rich blueprint for Christian living. Their wisdom can help you to be more humble, patient, just, transparent, loving, forgiving and free. It’s precisely the example of lived faith needed to make your campus years a time of your life that you will remember fondly for years to come.

Originally published Jan. 1, 2015.

Supreme Court Rulings Affecting Catholic Schools

Over the summer, The Cardinal Newman Society hosted webinars and provided key points about recent Supreme Court rulings. Catholic schools should take preventative steps to strengthen their Catholic identity in the face of possible litigation.

Napa Legal Institute has also put together a very thorough self-assessment guide schools can use to review their corporate documents and employment practices in light of these new cases. You can find this excellent resource (with additional embedded whitepaper links) here.

Leading Bioethicist Formed by Faithful Catholic College

Dr. Joseph Meaney

Dr. Joseph Meaney

One of the nation’s leading Catholic bioethicists, Dr. Joseph Meaney, navigates tough ethical questions as president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center—and he relies every day on the strong formation he received at a faithful Catholic college.

The world is undergoing a massive scientific revolution, and the 21st century may be defined, in part, by its great advances in the realm of biology. As discoveries are made, such as new cancer treatments and genetic manipulation, new ethical questions are raised as well.

When discussing important questions about “end of life issues,” an “experimental procedure” or some other bioethical topic, Meaney “provides what the Church teaches, but also compassionate listening and prayer.”

“This feels like many of my experiences at the University of Dallas,” Meaney relates. At the university located in Irving, Texas, “There was real human interaction — caring for others around you, while also sharing the wisdom of the Church.”

Navigating consultations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center is like “reliving those experiences” at UD, which is recommended for its strong Catholic identity in The Newman Guide. When Meaney entered a public graduate school, these interactions did not happen nearly as frequently as they did in the close-knit Catholic community at UD.

“It was beautiful to be in an environment where virtue is fostered,” Meaney explains. In a way, the University of Dallas was a “bubble,” which Meaney says is a positive attribute.

“There was positive peer pressure… roommates who cared about you,” he shared. “It had a strong Catholic identity, values. By and large, there was a real Catholic ethos.”

Rather than having his faith constantly challenged or facing “political correctness and relativism” on campus, the undergraduate years were “very formative.”

UD was not “high school extended” and didn’t foster the “‘Peter Pan syndrome’ where kids don’t want to grow up,” Meaney says. Instead, it was a “good education” which helped spur on “intellectual, social and spiritual maturity” and helped students live a “good Catholic life.”

“An atmosphere that fosters marriage is wonderful,” Meaney says, in contrast to the widespread hook-up culture that exists on many campuses. “I met so many great people, some of whom were preparing for a religious vocation.”

Studying the liberal arts helps students “develop intellectually, seek truth, learn from the best minds, and orient yourself towards your vocations,” explains Meaney, who majored in history. The Rome study abroad program also helped many students “grow in maturity,” as learned to travel internationally on their own or in small groups. Meaney took part in countless other opportunities on campus, such as the tennis team, pro-life club, French language plays, the history honors society, and more.

Meaney took his first bioethics course at UD with the great pro-life philosopher Dr. Janet Smith, and now has come full circle. In 2019, Meaney was appointed head of the NCBC, where he promotes the dignity of the human person full-time.

“The human person is so precious… and needs to be treated with reverence and awe – not taken apart to manipulate without consequences,” he urges. “Catholics need to live that message and spread it and call out abuses that take place all the time.”

Catholic schools and colleges, especially faithful ones like UD, can help teach and restore respect for all human life. “Catholic education provides a beautiful basis for intellectual knowledge and spiritual growth. It’s tried and true formation.”

St. Peters Square

One Year Later, No Resolution on Brebeuf Scandal

Catholic schools across the nation are striving to keep their doors open, but Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis is not one of them… or is it?

There’s no question whether Brebeuf will open; students are scheduled to start in-person classes on Aug. 13. What’s unresolved is whether the school can be counted among Catholic schools. Brebeuf Jesuit certainly has proven itself unworthy of the label, as Archbishop Charles Thompson rightly declared last summer, because it refuses to dismiss a teacher in a same-sex civil marriage.

On Aug. 4, 2019, Brebeuf’s president, Jesuit Father Bill Verbryke, announced that the school had appealed to the Vatican, challenging Archbishop Thompson’s authority to determine whether the Jesuit-owned school could identity as Catholic. Thompson is accused of meddling in the internal operations of a wayward school.

Now, a year later, the stakes are getting higher. The Supreme Court has ruled that employers may not discriminate based on homosexuality, and so Catholic schools must fight to defend their First Amendment right to uphold moral standards for employees. But what will the Vatican say about those same standards?

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis requires that all teacher contracts designate “ministerial witnesses” who must “convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church,” including its teaching on the “dignity of marriage as one man and one woman.” This complies faithfully with canon law, which requires Catholic school teachers to uphold Catholic morality in both teaching and practice.

Because of the policy, Cathedral High School in Indianapolis obediently dismissed its teacher Joshua Payne-Elliot, because he was in a same-sex civil marriage. But his partner, Layton Payne-Elliot, has continued to teach math at Brebeuf Jesuit, and the school refuses to conform to the Archdiocese’s rules. That’s after two years of patient dialogue led by Superintendent of Catholic Schools Gina Fleming.

“It was through much prayerful discernment over the course of that two years, and really, much conversation on what it truly means to be ministers of the faith and how we would uphold that in our Catholic schools, that led to the schools to make their own decisions as to whether they would wish to retain that Catholic identity,” Fleming said.

The Vatican likewise moves slowly and carefully, and this year it had the added difficulty of COVID. Nevertheless, a delayed ruling on Brebeuf’s appeal poses significant problems for the Church and for Catholic education.

 

Question of authority

For one thing, Archbishop Thompson’s authority has been challenged, which makes it more difficult for him to watch over his archdiocese, especially Catholic schools.

The details of the Brebeuf situation are more complicated than they look to the average Catholic and the secular media. The appeal concerns the managerial independence of Jesuit schools from the local bishop and whether Archbishop Thompson got too involved in a particular employment situation. But the appeal also casts a larger shadow on the Archbishop’s authority to enforce clear guidelines for Catholic schools, which is essential to his role as shepherd of his archdiocese.

According to Canon 803, “A Catholic school is understood as one which a competent ecclesiastical authority or a public ecclesiastical juridic person directs or which ecclesiastical authority recognizes as such through a written document. …no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”

And Canon 806 goes further: “The diocesan bishop has the right to watch over and visit the Catholic schools in his territory, even those which members of religious institutes have founded or direct. He also issues prescripts which pertain to the general regulation of Catholic schools; these prescripts are valid also for schools which these religious direct, without prejudice, however, to their autonomy regarding the internal direction of their schools.”

Did Archbishop Thompson properly regulate Catholic schools, or did he interfere too directly in the internal management of Brebeuf? It’s a blurry line. While the Congregation for Catholic Education decides, it has suspended Thompson’s decree removing the “Catholic” label from Brebeuf, leaving the public to wonder if he will be overruled.

But regardless how the Vatican views the particular circumstances of this case, it will be important that the Congregation makes it clear to everyone that both Canon 803 and Canon 806 are fully supported, without qualification.

 

Question of integrity

No less important is the Vatican’s support for moral standards for teachers, protecting students from scandal and ensuring that teachers witness to the Catholic faith.

According to Canon 803, “The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life” (Canon 803).

Not just satisfactory, without apparent scandal. Outstanding.

We live in a difficult time, when society and even some Catholics vigorously promote the lie that it’s acceptable to engage in all sorts of sins against chastity. Faithful Catholics strive to be compassionate with those who suffer from deep confusion. But there is no reconciling a Catholic school teacher’s sacred duty to form young people in the Catholic faith — which includes teaching and witnessing to moral behavior — and the very public, persistent offense of living in a same-sex relationship that is formally declared by the state.

Today the Vatican’s clear support for moral standards is all the more crucial, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which forbids employers from considering homosexual or transgender status or behavior when making employment decisions.

Catholic schools must claim a religious freedom exemption from this ruling  —  at all costs! Yet, if Brebeuf is somehow permitted to persist in its scandal, it could undermine the renewal of faithful Catholic education. It will confuse school leaders about whether they should conform to Bostock or fight in court to protect the mission of Catholic education.

The only true path forward, as always, is fidelity to Catholic teaching. Catholic educators do this for the good of their students, for their families, for the Church, and for society. May the Brebeuf debacle prove an important lesson to all Catholics about the harm caused by scandal and the importance of leading young people on the path of sainthood.

us supreme court

A Fragile Peace for Catholic Education

Across the country this month, many Americans celebrated “wins” for Catholic schools and religious freedom at the Supreme Court—and rightly so. But it would be a mistake to believe that Catholic education is secure without substantial fortification.

In fact, the Catholic identity of our schools and colleges may be in far greater danger than it was before the summer began. There is much that Catholic educators can do to improve their prospects for the future, but it will require strong faith and fortitude.

This Court session proved that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment still offer some cover for faithful education. But thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia ruling issued in June—finding that employers may not discriminate based on homosexual or transgender status or behavior—Catholic educators must be prepared for the impact of secular and ideological devastation in the surrounding culture. The pressure on Catholic schools and colleges to compromise the Faith will be intense.

Moreover, any legal protection for Catholic education provided by this Court must be considered within the broader context of the Bostock ruling and how it impacts state laws, accreditation and membership in athletic associations. Some attorneys express optimism that
Catholic schools and colleges will win even greater protections under federal law following Bostock. It’s just as likely that our refuge, such as it is, may be temporary.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine…

School Re-Opening Guidance

Director of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Identity Standards Project, Michael Kenney, JD, collaborated with Gabrielle Mercurio from the Napa Legal Institute to create guidance for the reopening of schools in wake of the COVID-19 closures. Their guidance includes legal issues such as the use of liability waivers and other liability protections, insurance concerns, legality of screening, required training of faculty, staff, and volunteers to avoid litigation, and other key issues.

You can find their guidance online here.