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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…

Newly Recognized Honor Roll Schools

We are pleased to welcome six new schools to Catholic Education Honor Roll list.

St. John Paul II Catholic School, Houston, TX (K-8), The St. Austin School, Chesterfield, MO (K-8), St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, San Antonio, TX (K-8), Sacred Heart Academy, Grand Rapids, MI (K-12), Bishop Dwenger High School, Ft. Wayne, IN (9-12), Bishop Ryan Catholic School, Minot, ND (K-12).

This completes our 2020-2025 cycle of recognition.

The Newman Society is making some exciting changes and intends to continue its national recognition of outstanding Catholic schools. More details will be forthcoming. All accepted Honor Roll schools will continue to be recognized as such until their five-year period has ended.

An annual renewal update request will be sent out in the fall after enrollment for the current school year has stabilized. Please be prompt in completing this online form in order to retain Honor Roll status. Thank you!

Supreme Court Defers to Canon Law in Catholic School Decision

There is an admirable concession to Catholic Church authority in the Supreme Court’s July 8 ruling on the “ministerial exception” for Catholic schools.

Justice Samuel Alito, in his majority opinion for Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Agnes Morrissey-Berru, defers to the authority of the Catechism and the Church’s canon law with regard to Catholic education.

In Guadalupe, the Court ruled that two Catholic school teachers, despite teaching secular subjects in addition to religion, are “ministers” of the Catholic faith whose employment is a religious matter that lies outside the jurisdiction of secular courts.

To justify this finding, Alito turns to the Catholic Church’s own requirements for Catholic school teachers:

In the Catholic tradition, religious education is ‘intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life.’ Catechism of the Catholic Church 8 (2d ed. 2016). Under canon law, local bishops must satisfy themselves that ‘those who are designated teachers of religious instruction in schools … are outstanding in correct doctrine, the witness of a Christian life, and teaching skill.’ Code of Canon Law, Canon 804, §2 (Eng. transl. 1998).

In other words, because Catholic school teachers must be faithful to Catholic teaching and witnesses to the Catholic faith by both word and example, their employment depends on criteria that only religious school leaders or church leaders can properly judge.

It would have been helpful if Alito also cited Canon 803, which applies to every teacher in a Catholic school — not only those who teach designated religion courses. It says much the same thing, which may support arguments that all Catholic school teachers should fall within the ministerial exception:

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, §2)

Likewise Canon 810, regarding Catholic higher education, calls for professors “who besides their scientific and pedagogical qualifications are outstanding in integrity of doctrine and probity of life.”


Rightful authority

The Court’s willingness to respect religious authority over religious activities is fundamental to the First Amendment. Alito wrote:

In a country with the religious diversity of the United States, judges cannot be expected to have a complete understanding and appreciation of the role played by every person who performs a particular role in every religious tradition. A religious institution’s explanation of the role of such employees in the life of the religion in question is important.

Such deference was the core principles of the three-part test for applying the ministerial exception that was proposed to the Court in an amicus brief filed in February. It was authored by the outstanding attorneys of Alliance Defending Freedom and Troutman Sanders LLP on behalf of The Cardinal Newman Society, the Association of Classical Christian Schools, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and William Jessup University. The brief argued:

(1) a “minister” is an employee who performs “religious functions”;

(2) the functions that the minister actually performs should be proven with evidence from the religious organization such as written organizational bylaws, position descriptions, and other such competent evidence; and

(3) the court should determine which functions are, in fact, “religious” by deferring to the religious organization’s own good-faith understanding of its own religion.

The Guadalupe ruling largely adopts these principles and offers additional clarity to religious employers. The Court relies on Catholic schools’ definition of an employee’s ministerial duties, as long as the employer shows “good faith” in seeking the protection of the ministerial exception.

What constitutes “bad faith” is something that will likely be litigated in future cases. One thinks of the many Catholic schools and colleges that have greatly secularized, yet claim religious freedom whenever it is convenient. If there is reasonable doubt about the religious identity of an employer or its sincerity about an employee’s religious duties — challenged by evidence that the employee does not in fact do what is stated in a position description or other employment document — then courts might restrict application of the ministerial exception.

The amicus brief cites the 1971 case Tilton v. Richardson, in which four Catholic universities were found to provide a primarily “secular education,” because religion did not “permeate” the coursework and was not promoted to students. For 27 years, the Newman Society has urged such institutions to strengthen their Catholic identity, and now their ability to claim the ministerial exception may depend on it.


Some schools need not apply

The Court’s ruling rests on whether an employee is a “teacher of religion” and therefore a minister of the faith.

This should be relatively easy for a faithful Catholic school or college, where the Catholic faith enters into all studies and teachers are required to be strong witnesses to the faith. It may even be possible to apply the ministerial exception to non-teachers — including school administrators, coaches, guidance counselors and support staff — if they are also expected teach religion by their words and witness, while advancing the Church’s mission of evangelization through Catholic education.

However, the ministerial exception further separates weak Catholic schools and colleges from faithful Catholic education. Only schools and colleges that intentionally form students in the faith are likely to gain broad protection from employment lawsuits. Secularized schools are more vulnerable than ever, if they fail to require teachers to catechize and uphold Catholic teaching.

Ultimately it is unlikely that any Catholic school or college will be entirely protected from the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling and state laws adding homosexuality and gender identity to nondiscrimination provisions. The lawsuits, government coercion and social pressure to compromise the faith are only increasing the threats to Catholic education.

As before, the best protection for Catholic education is to be faithfully, thoroughly and consistently Catholic and to ensure that all school or college policies are firmly tied to Catholic teaching. In this way, a school or college is prepared to go to court to claim its natural and First Amendment rights.


This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Parish Music Director Draws Upon College Experience of Beautiful, Reverent Music

Katelyn Stumler was exposed to beautiful and reverent liturgical music while a student at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., which is recommended in The Newman Guide. Now as the music director at a Catholic parish in Indiana, she shares this gift with parishioners—even throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Newman Society recently asked Stumler to share about her experience at Magdalen College and how it prepared her for her work and ministry, as a part of “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.

Katelyn Stumler

Newman Society: What was your experience like at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, and how has it impacted your life?

Katelyn Stumler: I began my freshman year at Magdalen College in the fall of 2004 after 12 years of homeschooling. My older sister, Jolene (Walker) Nelson, was a current senior at Magdalen that year. We were no strangers to the school. My mom had some friends who had attended the college in the early years, and Jolene and I had both attended several of Magdalen’s summer youth programs as high schoolers.

My first memory of Magdalen College really expresses the overwhelming “theme” that I focus on when reflecting my experience there. My family decided to travel from where we lived in upstate New York and check out the campus one summer when we were visiting my aunt and uncle who lived in the Boston area. Upon our arrival, a current student working as a summer program counselor came to welcome us with a spirit of genuine Christian joy and hospitality. That spirit stuck with me. I wanted to be a part of that.

I loved the liberal arts education I received at Magdalen. The Great Books program opened me up to so many great philosophers and theologians, and the Socratic method dialogues that took place in many of my classes led me down a fresh new pathway of thinking in a way I never had before. I learned the goodness of searching, of asking questions, of coming to know myself and understand humanity more, even if, in the end, it left me with more questions than I started with. I find myself approaching professional development opportunities and information today with that same open and inquisitive mind that was cultivated at Magdalen.

I came away from my years at Magdalen with an enriched spiritual life. Celebrating daily Mass as a community, praying Compline each evening with the ladies in St. Mary’s Residence Hall, celebrating full and noble liturgies with beautiful music—all these elements made a big difference in my life and instilled spiritual habits that remain with me today. The Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the residence chapel, and I recall sensing great comfort knowing that Jesus was present in that place where I studied and slept.

The friendships I made at Magdalen were deep and lasting. Some of my dearest friends today are fellow Magdalen alumni. Even though I do not live near many of them, we stay connected across the miles. The community life at Magdalen fostered strong ties between people. The fact that we “did” all of life there together, from worshiping and singing to hiking mountains and cleaning bathrooms, cultivated these strong bonds. People cared about each other there and wanted to be present to each other, whether it was helping with an academic assignment or taking a walk to talk over a personal struggle. I learned what it means to be a good and genuine friend at Magdalen, and I hope I have taken these qualities and brought them to others that I have met since moving from upstate New York to southern Indiana in 2008.

Craig and Katelyn Stumler

While I was at Magdalen, I was blessed to study abroad in Italy the summer following my sophomore year. The time spent in Rome and Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, was an incredible opportunity to study and experience the history of Christianity and western culture. I am very grateful to Magdalen for providing me with this opportunity. I have had the immense privilege of returning to Italy and traveling to the Holy Land with my husband, Craig, through pilgrimages organized by my parish.

Newman Society: How did your education at Magdalen College help prepare you for your work during the COVID-19 crisis?

Katelyn Stumler: I have worked as a full-time director of music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in New Albany, Ind., for the past 12 years. I had amazing opportunities at Magdalen to be involved in three different choirs (the main choir, performance choir and polyphony choir) that built upon my knowledge of music and singing for the liturgy.

When I was at Magdalen, the entire student body (probably around 75 students at the time I was a student) participated in the main choir, with a rotation system of who would sing at Sunday Mass so as to comfortably accommodate numbers in the choir loft at our college chapel. It was an incredible experience of unity for all of us, those who loved singing and those who didn’t, as the world of Catholic liturgical music was opened up to us: hymnody, Gregorian Chant (using the Graduale Romanum) and various choral works from different time periods. I dare say that by the time a student completed his or her four years at Magdalen, even those who may not have ever pictured themselves singing in a choir found that experience highly rewarding and life-changing.

During my sophomore year at Magdalen, I began occasionally accompanying one or more of the choirs on piano and organ, and my junior and senior year, I was the main accompanist for all the choirs for rehearsals, liturgies and performances. I had played for Masses and choir rehearsals at my parish church most of my teenage years prior to this, but at Magdalen, this skill was honed and shaped in ways that definitely prepared me to take on the role of music director for a parish of nearly 1,000 families.

Our parish began livestreaming Sunday Masses on the fourth Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2020, in response to the decision to suspend all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At first, Masses took place with no music. But once we got to Holy Week, my pastor, with the approval of our archbishop, invited me to start adding music to the liturgies. Of course, all this had to be done in a way that could be captured on camera, which consisted of Father’s phone mounted on a simple tripod. We were not using microphones so as to cut down on the echo in the empty church, so singing while accompanying myself far away from the phone camera was not an option.

At this time, I turned to my experiences at Magdalen to enlighten my musical choices and decisions for Mass. I sang the Entrance Antiphon using the Simple English Propers, a project and book from Adam Bartlett, sponsored by the Church Music Association of America. I was introduced to this resource after my Magdalen years, but my knowledge of chant from the Graduale Romanum made very familiar and comfortable with the chant notation. I used the St. Meinrad psalm tones to chant the responsorial psalm and Communion antiphon for these Masses. I was first introduced to these psalm tones at Magdalen as well and use them on a regular basis for all parish liturgies, even before we were livestreaming due to COVID-19. Throughout the Sacred Paschal Triduum, I found myself drawing back upon my music experiences during those three holy days at Magdalen, as the custom at the college was to observe Holy Week and Easter on campus. On Easter morning, it gave me great joy to chant the Victimae Paschali Laudes sequence, a chant that I also learned while at Magdalen and continue to use, normally with my parish choirs, but on my own during livestreaming.

I also have my education at Magdalen to thank for my first introduction to the liturgical documents of the Church, which also proved most valuable during this COVID-19 crisis. I am a member of the Music Commission for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. When those of us on the commission found ourselves having to think “outside of the box” for ways to continue the work of our ministries, we decided to produce a series of videos for our fellow music directors on everything from cantor preparation and surviving as a liturgical minister during the pandemic to accompaniment techniques and an introduction to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). I took on the challenge of presenting on the GIRM, once again drawing on my education from Magdalen, even consulting notes in the margins that I took during classes nearly 15 years ago.

On a slightly humorous note, I can say that my Magdalen college experience in effective dialogue and conversation have helped me navigate the plethora of Zoom meetings of which I was a part during the shutdown!

Katelyn Stumler

Newman Society: Why do you think beautiful and reverent music is important? How did you try to educate parishioners about liturgical music during COVID-19?

Katelyn Stumler: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (which I also studied from cover to cover at Magdalen) states that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (quoting Lumen Gentium, one of the Vatican II documents). The liturgy deserves beautiful and reverent music. Music naturally makes a lasting impression on people. There is a saying that what people remember most about coming to Mass is the homily and the music, and while that is somewhat comical, it does impress upon me that music choices for the liturgy need to be made intentionally and mindfully. My experiences with beautiful and reverent music at Magdalen equipped me to step into my role as director of music at my parish.

During these times, I have tried to bring beautiful and reverent music to our parishioners through what I am able to do at our livestreamed Masses. I have shared past recordings of our choirs with our parishioners through Facebook and Flocknote, a great parish communication tool. Another parish musician and I have worked together to create weekly YouTube playlists of hymns and songs appropriate for each Sunday to share with parishioners, incorporating some of the music our choirs would have sung if we had been able to celebrate Mass together in a public setting. I have encouraged our other parish accompanists and musicians to record themselves singing or playing their instrument at home so we can share these offerings on social media. I have even done some experimentation on singing apps that create multi-frame collage videos of several people singing. Since the choirs have not been able to gather or sing together, I have spent some time reaching out pastorally to our parish choir members and musicians through emails, text messages and phone calls.

During all the challenges, disappointments and tragedies of this pandemic, it has been such a blessing to reflect upon my Catholic college experiences that have helped me respond in the best possible way as a parish director of music.

Maria Schmidt

Extraordinary Teens Love the Eucharist, Catholic Education

Wow! Thank God for hopeful signs, even in the darkest hours.

I just read the most extraordinary, heart-warming testimonies by teenage Catholics who are in love with Jesus in the Eucharist. They refuse to succumb to secularism, and they are unwilling to attend colleges that fail to embrace his Real Presence with confidence and reverence.

Each year The Cardinal Newman Society invites high school students to submit essays for a scholarship contest, and this year’s topic was especially timely. The students were asked to write about the following, even as they were shut out from public Masses during the COVID lockdown:

“A recent Pew Research study found that only 26 percent of self-professed Catholics under the age of 40 believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In light of this finding, why do you think that it is important to attend a faithful Catholic college?”

Maria Schmidt of Providence Academy in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is proudly among the minority of believing Catholics. In her winning essay, she proclaims that the “Eucharist is the greatest Sacrament — the entirety of Jesus.” And she blames poor catechesis for the fact that so many of her peers do not understand.

Catholics should face the crisis of faith “with a renewed commitment to strong Catholic education and faith formation,” Schmidt argues. She will take her $5,000 scholarship this year to Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, with the possibility of renewed scholarships in subsequent years, generously provided by the University.

Schmidt chose Ave Maria, because she wants to study psychology and theology at a faithful Catholic college. Studies in psychology at Ave Maria are “carried out in conversation with philosophical and theological insights into the human person,” which is not possible at a secular college and potentially dangerous at a Catholic college that does not guarantee orthodoxy.

“A good education helps form the whole person, laying down proper philosophical principles necessary for the pursuit of truth in all its classes and activities,” Schmidt writes.

Outside the classroom, Schmidt hopes for a strong Christian formation. “The influence of one’s companions, most importantly in the still-formative years of young adulthood, should not be overlooked. People are social creatures and will often think like those with whom they spend the most time.”

There is no better place than a faithful Catholic college to find good role models and faithful peers. The spiritual opportunities are plentiful, often providing access to multiple priests and religious, Mass and Confession throughout the week, celebration of religious feast days, pastoral counseling, and more.

Ave Maria offers perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the academic year, and many students are grateful for the opportunity, even if they never spent time in Adoration before college. Schmidt is also looking forward to learning more about the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass, which is offered three days each week on campus.

Exposing young people to beautiful, reverent liturgy, Eucharistic adoration and authentic Catholic education can go a long way toward restoring belief in the Eucharist. Schmidt reminds us that the crisis of faith in our country and in the world is “not unprecedented.”

“Like the monks of Cluny Abbey who saved the faith of Europe in the tenth century, let us first reform ourselves through strong Catholic education and spiritual nourishment,” she writes. “That is the first step towards the reform of the crisis, and another of many steps toward heaven.”

Her full essay is posted online here. May God bless Maria and all her fellow students at faithful Catholic colleges, as they prepare for the fall and get ready to embark on exciting journeys of faith, fun and learning.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.


More information about the Essay Scholarship Contest:

The Newman Society’s annual Essay Scholarship Contest is open to high school seniors in the United States who participate in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and use The Newman Guide in their college search. The innovative Recruit Me program invites Newman Guide colleges to compete for students while providing information about faithful Catholic education. Rising high school seniors who wish to enter next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at

Maria Schmidt describes her college search:

While my search for a major was relatively easy, my search for a college would have been insurmountable without The Newman Guide. With about 197 professed Catholic colleges in the U.S, it would have been nearly impossible for me to find an authentically Catholic college that was just right for me. Thankfully, The Newman Guide did all the hard work for me, excluding the schools that are only nominally Catholic, and providing a detailed analysis of the fifteen U.S. residential colleges that make the cut.

With such a comprehensive and trustworthy list available, I did not have to waste my time considering schools which would only dampen my hopes and threaten my faith. Instead, I could focus my attention searching for the college that best fits my needs and expectations.

Schmidt’s $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joseph and Ann Guiffre, supporters of The Cardinal Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “They understand the unique value of a truly Catholic education, and they are thrilled to help a student experience all that a Newman Guide-recommended college can provide.”

The winner of the annual contest also has the opportunity to receive an additional $15,000 from participating colleges over the course of their college education. Sixteen of the Newman Guide colleges, including Ave Maria University, have agreed to supplement the Newman Society’s scholarship with additional $5,000 grants over three additional years, under certain conditions including full-time enrollment and academic progress.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Catholic Education ‘First Step’ Toward ‘Reform of the Crisis,’ Says College-Bound Student

Maria Schmidt

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced Maria Schmidt of Providence Academy in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as the winner of the Society’s fourth annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Schmidt will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, this fall. Below is the full text of Schmidt’s winning essay. More information about the Contest can be obtained here, and students who want to be eligible for next year’s Contest can sign up for Recruit Me here.

The Eucharist is the greatest Sacrament—the entirety of Jesus. So much of the faith is contained in this one mystery! Nevertheless, a recent Pew Research poll reveals that less than 26 percent of professed Catholics under the age of 40 believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. The study also implies that a lack of catechesis is connected to the disbelief: 43 percent of Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence think that their view aligns with Church teaching. In light of this finding, the believer should face the crisis with a renewed commitment to strong Catholic education and faith formation. This development of the person especially includes choosing a faithful Catholic College which teaches the truth, encourages virtue, and offers spiritual nourishment.

A good education helps form the whole person, laying down proper philosophical principles necessary for the pursuit of truth in all its classes and activities. Traditional philosophy and theology help the student to understand grace and Transubstantiation by acquainting them with the notions of form, substance, and accident. Science and mathematics pose no challenge to the faith, but rather support one’s belief in God, showing the great wisdom of His creations. History and literature aid the student in grasping human nature, exposing many falsehoods. Sports teams and campus activities promote the physical and communal wellbeing of the student, offering plenty of opportunities to volunteer in the spirit of servant leadership. Together, the courses and activities of a good education contribute to a deep appreciation of the truth and selflessness.

With salvation as their goal, the members of a Catholic college encourage virtue through their examples and friendships. The influence of one’s companions, most importantly in the still-formative years of young adulthood, should not be overlooked. People are social creatures and will often think like those with whom they spend the most time. Virtuous peers and professors instill admiration in each other’s hearts, encouraging the emulation of virtue. Surrounding oneself with good companions is, therefore, a crucial step in guarding and strengthening one’s faith.

All efforts, however, are in vain unless they are united to the spiritual life of the Church. A faithful Catholic college knows this best, offering its students and faculty ample access to daily Mass, adoration, sacraments, prayer, and spiritual direction. Such an institution recognizes the profound unity between man’s body and soul, the effects of original sin, and man’s supernatural calling from God. A Catholic college cannot shy away from this calling and remain genuinely Catholic.

While many people and colleges profess to be Catholic, it has become more apparent that not all of them are truly Catholic. Such a crisis in faith is not unprecedented. The faithful, meanwhile, take comfort in the Church’s rich traditions and life from God, who is bodily present among us in the Eucharist. Like the monks of Cluny Abbey who saved the faith of Europe in the tenth century, let us first reform ourselves through strong Catholic education and spiritual nourishment. That is the first step towards the reform of the crisis, and another of many steps toward heaven.

Pope Saint John Paul II

Theology of the Body for Schoolchildren

If ever there was a time to teach young people about human nature and our common human dignity, it’s now.

They need to know that race, sex and their very lives are willed by God. They need to know that marriage and family are also willed by God, and that the collapse of the family has contributed to many of the social ills that are on display today.

The timing is right, then, for newly published educational standards that help schools teach St. John Paul II’s “theology of the body” in a progression from kindergarten through eighth grade. They help transmit to students a “vision of the human person according to God’s loving design,” and Catholic education is uniquely situated to teach it.

“It’s a gamechanger for someone to be deeply convinced of their personal self-worth, dignity and purpose, knowing themself to be infinitely and unconditionally loved by God and called to live in a communion of persons in his image,” state the new “Standards for Christian Anthropology,” co-authored by Dr. Joan Kingsland of Ruah Woods Press and Dr. Denise Donohue of The Cardinal Newman Society.

“This self-knowledge includes respecting and revering oneself, others and above all God. It affects the choices made by young people about how they will treat others and expect others to treat them.”

The standards explore the foundations of personal identity and are a key solution to the problems we face in society right now. Just consider, what if every student in Catholic schools across the country was taught authentic Christian anthropology? How would society look different, if graduates of Catholic education could clearly articulate and defend the value of every human person?

“In recent years there’s been a surge in the ever-widening gap between the mainstream take on the identity of the human person versus a Christian vision rooted in Sacred Scriptures,” explain Dr. Donohue and Dr. Kingsland. Gender ideology, racial division, pornography, premarital sexual activity, contraception and abortion are just some of the challenges facing Catholic educators, and increasingly they are pressured to compromise Catholic teaching.

Understandably, then, many Catholic education leaders welcome the standards.

They “provide much-needed guidance for more deeply understanding who we are as human beings, made in the image of God,” says David McCutchen, coordinator of the office for catechetical formation in the Diocese of Toledo.

“These standards present, at age-appropriate moments, the foundational truths upon which an authentically Christian view of the human person must be built,” he continues. “The burning questions and confusing issues of our time regarding human dignity, sexuality and gender can be effectively addressed only in light of these fundamental truths.”

Jill Annable, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, agrees. “It is a difficult task to articulate the Catholic worldview of Theology of the Body, yet the Standards for Christian Anthropology provide us key teachings for each grade level that will be understandable to families and assist teachers in critical aspects of this formation in a logical sequence,” she says.

Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, adds that the standards help ensure that “students are able to tangibly uphold the sanctity of human life.”

Ultimately, the goal of an authentic Catholic education is to form students with the foundation they need for this life and the one to come. Given the recent struggles in our society, it is imperative that young people know their own worth and the dignity of every human being they encounter.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

religious sister

Dominican Sister Says Newman Guide College ‘Opened My Soul’ to Vocation

Sr. Maximilian Marie

Opportunities for public Masses and other spiritual offerings have been limited over the last several months for Catholics across the globe due to COVID-19. To help fill the spiritual void and provide consolation, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have been livestreaming their daily Masses and other prayers online for the first time.

Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P., has been responsible for responding to the prayer intentions that the sisters have received during this challenging time. The Newman Society recently asked Sr. Maximilian Marie about this experience and how her vocation was influenced by her time at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., which is recommended in The Newman Guide.

Newman Society: Why did the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, decide to share their private prayers and Masses online?

Sr. Maximilian Marie: At the Motherhouse, we are blessed by circumstances that allow us to have daily Mass during the current pandemic crisis. Our deep gratitude for the Blessed Sacrament, coupled with the recent launch (July 2019) of our Lumen Ecclesiae Digital platform, led to the possibility of daily livestreaming our Mass, Holy Hour, Rosary and prayers.

Thus, we invited people, globally and across denominations, to join in our community prayers to provide consolation and hope during this time of pandemic. It is our desire to especially inform people about the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours — the ongoing prayers of the Church — which we livestream at three periods of the day: Lauds (Morning Prayer), Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer).

Photo via the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Upon reflection, I see the livestreaming project as another way to live out our vocation as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Jesus and His Real Presence are the heart of our vocation as Brides of Christ and the source of our Spiritual Motherhood. We start our day with a common hour of Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Mass, and then, in normal circumstances, we go out into the schools to share the great gift we have received with our students. In these days of “shelter-in-place,” by livestreaming our otherwise private Community Mass and prayers, we are able to bring Jesus to starving souls in a very different way but far reaching: we are not limited to the four walls of our classrooms, but bring Jesus into living rooms across the globe.

I am sure St. Dominic would have done the same! Upon founding the Order, he did something new by sending his friars out into the heart of society — founding convents amidst the hustle and bustle of universities and big cities… because that was where the people were. Through livestreaming and archived videos on our platform, we can bring Jesus to anyone and everyone who is homebound, alone and without the Sacraments during the pandemic.

In these last months, I have had the privilege of reading and responding to the prayer intentions we receive through our website. They come in from around the globe and across denominations, expressing their gratitude and commenting on how, because of the livestreaming throughout the day, they do not feel quite as alone during these days of solitude.

Newman Society: What was your experience like at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts?


Sr. Maximilian Marie (far left) at her graduation from Magdalen College.

Sr. Maximilian Marie: I arrived at Magdalen College as a 21-year-old freshman, a little older than most students, but ripe and ready to live a more honest, authentic life. I immersed myself in the liberal arts program, the community life and the sacramental life on campus. At Magdalen College, I was stretched intellectually, socially and spiritually, and I loved it for that reason!

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” I was told in my first tutorial, and I was now examining my life with bigger eyes than ever, as I was exposed to (and exposed by) a variety of universally acclaimed works. This experience opened me to examining the fundamental questions of life: “Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?” As I wrestled with these great works in the context of honest, personal friendships and a strong community life, a childlike wonder began to reawaken in me, and the floodgates of grace seemingly flew open!

I recall, one day at Mass, after receiving the Holy Eucharist, I gazed up at the Crucifix and realized how much Christ loved me. This experience was a special grace. The reality of the Crucifix and of the Holy Eucharist took hold of me — sacrificial love and selflessness.

As a “devout” Catholic, I had seen, known and consumed Him my whole life, but never with such deep meaning. This experience demanded a radical response from me: sanctity.  From this point on and by God’s grace, I became a daily communicant and totally in love with the Living Person, Jesus Christ. My identity was rooted in Christ, my Lord and His Catholic Church. This is the beginning to any faithful vocation… an invitation to love.

Newman Society: How did your time at Magdalen College influence your vocation to the religious life?

Photo via the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Sr. Maximilian Marie: It is curious, how this lay-governed, lay-administered Catholic institution that emphasized lay-leadership, was the key that opened my soul to consecrated religious life. I smile to think how, upon entering the convent in 2001, my college copy of Vatican Council II documents bears in its margins excitedly scribbled remarks alongside paragraphs focused on the laity, while the margins of the sections on Religious Life, were quite tidy.

To be honest, I do not recall any overt, external influences toward religious life—perhaps because, at the time, I had a one track-mind toward marriage. But, in retrospect it was the dynamic of the program of studies, the community life and the sacramental life that was foundational to my vocation.

A key influential factor was the emphatic teaching instilled in us regarding the universal call to holiness and seeing it lived out. From studying the social teachings of the Church and living them in a common life, to daily witnessing the sincere gift of self among faculty and staff, I realized that sanctification was ‘worked out’ in every act and at every moment.

This realization and the habits instilled made me truly free to say a wholehearted “Yes” to the will of God, whether it was seemingly inconsequential tasks like cleaning a bathroom to life decisions and vocational matters. Each action was a little fiat proclaimed with Mary: “Let it be done.”

In my almost 20 years of religious life, all that I received at Magdalen College has been constantly deepened and broadened in the context of our Dominican tradition of study, contemplation, and community life. Hardly a day goes by in which I do not recall some aspect of my education and formation at Magdalen College, for which I am so very grateful.