Daniel Torres

FOCUS Missionary: Strong Catholic Education Offers ‘Lifechanging’ Experience

“Catholic education that is authentic, alive and abundant can be a lifechanging experience,” says Daniel Torres, a graduate of a faithful Catholic college.

For Torres, Belmont Abbey College, in Belmont, N.C., which is recommended in The Newman Guide, certainly made an impact. At the College, Torres met his wife and was prepared to “engage the world with truth, goodness and beauty.” He studied Theology, minored in theatre arts and was active in student clubs, campus life and service opportunities made possible by the College.

Torres graduated from Belmont Abbey in 2017 and now is a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary at Rice University in Houston, Tex., with his wife, Maddie. Many graduates of Newman Guide colleges have selflessly served as missionaries with FOCUS for a couple years after graduation.

The Cardinal Newman Society is grateful to Torres for sharing about the impact of his faithful Catholic education, as a part of our “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.

Newman Society: How did your education at Belmont Abbey College help prepare you for your vocation and working in the New Evangelization?

Daniel and Maddie Torres
Daniel and Maddie Torres

Daniel Torres: The culture of excellence and virtue at Belmont Abbey prepared me not only for my call to ministry in evangelization, but also for the call to holiness through my vocation to marriage. My wife, Maddie, and I met freshman year and dated all throughout college. It was the foundation of authentic friendship established at the Abbey that helped Maddie and I have a strong community and witness to selfless love.

I always knew that I wanted to work in ministry, even before coming to Belmont Abbey.  However, I didn’t realize how much of an impact the faculty, staff and administration would have on that desire for ministry and sharing my faith. I received profound intellectual formation from my teachers in theology, providing me the opportunity to understand the significance of the truth of the Catholic faith.

The guidance and support of FOCUS missionaries at the Abbey probably had the greatest personal influence on my life. They instilled within me a deep awareness of the poverty of isolation and loneliness in today’s society. The only answer to that poverty is the love and mercy Jesus has to offer.

Newman Society: Why do you think a strong Catholic education is good preparation for a missionary?

Daniel Torres: I firmly believe that a strong Catholic education can prepare one to engage the world with truth, goodness and beauty. I was challenged by my teachers and peers to tackle tough topics head on and enter into dialogue. The Catholic worldview and values I received have been invaluable in my missionary efforts. The Catholic college campus is the perfect environment for peer-based ministry, which helps make Jesus come alive with students. 

Catholic education that is authentic, alive and abundant can be a lifechanging experience. It allows you to become the best person you can be, because you are surrounded by virtuous people who help reveal to you who you are. The whole process of holiness is recognizing the truth of who you are, but striving for the truth of who you’re meant to be. It is possible—and the best opportunity for that is found in Catholic education.

Maura Roan McKeegan

Children’s Author Inspired by Faithful Catholic College

Catholic families are always looking for beautiful Catholic books for children. An alumna of a faithful Catholic college is giving families more timeless options.

Maura Roan McKeegan says that her education in the theology graduate program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, inspired her to become an author. Now she’s published several Catholic children’s books as a fruit of her experience in the Franciscan University community, including St. Conrad and the Wildfire, just recently released.

The Cardinal Newman Society is grateful to McKeegan for sharing about the impact of her faithful Catholic education on her life and work, as a part of our “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.

Newman Society: Why did you choose to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville? What impact did the University have on you?

Maura Roan McKeegan: When I was a young adult—after I graduated from a state university—I attended a summer conference at Franciscan University. I loved it so much that I went back the next year, and the next. I began to daydream of going there to study full-time. I wanted to know more about God, and I couldn’t think of a better place to learn. Franciscan had changed my life so much in three weekends; I could only imagine what three years there would do.

At first, it felt like an impossible dream. I was a classroom teacher and didn’t know how I could leave my job. But soon, God showed me that He was calling me to go to graduate school at Franciscan. I moved to Steubenville to pursue a master’s degree in theology, and Franciscan became a second home to me. The material I studied was so beautiful that it sometimes made me cry. The classes I took, books I read, and people I met helped me grow exponentially in the way I understood and lived my faith.

Eighteen years later, I am still here with my husband, raising our children in Steubenville, and marveling at the way God used three weekends to give me a gift that would last a lifetime.

Newman Society: How has your education at Franciscan University influenced your work as an author?

Maura Roan McKeegan: My education at Franciscan University inspired me to become an author. I remember sitting in Dr. Scott Hahn’s class and listening to him talk about typology—how Adam, Moses, and Jonah prefigured Christ; how Noah’s Ark prefigured baptism; how the Ark of the Covenant prefigured Mary. It was all new to me. I had just spent five years as a classroom teacher, and I thought to myself, “Children would be fascinated by this!”

I had the idea of writing a series of picture books that placed Old and New Testament stories side by side, so that children could see the connections. The idea stayed in my head for ten years, until I finally realized that God was calling me to write the series. Now, through Emmaus Road Publishing, I’ve written three books in that series, with a fourth currently being illustrated.

My newest book, St. Conrad and the Wildfire, is separate from the Old and New series. All of these books are the fruit of my time at Franciscan University, both as a student and as a member of the Franciscan family.

St. Conrad and the Wildfire book cover

Newman Society: Can you tell us about your recently released book for children, St. Conrad and the Wildfire?

Maura Roan McKeegan: About five years ago, I learned about St. Conrad for the first time and was immediately captivated by his story. He was a medieval nobleman who went hunting one day and accidentally set a forest on fire. He didn’t tell anyone the truth about what happened until an innocent peasant was blamed and sentenced to death, and only Conrad’s confession could save him. The course of events that began with his errors eventually led Conrad to become a saint.

St. Conrad’s story struck me as perfect for a picture book. With medieval nobles, a castle, hunting, fire, false accusation, a near execution and the challenge of telling the truth in the face of danger, it had all the elements of an exciting and enduring tale. I also loved how it showed that imperfect people can become saints—that our mistakes can become paths to grace. As a person who makes a lot of mistakes, I found that message consoling.

Newman Society: Why do you think beautiful and well-written Catholic books for children are important?    

Maura Roan McKeegan: Picture books are my hobby and my passion. I love the way they unite generations, when young and old cuddle up together and delight in stories that capture hearts through words and pictures. Beautiful and well-written Catholic picture books give us a way to follow what Jesus says when he tells us to “become like little children” in Matthew 18:3. When we sit with children and read aloud together, we build bonds of love in a world of childlike simplicity that children will remember long after they are grown. Beautiful picture books awaken lifelong connections between love, spiritual childhood and faith.

Students Learn Science, Ethics at Franciscan University

Studying the sciences at a faithful Catholic college, like Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, prepares students for their careers and for considering the moral dimension of their work. Students are given “tools to work through ethical decisions guided by the light of Truth,” says Dr. Dan Kuebler, dean of the natural and applied science programs at Franciscan University.

Dr. Kuebler believes Franciscan University graduates can make an impact through their witness in healthcare professions and help “rebuild a culture of life.” The Newman Society recently asked Dr. Kuebler to discuss what’s different about studying the sciences at Franciscan University, and about plans for future science offerings.

Newman Society: How does Franciscan University of Steubenville teach the sciences from an authentically Catholic perspective?

Dr. Kuebler: All of our students take an integrated core curriculum that enculturates them in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and, in particular, the theological and philosophical tradition of the Church. What they learn in these courses allows them to think critically about and fully engage with the learning experiences they have within the science programs.

Within the biology curriculum there are many issues that are discussed from a scientific perspective such as human sexual behavior, in vitro fertilization, cloning, contraception, etc. Students are not only taught about the latest science regarding these topics, but they also engage with their science faculty regarding the ethical and moral dimensions of these topics. Because they have been given the framework by which to engage these issues in their philosophy and theology classes, they are able to articulate and then ultimately defend the Catholic positions on these matters, positions that uphold the inherent dignity of human life.

If we fail to help our students achieve this integration, then we are not preparing them to live out their vocation as Catholic health care providers and scientists. We are not preparing them to be salt and light to a world sorely in need of a witness to the Truth.

Photo via Franciscan University of Steubenville

Newman Society: Last fall, Franciscan University unveiled a new biochemistry degree. Can you tell us about this exciting development, and other plans for science offerings at Franciscan?

Dr. Kuebler: The new biochemistry degree offers another science option for our students, particularly those interested in medical school and graduate school. The program takes the best of our existing biology and chemistry faculty along with new biochemistry faculty to produce a program that gets students into the lab doing research early on in the program.

In addition to the biochemistry degree, we are planning on launching four-year engineering degrees in Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineering over the next two and a half years. Currently we have partnership programs in which students spend two to three years on campus taking pre-engineering courses and then finish their engineering degree at a partner school.

While students in the program succeed academically at the partner schools, they do not want to leave the Franciscan academic community given the robust integration of faith, reason and community that exists here between our students, faculty and staff. Providing a high-quality fully accredited Bachelor of Science in engineering here on campus, we will be meeting the needs of these students as well as many other potential Catholic young women and men whom God has called to this field.

We are also expanding the cybersecurity course offerings within our computer science program with the aim of adding a certificate in cybersecurity to allow our students to have the preparation and hands-on experience to enter this burgeoning field.

Newman Society: Why do you think receiving a faithful Catholic education is crucial for future doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals?

Dr. Kuebler: There are so many ethical issues that scientific researchers and healthcare professionals face in the workplace. Too often, a utilitarian ethos drives medical decisions from end-of-life care to fertility treatments and leads to care and decisions that undermine the inherent dignity of human life.

By being immersed in the Catholic intellectual tradition and all its beauty and wisdom, our students have the tools to work through ethical decisions guided by the light of Truth. Their witness and ability to influence other healthcare professionals is the only manner in which we can hope to rebuild a culture of life that respects human life at all stages.

Newman Society: Franciscan is also well-known for its strong theology programs. How do the sciences and theology studies work together? Do many science students also minor in theology?

Dr. Kuebler: Our students must take three theology courses and three philosophy courses to graduate. Many students choose to take just three additional courses to minor in one of these two disciplines. Most of the science programs have five or six free electives, so it’s easy for students to do so.

This type of preparation only helps our students better articulate the beauty of the faith and navigate the ethical minefield of modern science and medicine in such a way as they bear witness to the Truth.

We host many interdisciplinary talks about topics such as gender ideology, fertility treatments, genetic modification and transhumanism so that students can hear from experts in both science, theology and philosophy on these topics. This type of integrated approach is essential for true learning.

Catholic Colleges Refuse to Disintegrate Faith from Science, Says Newman President

Our Sunday Visitor recently published the following article online, featuring Newman Society President Patrick Reilly:

There is a false notion that religion is an impediment to science. It is a contention that students in the sciences of biology will likely confront in their field. Educators at committed Catholic colleges explain that faith and science are in harmony with one another, and it is part of their mission to help students understand that.

Good Catholic institutions integrate these two bodies of knowledge since God is the author of both, and faith united with science provides moral safeguards. In the field of biology, however, where creating human life in petri dishes and changing the DNA of a human embryo are possible, human beings mistakenly think that they can play God.

“It’s not really a matter of integrating faith with science, it’s refusing to follow the atheist approach of disintegrating faith from science,” according to Patrick Reilly, president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes faithful Catholic education and publishes the annual Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. “A Catholic school or college should be eager to address obvious and fundamental questions of where things come from, who designed such amazingly complex systems, what are the purposes of things, and what is man’s role in nature. Science, like every discipline, is better understood and appreciated with the insights of Christianity.”

Continue reading at Our Sunday Visitor…

Thomas Aquinas College academics

Academic Program Sets Us Apart, Says Thomas Aquinas College Dean

It’s an exciting time at Thomas Aquinas College, which is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity, with more students than ever benefiting from the faithful Catholic education provided by the College. The Santa Paula, Calif., campus reached full enrollment several years ago, but now TAC’s Northfield, Mass., campus allows for the College’s highest total enrollment ever.

The addition of the new campus has inspired several other developments, including a new motto for the College. The Newman Society recently asked Dr. John Goyette, dean of TAC, to discuss the motto and how it reflects the type of education that students receive.

Newman Society: What is the meaning behind the College’s new motto, Fides Quaerens Intellectum, or “Faith Seeking Understanding”? How does it relate to the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas?

Thomas Aquinas College logo

Dr. Goyette: When we launched our New England campus last fall, we realized that we would need to update the Thomas Aquinas College crest, which previously read, “California – 1971.” Rather than trying to squeeze the name of both locations onto the crest, however, we decided to insert a motto—an expression of the essential nature of the institution. The College had never formally adopted a motto before, but the choice seemed obvious: St. Anselm’s description of the believer’s approach to learning, which is one of “faith seeking understanding.”

That short phrase tells you a great deal about Thomas Aquinas College. It tells you that our program is rooted in a desire to understand more perfectly, to see, as much as possible, what is first believed. It tells you that we have complete confidence in the compatibility of faith and reason, that we see natural science and mathematics not as threats to the Faith, but as ways to come to know and love God more deeply.

Although St. Thomas Aquinas did not coin the term “faith seeking understanding,” he embodied it. He labored his entire life to show how diligent study, illuminated by revelation, can bring us to some understanding of the mysteries of faith. More than any other Doctor of the Church, our patron shows us how the life of the mind is a foretaste of heaven, because it is there that the blessed—whose faith have given way to sight—have their desire to know Him perfectly satisfied.

Newman Society: How is this motto reflected in the education and student experience provided by the College?

Dr. Goyette: The entirety of Thomas Aquinas College’s academic program reflects that ours is a community of faith seeking understanding. Every student goes through the same integrated course of studies, which includes four years of natural science, four years of mathematics, four years of philosophy, four years of seminar (literature, history, and political science), two years of Latin, and one year of music—all ordered to four years of theology, the study of God.

At the heart of our curriculum are what we fondly call the great books, the original works of the greatest minds in our tradition, both ancient and modern. The great books explore the workings of the natural world, consider the most profound truths about the human person, and culminate in a contemplation of the greatest mysteries of God Himself.

Members of the teaching faculty—who are called “tutors”—guide small groups of students in discussions of these seminal works, employing what is known as the Discussion Method. In the classroom, 17 or 18 students sit around a table and, with a tutor as their guide, wrestle with the great books. Ideas are proposed and defended until, through discussion and argument, the class works its way toward an understanding of a given text. Together, in faith, we seek understanding and work toward truth—the Truth, Who is also the Way and the Life.

Newman Society: With the addition of the New England campus last fall, it’s an exciting time for the College. What do you think makes the College so attractive to Catholic families today?

Dr. Goyette: There are several colleges and universities today that offer a wholesome, faithful environment for Catholic students, as do both our California and New England campuses. But what sets Thomas Aquinas College apart, I believe, is our academic program, precisely because it is predicated on the notion of faith seeking understanding. We are the only Catholic college in the world that offers a curriculum based entirely on the great books and using the Discussion Method.

For 50 years we have held true to our founders’ vision of Catholic liberal education, and the results speak for themselves: not only does the College receive the endorsement of faithful Catholic programs such as The Newman Guide, it also consistently gets top rankings from secular publications, such as U.S. News and The Princeton Review, in recognition of our record of academic achievement. We also have alumni serving the Church and society throughout the world in every field and discipline—in technology, public service, education, law, medicine, and, of course, the priesthood and religious life.

I think that is probably what attracts Catholic families most of all. Here they know they can get an education that is both faithful and excellent, one which will prepare their children for whatever vocation or career to which they are called.

TAC New England campus
The College’s New England Campus

Newman Society: Anything else you’d like to add?

Dr. Goyette: I guess I would point out that families ought not be deterred by one factor that, sometimes, will lead them to erroneously conclude that they cannot come to Thomas Aquinas College—the cost. In keeping with our Catholic mission, the College is committed to never turning away any student on the basis of financial means. We meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need, and we cap student loans at $18,000 over four years. Last year Kiplinger rated the College #1 out of 1,200 colleges and universities on its “Best Value Colleges” list. Any student who is willing and able to be part of our community of faith seeking understanding can afford to do so.

Also, it’s worth noting that, for students who want to get a sense of whether Thomas Aquinas College is for them, there is no better way to find out than to visit. In particular, rising high school seniors should check out our two-week Summer Program, which is now available on both coasts.

piggy bank

Graduate Scholarships Available to Alumni of Newman Guide Colleges

Are you planning to pursue graduate studies? Alumni of faithful Newman Guide-recommended colleges should know of these scholarship opportunities offered especially for them.

Business Administration

Benedictine College, which is recommended in The Newman Guide, is located in Atchison, Kan. It offers a $9,969 scholarship on a rolling basis to graduates of Newman Guide-recommended colleges entering the Master of Business Administration program online or on-site. More than 30 scholarships have been awarded since 2016.

Among its top 10 reasons for earning an MBA at Benedictine is the college’s “vibrant Catholic community” that is “producing business leaders who will transform the world through their commitment to professional, intellectual, personal and spiritual excellence.” In addition to the campus experience, the MBA is available through a Live Interactive Video Conferencing option that allows students to participate from anywhere in the country.

Jason Fabaz, assistant director of graduate business programs and professional development at the College’s School of Business, says:

Our professors are committed to upholding, in all of their lectures and classroom discussions, the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to a faithful Catholic view of business, of economics, of justice, of social doctrine, etc. Our Mission of Community, Faith and Scholarship is built on Four Pillars: Catholic, Residential, Benedictine and Liberal Arts. Earning your MBA at Benedictine College gives you the added benefit of living in the midst of a vibrant Catholic community where you will be supported in your studies, professional pursuits, recreation outlets and your spiritual life. It is by means of this community that we are producing business leaders who will transform the world through their commitment to professional, intellectual, personal and spiritual excellence.

Fabaz believes that alumni of Newman Guide colleges are a great fit for the program:

We are happy to offer scholarships for graduates of Newman Guide-recommended colleges for two reasons. First, we want to ease the MBA tuition burden for those Catholic young professionals who have already made the sacrifice in paying for a private school tuition. Second, we want to especially attract young Catholics who are serious about their Faith and about a career in business — and we know that graduates from the Newman Guide-recommended colleges are impressive young people, both in terms of their moral life, their spiritual life and in terms of their potential as future business leaders.

Since Benedictine College is also a Newman Guide school, students from other Newman Guide colleges align closely with our philosophy here. They will fit in well with our emphasis on business ethics, collaboration, and leadership based on the faith. Things like our Thompson Center for Integrity in Finance & Economics are a demonstration of how we feel our students should impact the world and students from Newman Guide colleges more than likely share a similar vision.

Human Rights

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is also recommended in The Newman Guide. Its Institute for Human Ecology recently announced a new Master of Arts in Human Rights. Led by longtime pro-life leader and attorney William Saunders, the program draws on studies in philosophy, theology, law, canon law, and the sciences, and will ignite in students a passion to defend human life. The program is available on a full-time or part-time basis.

A new $5,000 scholarship is available for graduates of Newman Guide colleges and universities. The scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis. The deadline is July 15 for the fall semester.

“The Master of Arts program explains and interprets human rights through the lens of Catholic social thought. Students from Newman Guide-recommended colleges will appreciate this approach,” says Saunders.

“A solid education at a school committed to the truth and in step with the Catholic mission to the world would prepare a student perfectly for our program,” Saunders says, “within which we examine the deep truths about the human person and the common good.”

He adds:

In addition to the classes, which will be taught by professors committed to Catholic social thought, as exemplified by the teaching of John Paul II, we will have weekly meetings to explore the relevance of Catholic social thought to what is being learned in the classroom. We will also have frequent speakers from D.C., most of whom will be Catholics, to discuss their work and their faith. In addition, Catholic University is fully committed to the Church’s mission and intellectual apostolate and is itself a Newman Guide-recommended college.

Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, has praised the program:

I think this [program] will really bring something new to the table. That is an understanding of human rights rooted in the deep tradition of thought that takes us back to Athens and to Jerusalem, an approach to human rights that really anchors human rights in the truth about the human person and the flourishing of the human person. … We need that kind of deep understanding.”


Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., is imbued with an “educational philosophy that emphasizes the moral foundations of the law, presents insights from the Catholic intellectual tradition, and encourages a broader perspective of the law and its role in society.” Students learn to practice law in any jurisdiction or employment area.

According to Claire O’Keefe, Esq., associate dean of admissions:

Our goal for law students is to create an educational philosophy that emphasizes the moral foundations of the law, presents insights from the Catholic intellectual tradition, and encourages a broader perspective of Florida law and its primary role in society. Ave Maria Law encompasses a carefully curated curriculum designed to ensure our graduates will be well prepared to practice law in any jurisdiction and legal institution. Ave Maria School of Law students come to embrace the law as a vocation. They understand that the law, morality and the common good are inextricably linked, and they leave their studies with a true understanding of the harmony of faith and reason.

The law school offers both a “Cardinal Newman Full Tuition Scholarship” and a one-time “Cardinal Newman Stipend” of $10,000 toward living expenses for the first year of the program. Students from other Catholic undergraduate programs are eligible for the scholarship and stipend in addition to Newman Guide college alumni, and the awards are available to more than one student per year. Twelve students received the scholarship in 2019 and 2018, 15 in 2017 and six in 2016. The application deadline is July 15 for the fall semester.

O’Keefe says the School is eager for applicants from Newman Guide colleges:

As Ave Maria School of Law seeks to admit men and women who are drawn to our distinctive mission of educating lawyers within the Catholic intellectual tradition, we welcome applications from alumni of these institutions and members of these organizations. We are confident that these students will enrich the academic and spiritual life of the Law School.

The fact that all Newman Society-approved schools are committed to a faithful Catholic education. While the approach differs from school to school, it is the constant presence of a faithful Catholic life and strong curriculum that makes these students a perfect fit for our school.


Divine Mercy University in Sterling, Va., offers online and on-site advanced degree programs that integrate “both the science and practice of psychology and counseling with the Catholic-Christian vision of the person.” The university’s “Newman Scholarship” provides up to $5,000 in financial aid toward obtaining a Master of Science degree in psychology or counseling, or a Doctor of Psychology degree in clinical psychology. This scholarship is for students enrolling in a new program of study who graduated from a college or university recommended in The Newman Guide.

DMU offers the Newman Scholarship in light of the excellent preparation students receive from Newman Guide colleges.  “We have found that, in part due to their strong personal formation as undergraduates, students from Newman colleges tend to excel in our programs,” says Tambi Spitz Kilhefner, associate vice president of admissions at Divine Mercy University.

The university has three program start dates every year, which differ according to program (e.g., the Psy.D. program has only one start each year, in August). Each start offers opportunities to apply for the Newman Scholarship. For additional information and details on qualifications and program deadlines, please see this link.

Regarding Newman Guide colleges, Kilhefner says:

At Divine Mercy University, we provide a profoundly unique home for scholarship and professional training in psychology and counseling grounded in an integral Catholic-Christian view of the human person. Students who have excelled in a Newman Guide college program are well prepared to enter into our programs here at DMU

Kilhefner referenced the testimony of Jody G., a student in the M.S. in Counseling program at Divine Mercy University, who said: “I am forever grateful for my formation received at Thomas Aquinas College, a faithful Catholic college which has more than adequately prepared me for the counseling program with DMU. My courses in philosophy and theology, in particular, have prepared me to tackle the complex material that we are studying in the integrated program and take my personal and professional preparation to a deeper level.”

Unique College Prepared Artist to ‘Impact the Culture for Christ’

Although truth and beauty are often lacking in the creative arts today, graduates of John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif., are working to buck that trend and positively impact the culture.

JPCatholic, which is recommended in The Newman Guide, provides students with a solid formation in the liberal arts and faithful Catholic theology, while also preparing them for careers in the creative arts, business, film-making and other new media.

Graduate Nate Sjogren says that the College’s curriculum “forms Catholic artists to be well-rounded Christian storytellers,” and he sees the creative process as a “cooperation with God and his creation.” Today, Sjogren is a motion graphics designer at Drive Studio in San Diego, Calif. The Cardinal Newman Society is grateful for his time in sharing about the impact of his faithful Catholic education, as a part of our “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.

Newman Society: How did your education at John Paul the Great Catholic University help form you as a Catholic artist?

Nate Sjogren: From the outset, JPCatholic begins with the intention to impact the culture for Christ. This mission influences everything we were taught and encourages us to create art with a greater purpose beyond ourselves. Throughout the curriculum there is one central theme: story. Our entire formation is motivated by telling meaningful, powerful stories. Even now as a motion graphic designer, everything I create has a narrative, even if it is metaphorical. The curriculum forms Catholic artists to be well-rounded Christian storytellers, regardless of their expertise in the industry.

Newman Society: JPCatholic combines practical classes like film-making and new media with courses in the liberal arts and theology. How do you think this well-rounded education has influenced your professional success?

Nate Sjogren: I think the well-rounded education is the key. Like myself, many students are struggling to discover their expertise as they journey through film school. It is crucial that young adults are well-formed in many areas so that they are able to sample a variety of creative specialties. In fact, it wasn’t until I began my internship at Drive Studio that I discovered my passion for motion graphics. Being well-rounded increases the opportunities to get a foot in the door. Beyond that, expertise — let alone success — is earned through practical experience in real-world scenarios.

Newman Society: What does Pope St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists” mean to you?

Nate Sjogren: The idea that artists are called by vocation to be co-creators with God is revolutionary. When I first sat down to design, I was immediately stumped by the blank canvas in front of me. How am I supposed to magically come up with a completely original idea out of thin air and also put it on paper? The task is daunting… until I realized that nothing is original. God created everything already.

This very fact diffuses the pressure that new artists feel to be completely original. Instead, the creative process becomes a cooperation with God and his creation. It is liberating knowing that any creative brilliance doesn’t solely rely on me, and that my designs are a fusion of life experiences, inspiration and concepts already in existence. I’m not the Creator, but I’m brought into the creative process with God. That truth is humbling yet exhilarating.

Newman Society: Do you have any stories or experiences from your time at the college that stand out to you?

Nate Sjogren: When I was in my third year, I was hired for my very first gig as an editor. After the studio had filmed the interview I was supposed to cut together, I received a call from one of the producers. He mentioned that they would like to add in some motion graphics to complement the interview, and he asked if I could pull it off. Although I had never done motion graphics before, I knew some basic After Effects [motion graphics software], so I told him, “Let’s do it!” 

That weekend I spent every last bit of free time learning After Effects. YouTube and other free tutorial sites like Video Copilot and Creative Cow were invaluable during this formation process. And as a result, we pulled off our first motion graphic commercial without a hitch.

This was a breakthrough moment for my education and my career. Through the formation and network at JPCatholic, I got my first gig and discovered my passion for motion graphics. Not long after, I was offered an internship at Drive Studio because of my interest in graphic design and animation, and the rest is history.

Newman Society: As a motion graphics designer, you’ve produced logos, motion graphics and branding for the FIFA World Cup, the NFL, NBC Sports, National Geographic and others. What have been some of the most exciting projects to be a part of?

Nate Sjogren: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with soccer — watching every professional match I could, training with my team all year round, and even playing the FIFA video games for hours. So it was a dream come true to help design and animate the entire graphics package for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on FOX Sports with the Drive Studio team.

It was also very exciting to see the months of hard work pay off on the Super Bowl LIV scoring system and information graphics that debuted on FOX earlier this year. You may recognize the larger-than-life touchdown graphic that my team and I came up with as an innovative solution to make the scoring moments more dramatic.

Thomas Alexander

Pentagon Leader: Faithful Catholic Education Provided ‘Fundamentals to Succeed’

When Catholic education is done well, it benefits not only its graduates, but also society at large.

Thomas Alexander is a top leader in the Pentagon who is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on special operations, counterterrorism, and more around the world. He credits his education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., which is recommended in The Newman Guide, with preparing him with the “fundamentals” he needed to “succeed” in his work.

“You can study all of the things that you want foreign policy-wise to try to prepare for these types of positions,” explains Alexander. “But I don’t think you can do any of those things well if you don’t have the fundamentals.”

“Thomas Aquinas College gives you the ability to quickly analyze, break down a particular issue into its parts, put it all back together in a way that makes sense, reach a conclusion, and then go forward,” he explains.

Students develop this “analytical training” through the College’s great books curriculum. “By putting the original works in front of you, you’ve got sit down with Aristotle, with St. Thomas Aquinas, with other great thinkers, and figure out what they were saying, and then apply it across the board.”

The College also provided Alexander with excellent ethical training. “In policy jobs, we are answering the question, ‘Should we be doing a particular activity?’ What are the ramifications one, two, three steps down the road for doing things?”

“The good teaching at Thomas Aquinas College really prepares you for this so that you do have that good moral sounding board inside of you,” he explains. “It allows you to perform that gut-check. Yes, we can do something, but is it a good thing to do?”

As the senior-most civilian overseeing special operations, Alexander also provides advice on the manning, training and equipping for special operations, and he oversees a budget of $14 billion. Recent high-profile special operations include the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi operation and the Osama bin Laden operation.

Helping keep our nation safe is no small task, but Alexander is up for the challenge. He has successfully climbed the ladder in his career, thanks to his strong Catholic education, both at Thomas Aquinas College and Ave Maria School of Law, hard work and the relationships he has built.

“There hasn’t been a day that I ever regretted attended Thomas Aquinas College, and receiving the education that I did.”

University of Mary hockey team

University of Mary: Scholar-Athletes Formed ‘For the Whole of Life’

This year, the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., which is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity, unveiled a “Greatness through Virtue” strategic plan for the University’s athletic programs. Through the plan, the University aims to “develop each athlete into becoming who God created them.”

The Newman Society recently asked Jerome Richter, executive vice president at the University of Mary, to discuss “Greatness through Virtue” and what makes it attractive for prospective Catholic students and families.

Newman Society: What does “Greatness through Virtue” mean, and how does it make the University of Mary stand out from other college options?

Jerome Richter: The University of Mary believes that scholar-athletes possess an inherent desire — a burning passion to achieve greatness. They are willing to take on rigorous and disciplined training schedules coupled with full-time academic work in order to pursue excellence in their sports.

“Greatness through Virtue” is the University of Mary’s plan to take advantage of this opportunity to develop each athlete into becoming who God created them to be, through the practice of virtue and the formation of authentic friendships. It means the University is taking strategic and practical steps to infuse its athletic programs with the virtues of magnanimity, humility, prudence, courage, justice and temperance to teach its athletes to pursue greatness in every arena of their lives — athletic, spiritual, personal, and scholastic.

This by no means lessens the commitment to striving to win on the field or court, rather it provides an important distinction between the University of Mary and other intercollegiate athletic programs. While many school athletic programs are aimed at solely at winning records, at the University of Mary, students, including our scholar-athletes, are formed by an education “for the whole of life.”

University of Mary basketball team
Members of the men’s basketball team at the University of Mary cheer on their teammates.

Newman Society: What is involved in the “Greatness through Virtue” plan?

Jerome Richter: The Greatness through Virtue plan is intentionally integrated into athletics in every facet from coaching and recruiting to developing leadership, personal development, academics, safety, health and well-being, and community integration. The university will be tracking this plan through a follow-up evaluation process and will reach out to share this vision of “greatness through virtue” by hosting institutes with other schools.

The University has placed Father Craig Vasek, a multi-sport athlete in high school and a graduate of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, among its athletes as the full-time chaplain for the University of Mary athletic department, guiding our athletes as they develop lifelong lessons of friendship, teamwork and values.

For Catholic families who want the assurance that their student will have access to genuinely faith-based higher education, one that brings virtue into every aspect of their university experience, including athletics, the University of Mary’s foundational faithfulness, academic excellence and genuine affordability makes it the best choice.

Newman Society: How do you expect “Greatness through Virtue” to impact areas of your campus beyond athletics?

Jerome Richter: Greatness through Virtue is not a thing apart from the life of the campus; as our scholar-athletes strive for greatness, they will undoubtably influence their friends and those around them. As “iron sharpens iron,” so too will these students further shape the culture of the campus into one where all members of the student body are fully integrated into the mission of the University of Mary.

The “Greatness through Virtue Athletic Strategic Plan” also includes core strategies for facilities and assessment to ensure its campus meets the needs for every team to excel and for every member in the athletic department to be properly assessed. Through this strategic plan, which is just a part of the University of Mary’s overall Vision 2030 Strategic Plan, there will not be any areas of campus not impacted by the university’s commitment to excellence.

Our hashtag #lifeatmary spreads the word through social media that if you want more out of an education – that dimension of eternal meaning – the University of Mary is the right fit for you.

Newman Society: How are faith-based values incorporated into some of the University of Mary’s most popular academic programs, including nursing?

Jerome Richter: The University of Mary is a campus with a rich sacramental life that includes daily Mass, adoration and prayer. Our programs in bioethics, Catholic philanthropy, Catholic Studies and programs for Catholic educators are cutting edge and faithful to the teachings of the Church. The university’s Christian, Catholic, and Benedictine values are infused throughout the curriculum, and a strong emphasis on “servant leadership” is placed in all programs.

University of Mary nursing
Nursing students in the St. Gianna School of Health Sciences.

Recently, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla’s family gave the university permission to name our School of Health Sciences after her to signal our commitment to providing exceptional health sciences education and our profound respect for the dignity of every human person. Under this newly named school, our stellar nursing program has been ranked #1 in the nation for its quality of instruction and caliber of graduates.

Our programs in business feature lessons and classes on Alexandre Havard’s Virtuous Leadership, which is meant to bring traditional views on excellence into the workplace.

Each faculty member is “hired for mission” and pledges to support the vision of educating leaders of moral courage in the pursuit of Truth.

Chapel at Franciscan University

True Love at Faithful Catholic Colleges

Are students being prepared for careers — and for life — in colleges today? Some college professors are noticing that students are “excelling academically but not necessarily in other areas of adult life,” including dating and preparing for the vocation of marriage.

Students at faithful Catholic colleges, however, may be the exception. A good Catholic college will promote a campus environment that supports healthy relationships, and that’s greatly needed today.

Popular chastity speaker Jason Evert, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, argues that there needs to be a revival of Catholic dating in our culture. He recently published The Dating Blueprint: What She Wants You to Know About Dating but Will Never Tell Youadvising men to “put down their screens, look a woman in the eye, and ask her on a date.”

Michael Kenney, director of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Identity Standards Project and one of the curriculum developers for the Dating Project, agrees. “The most consequential decision a person makes is the decision concerning marriage,” he says. “A healthy dating culture is essential to building strong marriages and families. Tragically, our culture saturates the airwaves with false lyrics, images and messages concerning dating.”

If a revival of traditional courtship seems unlikely on most college campuses, students can expect something different at a faithful Catholic college. At several colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, students can still find evidence of mature, chaste relationships leading to healthy marriages.

At Thomas Aquinas College, which has campuses in Santa Paula, California, and Northfield, Massachusetts, “about 10 percent of the College’s alumni have entered the priesthood or religious life,” the college reports. “Most of the rest marry, often wedding fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumni and raising fruitful, faithful families that bear joyful witness to the Culture of Life.”

With an annual enrollment of just 500 students, Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, boasts more than 480 alumnus-alumna marriages in its 40-year history. This has something to do with the academic program, the college explains:

Students learn Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in one course, while they learn about Catholic doctrine and moral theology in other courses as well. As students complete each course, they gain a greater knowledge of the principles of the faith, especially pertaining to the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage and family.

But even more than the academic study, Christendom’s campus fosters healthy relationships by providing only single-sex dorms, which are totally off limits to students of the opposite sex. That’s opposite to the typical college hookup culture, but the marriages among Christendom alumni are evidence that true love is in the air.

Such is true also of John Paul the Great Catholic University, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Wyoming Catholic College, where — like Christendom and Thomas Aquinas — student dorms are single-sex and opposite-sex visitation is not allowed.

Such dorm policies help combat the hookup culture and preserve the privacy of student bedrooms. A Newman Society report cites one study finding that “students living in co-ed housing were also more likely [than those in single-sex residences] to have more sexual partners in the last 12 months.” Further, those students were “more than twice as likely as students in gender-specific housing to indicate that they had had three or more sexual partners in the last year.”

Of course, reducing the hookup culture doesn’t automatically lead to healthy dating — that’s something that needs to be taught to a generation of students who see casual relationships promoted in popular entertainment — but responsible campus policies certainly can help. Student programming, such as the chastity speaking events at Franciscan University and other faithful colleges, are helpful too.

New online dating apps and other options are being created to help address the Catholic dating problem. But it helps to live in a culture that supports authentic relationships. Faithful Catholic colleges attract students with similar values, and they are uniquely positioned to help prepare Catholic students for happy and meaningful lives.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.