Threats to Catholic Education

EWTN Video: Newman Society Discusses Latest Threats to Catholic Education

Newman Society President Patrick Reilly was recently hosted on EWTN News Nightly to discuss the latest threats facing Catholic schools and colleges.

“We’ve been seeing many exciting things happening in Catholic education,” Patrick Reilly shared with EWTN News Nightly host, Wyatt Goolsby. “But because our culture is going in a different direction, we’re seeing many lawsuits. Some of them are even coming from teachers within Catholic schools who lose their jobs because they’re not witnessing to the faith.”

“Catholic schools have to be very careful that in their Catholic identity they are consistent across the board,” Patrick explained. “They need to have very clear policies and ensure that everyone understands what is required from a Catholic institution.”

Counter-Cultural Newman Guide Colleges Recommended in 2019-20 Edition

We’re thrilled to release the 2019-20 edition of The Newman Guide!

The colleges recommended in The Newman Guide are committed to uniting faith and reason and strive to be faithfully Catholic.

The Newman Guide colleges reject the moral laxity that is typical of campus life, and instead help prepare students for this life and the one to come!

At, you’ll find in-depth profiles on each recommended college, including:

  • Nearly 100 updated questions from the Newman Society answered by each college;
  • Photos, videos, and social media links;
  • The ability to sort colleges by major and activities offered;
  • And so much more!

A hard copy edition of The Newman Guide is not currently available, but high school students can learn more about Newman Guide colleges by signing up for our Recruit Me program. Recruit Me allows students to be recruited by Newman Guide colleges, find tips on navigating the college search, and compete in the Newman Society’s $5,000 Essay Scholarship Contest.

Throughout the year, we have been asked about the nature of The Newman Guide, and so we want to provide some clarifications.

Colleges are not members of The Cardinal Newman Society; there are no member fees, and the Newman Society does not represent any college. The colleges recommended in The Newman Guide are selected entirely at the discretion of the Newman Society following careful review of each college’s activities and policies. We do recommend and promote certain colleges as models of strong Catholic identity, primarily to assist Catholic families who are navigating the college search, but also to highlight exemplary models of strong Catholic identity.

All of the institutions recommended in the Guide are unique, each with its own special charism, approach to education, and campus culture. Not every Newman Guide college may be right for each student’s unique needs, but there are probably several that offer what a particular student needs and is looking for. To understand why a student should consider a faithful Catholic college, we encourage families to read the winning essay of this year’s Essay Scholarship Contest, which makes a convincing case to choose a “college that boldly embraces its Catholic character.”

In many ways it’s an exciting time for the future of faithful Catholic education!

In recent weeks, there have been several new presidents named at Newman Guide colleges. These include Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Dr. Thomas Hibbs at the University of Dallas, Dr. Ryan Williams at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, and Timothy Collins, Ed.D., at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. The search for a new president is currently underway at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla. Please pray for these leaders! They play a crucial role in ensuring faithful Catholic education.

The Newman Guide colleges provide hope and light in our culture. Yet, the reality is that every Catholic college today faces a strong pull from the culture to compromise Catholic identity and secularize.

You may notice that two colleges that were formerly recommended in The Newman Guide, DeSales University in Center Valley, Penn., and Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., are not included this year. We take seriously our role in recommending Catholic colleges to families and have done extensive work this year in dialoguing with the presidents, faculty, students, and families affiliated with these universities, in addition to monitoring their activities and policies. After careful review, we have decided not to recommend these universities to Catholic families for the 2019-20 edition of The Newman Guide. Our recommendation does not hinge on single issues, but rather a comprehensive review of the institutions.

We hope that The Newman Guide will be a great resource for you, your family, and friends!

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks College That Helps, Not Hinders, Life of Faith

Most college-bound students are focused on preparing for a career, but Landis Lehman, a homeschooled student from Lucas, Texas, decided that she wants that and more. She searched for a college that “will prepare me not only for a career, but also for a life as a faithful follower of Christ.”

And rejecting the moral laxity that is typical of campus life, Lehman looked for a college that “helps me, not hinders me, towards my ultimate goal of Heaven.”

Her passion for Catholic education is what helped Lehman become this year’s winner of The Cardinal Newman Society’s third annual Essay Scholarship Contest on faithful Catholic education. She will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her first year at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and is eligible for continuing aid from Benedictine in subsequent years.

“A college that boldly embraces its Catholic character stands out from the crowd,” Lehman opens her winning essay, titled “Prepared for Life.” Benedictine is one of several institutions that the Newman Society recommends for strong Catholic identity and fidelity in The Newman Guide, a free online publication including college profiles, in-depth questionnaires, statistics, photos and more. The scholarship must be used at a Newman Guide college.

The annual 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

Lehman first learned about The Newman Guide while a high school sophomore in the Mother of Divine Grace program, because her older brother used the guide during his own college search. She says that she loves the way that The Newman Guide allowed her to “quickly and easily compare different aspects of authentically Catholic colleges.” After being accepted to a several of them, Lehman decided to join her brother at Benedictine College.

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following question: “From academics to student activities to residence life, what makes a faithful Catholic college attractive to you?” Essays were judged by how well they demonstrate appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“We were impressed with Landis’s well-written essay,” said Kelly Salomon, director of Newman Guide programs for the Newman Society. “She identifies many of the key elements of an authentic education. Her essay will be helpful to high school students across the country because it makes a convincing case for attending a faithful Catholic college.”

Lehman relates how a faithful Catholic education will form her in mind, body and soul.  She writes:

The education I will receive will cultivate in me a love of truth that will stay with me long after graduation. Likewise, the godly relationships that I will forge with the inspiring students around me will become an integral part of my adult life. Most importantly, at a college where every aspect of life is pervaded by a devoutly Catholic culture, I will be provided with a foundation that will inspire me to strive for holiness every day.

Ultimately, Lehman believes that “choosing to attend a faithful Catholic college is a decision that will affect more than my next four years—it will influence me for life.”

Lehman’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $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.”

New this year is the opportunity for the winner to receive an additional $15,000 from participating colleges over the course of their college education. Seventeen of the Newman Guide colleges, including Benedictine College, 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.

Essays were submitted from students in 44 states, who together have applied to every U.S. residential college that is recommended in The Newman Guide.

Prayers for Fr. Sean Sheridan and Franciscan University

For several years, The Cardinal Newman Society has had the honor and privilege of working closely with Father Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. We ask Catholics to join us in prayer for Father Sheridan, who today announced his resignation, and for an outstanding successor to lead Franciscan University, which we are proud to recommend in The Newman Guide as one of America’s best Catholic colleges.

An expert in canon law and Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican constitution on Catholic higher education, Father Sheridan has been steadfastly devoted to the Catholic mission of Franciscan University. Earlier this year, he invited all of the university’s faculty and staff to join in the Oath of Fidelity as an outward sign of their fidelity and commitment to faithful Catholic education.

Looking forward, we hope that the next president—whether another priest or one of the lay men and women whom Franciscan University has served so well—will continue to uphold the vision of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and Pope St. John Paul II for the Catholic university. We trust that Franciscan University will continue to unite faith and reason in the teaching and pursuit of truth, and that it will continue to hire mission-fit professors and staff who are role models for students inside and outside of the classroom.

May God bless Father Sheridan in his next steps, and may God bless Franciscan University as it continues to provide students a thoroughly Catholic education and formation.

Georgetown University

‘Christian’ Abortionist Lectures at Georgetown

Last Wednesday—as pro-lifers from around the country began pouring into Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life, including thousands of Catholic high school students and college students—Georgetown University hosted a lecture by abortionist Willie Parker.

According to College Fix, the event was co-sponsored by H*yas for Choice, a pro-abortion student club that Georgetown does not officially recognize but nevertheless gives almost free rein on campus. It was also sponsored by the University’s officially recognized Lecture Fund and College Democrats.

Parker is an active abortionist, killing innocent babies in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania. He is also an outspoken activist for abortion rights—the apparent reason for his lecture—as chairman of Physicians for Reproductive Health and the author of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. He received NARAL’s Champions of Choice award and Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award.

At Georgetown, Parker reportedly cited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan to explain to students how he discovered “a moral and ethical obligation to provide abortion care.”

“I broke through the cocoon of religious custom that held me bound,” he boasted.

Moreover, Parker reportedly defended even the most gruesome methods of abortion, declaring, “No procedure should be politicized and prohibited to the peril and detriment of someone for whom that procedure might be vital to have.”

College Fix spoke to a leader of H*yas for Choice, who justified Parker’s lecture as a counterbalance to the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, a pro-life student event at Georgetown that occurs around the March for Life. The O’Connor Conference is certainly a credit to Georgetown, but it hardly outweighs the many documented scandals, including blatant abortion advocacy.

Three years ago, Georgetown appalled faithful Catholics by hosting a lecture by Cecile Richards, then-president of Planned Parenthood. The Archdiocese of Washington publicly opposed the lecture.“What we lament and find sadly lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what should be an environment of morality, ethics and human decency that one expects on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity,” the Archdiocese said in a statement.

The Archdiocese should be doubly concerned about an active abortionist—a man who not only worked as medical director for Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington, D.C., but who by his own hands destroys innocent babies in the womb and then is welcomed at the nation’s oldest Catholic university to preach to students about the “Christianity” of his practice.

This is blasphemy of the worst kind, to claim belief in Christ as a defense for abortion. It is certainly not Catholic education! Catholic families should recognize this and seek out colleges that faithfully and consistently uphold Catholic teaching and the dignity of human life.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.

John Henry Newman

With Second Miracle, Will Newman Be Canonized Soon?

Deo gratias! The Vatican reportedly has recognized a second miracle through the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman, paving the way to a possible canonization next year.

Newman—a champion of both fidelity and reason, both of which are sorely lacking in the Church today—could be the perfect saint for our times!

In his sermon, “The Infidelity of the Future,” delivered to seminarians preparing for the priesthood, Newman seemed almost to foresee the great damage that scandals among our priests would cause the faithful, especially in a secular society that is eager to destroy religious faith altogether.

As Newman told the seminarians:

I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appall and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I, or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that, dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it.

His concern?

The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. …I do not mean to presume to say that this is the last time, but that it has had the evil prerogative of being like that more terrible season, when it is said that the elect themselves will be in danger of falling away.

Already in the 19th century, Newman saw the radical turn against religion by intellectuals and social leaders. He expressed concern that Catholics “shall become more and more objects of distrust to the nation at large,” and perhaps “we may suffer disadvantages which have not weighed upon the Catholic Church since the age of Constantine.”

A special danger to the Church would be the sins of its priests.

With a whole population able to read, with cheap newspapers day by day conveying the news of every court, great and small to every home or even cottage, it is plain that we are at the mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother. …There is an immense store of curiosity directed upon us in this country, and in great measure an unkind, a malicious curiosity. If there ever was a time when one priest will be a spectacle to men and angels it is in the age now opening upon us.

How appropriate to these dark days of scandal, cover-up and denial, reaching to the very highest ranks of our priests and bishops!

But if Blessed Newman only foresaw the problems ahead, he would not be so important a model and sage for our present day, without also leading us to reform and renewal. This he did, especially in his devotion to faithful Catholic education—a key means of evangelization in a highly secular age.

In The Idea of a University and his other writings, Newman shows his conviction that authentic education ultimately leads one to the fount of Truth, the Creator, and therefore has the same object as theology in each of the ways it teaches knowledge.

Blessed Newman’s very first sermon in his university church in Dublin is particularly helpful. He recalled mankind’s creation, when by grace all the human faculties acted “in common towards one end.” But because of the fall of Adam and Eve, Newman argued, the young person has “all these separate powers warring in his own breast—appetite, passion, secular ambition, intellect, and conscience, and trying severally to get possession of him.”

The object of the Church in promoting Catholic education, then, “it is to reunite things which were in the beginning joined together by God, and have been put asunder by man.”

How much today has been put asunder, causing great confusion and even dissent among our young people?

Newman is often wrongly portrayed as emphasizing the intellectual purposes of education over the religious aspects. Quite the contrary, Newman viewed his role as rector of a Catholic university, above all, as a pastoral duty. He wrote in his journal this prayer for his students:

May I engage in them, remembering that I am a minister of Christ… remembering the worth of souls and that I shall have to answer for the opportunities given me of benefitting those who are under my care.

It is this sort of educator, this sort of education, this sort of pastoral care, that offers the promise of improving and correcting a society that neglects Truth and has turned against Faith.

Newman was certainly correct about the immense challenges facing the Church in a secular society. Nevertheless, he also knew how the battle ends. We know, too.

We look with hope to Blessed John Henry Newman’s eventual canonization, knowing that he can be a powerful patron for the renewal of Catholic education and the whole Church.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.

On Receipt of the Lumen Vitae Medal

Address to Award Dinner at University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.
Given October 23, 2018

One of the many reasons I appreciate this award is that it provides a welcome opportunity to consider all of God’s blessings to me and The Cardinal Newman Society over 25 years. Although it’s the Newman Society’s 25th anniversary, we haven’t had much time to celebrate. So, this is our celebration.

And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with our good friends at the University of Mary. What the University of Mary has achieved in recent years is incredible, and the Newman Society has been compelled not only to recognize this success but to promote it to Catholic families across the country. The University of Mary today is an inspiring example for the renewal of faithful Catholic education and a beacon of light in the otherwise dark landscape of Catholic higher education that has been largely secularized.

Our patron, Blessed John Henry Newman, was ultimately unable to see his splendid “idea” of an authentic Catholic university come to fruition in Dublin. But Msgr. Shea, leaders, and faculty of the University of Mary, you are truly building it right here in Bismarck!

In my 25 years with The Cardinal Newman Society, I have seen God bring about wonderful improvements in Catholic education. It’s so exciting! Several of the colleges that we recommend in our Newman Guide today weren’t in the initial guide more than a decade ago. Today the Newman Guide colleges are the gold standard for families seeking faithful Catholic education, and many Newman Guide colleges enjoyed record enrollment numbers this year, despite the fact that other private colleges around the country had a very tough year.

There is good news also in Catholic elementary and secondary education. While many parochial and diocesan schools are still closing, many of the schools that have a strong focus on mission and intentionally form saints have done very well. You’ll find many of these schools on our Catholic Education Honor Roll. Catholic homeschoolers and lay-led independent schools continue to increase. Their devotion to Christian formation and their ability to test both classical and innovative methods of teaching have been a boon to the Church. The widespread adoption of the Common Core in Catholic schools, which the Newman Society opposed, opened many eyes to the flawed practice of simply adopting secular state standards to guide Catholic education. Now the Newman Society’s Catholic Curriculum Standards are being used by 20 dioceses and other Catholic schools serving more than a quarter million students.

So in the past 25 years, God has truly blessed the renewal of Catholic education. And for The Cardinal Newman Society specifically, I am so grateful for all the marvelous ways God has brought such good out of our humble work.

I am sure that Monsignor Shea can attest to the many times a new idea or program begins with a stumble, and then God does such incredible things with it. It’s happened to the Newman Society so many times. And that, to me, is what this Lumen Vitae Award most importantly honors: the Grace of God, and what He has wrought through our service to Him.

That service depends heavily on some quite amazing people who advise me on our board of directors and those on my staff who do the work I’m not qualified to do. Two of them—Tom Mead and Cindy Laird—have been with me for well over a decade and during the Newman Society’s most productive years. Two of my other staff heroes are here tonight: our Vice President Bob Laird and his wife Gerri Laird, both of whom have done enormous work for the Newman Society in a variety of roles—and they have done so much for the Church in other ways as well. There are others back in Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and elsewhere,  who helped carry the Newman Society through these 25 years and also have been great inspirations to me because of their personal example.

Our donors, too, have been such a blessing, and not only for the obvious reason that their generosity is incredibly important to the Newman Society’s success. Even more, I’ve met many of them from all walks of life, and universally they have impressed me by their extraordinary goodness and devotion to the Church. They have been role models for my own personal and spiritual growth. That couldn’t be more true than it is of Deacon George and Marilyn Loegering, whose presence here tonight is yet one more demonstration of their kindness and friendship for so many years. Thank you!

It is also certainly true of the many educators with whom we work closely, including Monsignor Shea and several others among you here at the University of Mary. These are some of the most impressive people I know. I thank God for raising up such devoted and faithful educators.

Last but most, there are some people here who made a long trip because they love me and care for me so much, and I have depended on them for strength every day. My mother Mary Kay is here, and I know that my dad is here also in spirit. They gave so much of themselves for my own formation, and they were and always will be my models of Catholic education.

And my wife Rosario, teacher to my children and the light in my crazy life: her extraordinary insight about Catholic education and her example in founding and persevering with the Aquinas Learning hybrid program shapes my work with the Newman Society in every way. God has also wrought great things from her work. She has been with me and the Newman Society since its earliest days.

And my kids—Ana, Daniel, Nicholas, Joseph, and one more, Ian, who couldn’t be here—I am so proud of them and what they have taught me and their mom, even as we have tried to teach them.

So, you can see that God has surrounded me with magnificent people, which makes it difficult to fail. When Monsignor Shea offered me the Lumen Vitae award for my work with The Cardinal Newman Society, I was overwhelmed as always by the generosity and encouragement that he and the University of Mary have shown for our work to renew faithful Catholic education. But I asked his permission if I might at least verbally share this award with all those by whom God has brought about The Cardinal Newman Society’s 25 years of success.

And so I do want all those I mentioned to share in it, because you are such an important part of this work.

I don’t want to speak too long, but given these times we live in, I want to just add some brief observations concerning scandal and Catholic education’s response to it.

Jesus said that His own generation was an “evil generation.” But we too have come through such an awful year for the Church. I have found myself at times having difficulty working, because the bad news was flooding in so fast, and the betrayal by many of our priests and bishops is so depressing.

The Youth Synod this month was also disappointing. It exposed an astonishing lack of confidence among some Church leaders in the ability of the Church to teach the Faith to our young people. This lack of confidence in the teaching mission of the Church among perhaps most Catholic adults today is, in itself, a scandal to the young.

Scandal, of course, is nothing new to The Cardinal Newman Society. I founded the organization based on my own experience at a large Jesuit university. As editor of the student newspaper, I wrote about the scandals, eventually getting the attention of the local Cardinal. When a university official locked me out of the student newspaper office, I sent letters to top alumni donors, forcing the university to end its support of two radical student organizations.

A few years later, in Washington, D.C., I met several other young Catholics who felt the same anger and betrayal that I experienced, because of similar scandals at their Catholic colleges. But we didn’t lack confidence or hope in the Church, and we weren’t content to leave other young people in harm’s way. Instead, we worked together to establish The Cardinal Newman Society.

My point is that scandal deserves a bold and confident response. I was raised in the Saint John Paul II generation, and I take to heart his reminder of Jesus’ words, “Be not afraid!” Today’s scandals in the Church may be different in kind from what we experienced at wayward Catholic colleges. But still, I believe the response must be the same: a strong show of confidence in the Church that Christ established, and a renewed effort to propose and defend her teachings. A faithful Catholic university like the University of Mary can play a significant role in that.

Indeed, I would say that faithful Catholic education is the key solution to the challenges facing the Church. We need new generations of wise and virtuous Catholics who know and love Jesus in the Faith and traditions of His Church.  We need them to renew the priesthood, renew the Church, and renew the culture.

But to get there, we adults can’t lack confidence in the truth of Christ’s teaching.

We can’t lack confidence in the role of parents as primary educators of their children.

We can’t lack confidence in Christ’s promise that the Church will prevail.

And we can’t lack confidence that God will reward those who stand firmly in the Faith.

On the other hand, we can’t doubt Christ’s words, that he who scandalizes young people would be better off “if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Believe it! And if we believe it, then we will stand as adults should and protect our young people from the harm that seems to await them on all sides.

Faithful Catholic education is the strength and the shield that we need to provide them. Forming them in both truth and love – in the skills of reasoning and the knowledge of Christ – is what young people need today to resist temptation to hopelessness and relativism.

If young Catholics cannot think reasonably, they will be unable to withstand the lies that our secular culture feeds them. Catholic education must return to its emphasis on forming the minds of young people, not just filling their heads with information.

But even more, Catholic education must lead young people to Christ. We must understand formation in the Catholic school or college as guiding young people into sainthood.

I am reminded of the 12th-century dispute between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard, just as the first modern universities were on the rise. St. Bernard championed a “theology of the heart” that sought understanding of God not by reason but by prayer and adoration. Peter Abelard was an early scholastic who sought understanding of God by using reason to study the truths of the Faith. It was Abelard’s approach and the wisdom of scholastics like Thomas Aquinas that gave prominence to the great Catholic universities.

But can we claim that reason remains truly central to education today at many universities? Are young people prepared to recognize and understand truth? A Catholic school or college that truly forms young people in reason is a gift that our Church and culture sorely need today.

Still, Pope Benedict XVI warned American Catholic educators in 2008 that the “contemporary crisis of truth” which so deeply affects our young people is, at its heart, a “crisis of faith.”[1] In the 12th century, St. Bernard warned that there is “grave danger” in becoming too focused on reason in matters of faith. The result, he said, would be “intellectualism, the relativizing of truth, and the questioning of the truths of faith themselves.”[2]

Isn’t that an apt description of much of what ails Catholic education today? The irony is that while we do suffer these consequences, it can’t be because there is too much emphasis on rationality in our Catholic schools and colleges; if anything, reason is lacking. Instead, we find ourselves in an odd time when universities still lay claim to being the intellectual centers of our culture—and indeed there may still be valuable and reasoned dialogue among bright lights on college faculties—but young people are not being formed to carry on the conversation. At the same time, under the guise of rationality, God Himself is excluded.

Saint John Paul II said that “a Catholic university’s privileged task is ‘to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth’.”[3] Rediscovering the fount or source of truth in God, as well as recommitting to the scholastic ideal of rational exploration of our Faith with skilled reasoning and complete fidelity to the Church, are essential to the renewal of Catholic education.

Seeing this renewal play out at exceptional institutions like the University of Mary is, for me, the greatest gift after 25 years of promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. I see in the University’s leaders true love and devotion for God, and understanding that He is the source of wisdom and all reality. From that foundation, a great Catholic university is built.

I was thrilled to see on the University of Mary website a quote from Blessed John Henry Newman that I have cited many times, and it is as fitting now as ever to conclude with this thought:

“This is our hour, whatever be its duration: the hour for great hopes, great schemes, great efforts, great beginnings. We may live indeed to see but little built, but we shall see much founded. A new era seems to be at hand, and a bolder policy is showing itself… to recommence the Age of Universities.”[4]

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America” (Washington, D.C., April 17, 2008); retrieved from

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience (Vatican, Nov. 4, 2009); retrieved from

[3] Pope Saint John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae (Vatican, 1990), 1; retrieved from

[4] Newman, Historical Sketches: Volume III, 251.

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks the ‘Way, Truth and Life’ at Catholic College

Sarah Niblock of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Kansas City, Missouri, is the winner of the Society’s second annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college students and will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.

“I finally found the words that God had been whispering in my heart. ‘Here, at this college, you will find me,’” writes Niblock in her winning essay, titled “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The contest was open to high school seniors in the United States who participated in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and used The Newman Guide, which recommends faithful Catholic colleges, in their college search. The winning scholarship must be used for education at one of the 28 Catholic colleges and higher education programs recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong fidelity and Catholic identity.

With the innovative Recruit Me program, high school students can invite Newman Guide colleges to compete for them and provide information about their programs. Rising high school seniors who wish to enter next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at

As a junior in high school, Niblock was exploring college scholarship opportunities online when she stumbled upon Benedictine College’s release about the winner of the Newman Society’s first Essay Scholarship Contest. To be eligible for the contest the following year, Niblock signed up for the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program.

It was through the Recruit Me program that Niblock first learned about Thomas Aquinas College and was contacted by the College about its various offerings. Niblock was especially impressed with the College’s Great Books program and its Socratic, discussion-style courses. In the end, Niblock decided to attend TAC and told us that she’s “very grateful for the Newman Society’s programs!”

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following question: “How will a faithful Catholic college education prepare you for life?”

Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“Sarah Niblock impressed us with the picture she painted of a faithful Catholic college in her winning essay,” said Kelly Salomon, editor of The Newman Guide. “She shows how a strong Catholic environment can provide students with the formation they need for life.”

Niblock relates how she’s faced challenging questions from well-meaning family members and friends about the value of attending a faithful Catholic college.

After finding the answers, Niblock is eager to join a campus where she is confident she will find Jesus, who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

She describes her visit to a faithful Catholic college campus:

I watch as dozens of students appear from dorm rooms and classrooms, hurrying to Mass on a Wednesday afternoon…

…I listen to a freshman class discuss how to logically discover the validity of an argument…

…I overhear conversations between students, telling each other how former alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, priests, sisters, engineers, and missionaries.

The spiritual life offerings, academic environment, and overall formation provided by a faithful Catholic college convinced Niblock of its value.

Niblock’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said 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.”

Essays were submitted from students in 40 states. Most attend Catholic schools, about 30 percent are homeschooled, and the remainder attend public schools.

Students who participated in the contest applied to every U.S. residential college that is recommended in The Newman Guideplus Holy Apostles College and the University of Navarra in Spain.

Although there can be only one winner, many students submitted outstanding essays, including Maylee Brown of Iowa City, Iowa; Celine Gaeta of Van Nuys, California; Anna O’Leary of Fredericksburg, Texas; and Isabelle Thelen of Traverse City, Michigan. These will be published by the Newman Society on its website,

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks Catholic College Centered on God

The Cardinal Newman Society is proud to announce that Jace Griffith of Idaho Falls High School in Idaho is the winner  of the Society’s first annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students and will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.

“I’ve decided I want God to be the center of my life,” writes Griffith in her winning essay, titled “Fullness.” “In the end, it only makes sense to choose a college that wants the same thing.”

The contest was open to high school seniors in the United States who participated in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and used The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College and My Future, My Faith magazine in their college search. The winning scholarship must be used for education at one of the 29 Catholic colleges and higher education programs recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong fidelity and Catholic identity.

With the innovative Recruit Me program, high school students can invite Newman Guide colleges to compete for them and provide information about their programs. Rising high school seniors who wish to compete in next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following questions: “In general, why should someone choose a faithful Catholic college? And what do you, personally, hope to gain from a faithful Catholic education?”

Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“Jace Griffith impressed us with her inspirational storytelling and her eagerness for the curriculum and community at a faithful Catholic college,” said Kelly Salomon, editor of The Newman Guide and director of membership for The Cardinal Newman Society.

Growing up in a community and schools with mostly non-Catholics, Griffith learned to explain and defend her Catholic faith, but she yearns for a Catholic college that forms “ethical and virtuous men and women with their eyes set on the great fullness that only God can give.”

“After all,” Griffith continues in her essay, “I’ve spent enough time struggling to explain why I’m skipping school for ‘a good Friday’ and fending off tissues from well-meaning classmates who noticed the ash smudge on my forehead.”

She looks forward to a liberal arts curriculum, studying psychology in the “context of human dignity” and being surrounded by young adults with “similar goals and morals.”

“Impressed by the unique academics and enamored with communities full of the vibrant, persistent, delighted love of Christ, I trust that faithful Catholic colleges will continue to teach their students the fullness that is real truth and real joy,” she writes.

Griffith’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Cardinal 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.”

Essays were submitted from students in 29 states. Most attend Catholic schools, but many others attend public schools or are homeschooled.

All of the participants have applied to colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, including colleges across the United States and as far away as the University of Navarra in Spain and Catholic Pacific College in Canada.

Although only one student was named as the winner, many students submitted outstanding essays.

The essay from Anthony Jones of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va., reflects on Catholic colleges’ commitment to truth. He quotes from Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican’s constitution on Catholic higher education: “A Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God.”

“Unfortunately, many colleges that claim to be Catholic shy away from teachings they deem hard to accept,” Jones writes. “Such disregard demonstrates a lack of both respect and understanding of God’s word, inevitably resulting in an education that is seriously flawed.”

Adam Boyle from Mother of Divine Grace School in Ojai, Calif., writes in his essay that his “decision to attend a faithful Catholic college is essentially the same as Peter’s response to Jesus: where else would I go?”

“Faithfully Catholic colleges provide this ‘fixed definition of truth’ for all of their students, and that creates a culture centered around Christ and His bride, the Church, which we know is the ultimate truth,” Boyle writes, quoting from Archbishop Charles Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land.

Julia Kloess, a homeschooled student from Mount Horeb, Wisc., described faithful Catholic colleges in the context of truth, beauty and goodness.

“I have not yet discerned where God wants me to go after college, but this education will serve me well no matter where God leads me for the rest of my life,” Kloess writes. “Whether I become a mother, enter the consecrated life, or start a career, I fully intend to seek the Truth, the Ultimate Good, and Beauty Itself, namely God.”

Child doing homework

10 Facts Every Catholic Should Know About the Common Core

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from a 2014 newsletter, which was based upon materials The Cardinal Newman Society provided to U.S. bishops at a November 2013 meeting.


In December 2013, The Cardinal Newman Society issued a statement expressing serious reservations about the rapid adoption of the Common Core State Standards in Catholic schools across the country:

The Cardinal Newman Society is concerned that adoption of the Common Core at this time is premature. Worse, it may be a mistake that will be difficult or impossible to undo for years to come.

We do not doubt the good intentions of those who advocate the Common Core in Catholic schools, and we acknowledge their confidence that Catholic schools can maintain a strong Catholic identity even while measuring their quality according to secular standards.

But we do not share this confidence, in light of the sad experience in recent decades of many Catholic colleges, hospitals, and charities that believed they could infuse Catholic identity into the secular standards that they embraced.

The Common Core standards — developed with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and promoted with federal grants from the Obama administration — were adopted rapidly by many states and have quickly become controversial, often in the political arena but also in Catholic circles. We responded to these radical changes in education by launching our Catholic Is Our Core initiative. We have also expanded our programs for K-12 Catholic education. Our added expert staff will promote and defend faithful Catholic education with regard to Catholic school standards, accreditation, teacher orientation, new school startup procedures while we continue our popular Catholic Education Honor Roll.

This has all moved so rapidly, and The Cardinal Newman Society continues to receive questions about the Common Core and Catholic education nearly every day. For your convenience, we have detailed 10 facts that every Catholic should know about the Common Core. In addition, our statement on the Common Core and many other helpful resources are available on our special Common Core website, We welcome your contributions of additional information and insights that may be valuable to Catholic parents, educators, pastors, and bishops.

1. The Common Core is not mandatory for Catholic schools.

No government has required the Common Core in private schools, and Catholic educators are under no obligation to conform. It is up to each state whether to adopt the standards as their own, and those standards are mandatory only for government schools.

Nevertheless, for decades many Catholic schools have voluntarily conformed their curricula and teaching to secular state standards — now Common Core in most states.

The lack of distinct standards for authentic Catholic education has long been a concern, but it is getting more attention due to the national controversy over the Common Core.

2. The Common Core is not intended for Catholic education.

The Common Core’s stated purpose falls far short of the Holy See’s rich vision for Catholic education: “The standards … are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs.”

While educators and reformers are hotly debating whether the Common Core’s objectives are appropriate for government schools, clearly the objectives were not developed with Catholic education in mind. Catholic education is much greater than college and career preparation.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, former secretary to the Congregation for Catholic Education, explained in a 2005 lecture at The Catholic University of America:

The enduring foundation on which the Church builds her educational philosophy is the conviction that it is a process which forms the whole child, especially with his or her eyes fixed on the vision of God. The specific purpose of a Catholic education is the formation of boys and girls who will be good citizens of this world, enriching society with the leaven of the Gospel, but who will also be citizens of the world to come. Catholic schools have a straightforward goal: to foster the growth of good Catholic human beings who love God and neighbor and thus fulfill their destiny of becoming saints.

3. Catholic schools already outperform public schools.

The Common Core is a response to the failings of government schools. It can’t be assumed that the standards will improve Catholic schools, which for two decades have outperformed public schools on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. In 2013, eighth-grade students at Catholic schools had an average score of 286 in reading (as compared to 226 at government schools) and 295 in math (284 at government schools).

Likewise, in 2011, students from “religious schools” far outperformed those at government schools on the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT). They scored 531 in reading (government schools 449), 533 in math (government schools 506) and 528 in writing (government schools 483).

Some have expressed concern that national tests are adjusting to conform to the Common Core. This is true of many common tests like the SAT and the California Achievement Test (CAT). Others, like the ACT college readiness test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, will remain stable for at least several years. Regardless, students with a strong Catholic education should continue to perform well on Common Core-adjusted tests.

Meanwhile, Catholic educators can and should develop national tests that measure success according to authentic Catholic education standards.  Testing companies will be eager to serve more than 2 million Catholic school students plus homeschoolers, and quality colleges will continue to be eager to recruit graduates with a traditional Catholic education.

4. Catholic schools already prepare students for college and career.

Even if the Common Core truly helps prepare students for college and career, Catholic education has no apparent need of such help. According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic high schools already have a 99 percent graduation rate, as opposed to 73 percent in government schools. Most Catholic school graduates attend four-year colleges (85 percent), as opposed to fewer than half (44 percent) of government school graduates.

It is primarily two-year community colleges and government universities that have expressed enthusiasm for the Common Core standards, which aim for entry-level job skills. An authentic Catholic education prepares students for success in life as well as vocation, and the typical graduate is well-prepared for a college-level liberal arts education.

5. The Common Core is rushed, untested and experimental.

The Common Core was developed quietly by a few bureaucrats using Gates Foundation funds and then “sold” to the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. It became popular to educators and then legislators as the Obama administration dangled a promise of federal grants, causing many states to adopt Common Core standards even before they were completed. Catholic educators and bishops were warned that “it is important to get on board” with the untested standards.

The Common Core standards have never been tested, and there is no evidence that they will achieve their objectives of college and career readiness. Indeed, although standards influence how educational success is measured, even the “best” state standards — as ranked by the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute — have no discernible impact on student outcomes.

Instead, the Common Core’s English language and “new math” standards were developed by little-known “experts” with no solid research basis, despite misleading claims. For instance, the push for reading more “informational texts” — such as manuals and scientific articles — relies upon distortions of NAEP data. The 2006 federal Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) found that higher NAEP scores for literacy in fact correlate to more reading of novels and less frequent reading of information.

6. The Common Core is (ultimately) about textbooks and curriculum.

The Common Core’s proponents note that standards are not the same as curricula, textbooks or teaching, and so adopting the Common Core does not — in itself — control what happens in the classroom. But it’s disingenuous to ignore the huge impact that standards can have on students. Textbook publishers and testing companies are already conforming to the Common Core, and the standards do prompt changes in curricula and teaching.

The Gates Foundation has committed more than $10.5 million in grants to develop Common Core-compliant curricula. In May 2014, the Foundation also granted $10 million to the New Ventures Fund to help implement Common Core with “lesson plan content, webinars, online platforms for sharing instruction plans, and networking events.”

Textbook publishers look to make millions of dollars with new products that conform to the Common Core, and many such texts are already in Catholic schools. Not surprisingly, publishers are among the leading supporters of the Common Core.

7. The Common Core may hinder students’ education and formation.

Hardly the least concern, critics have noted several ways in which the Common Core could do real harm to education. The standards demand greater emphasis on reading informational texts, with a corresponding decrease in great literature. Some recommended (not required) texts are morally problematic. The “new math” techniques ignore traditional and successful math programs. Math standards are lowered: pre-algebra or algebra is no longer the eighth-grade norm, nor pre-calculus or calculus for 12th grade. Some of the expectations are simply not age-appropriate.

The emphasis on skills and career preparation ignores other aspects of student formation that are key to Catholic education. Proponents argue that the Common Core can be supplemented with Catholic instruction, so weak standards do no harm. But if the success of schools and students is measured by the Common Core standards, the natural inclination is to reduce attention to Catholic identity and student formation. It is the same path taken by now-secularized Catholic colleges.

8. The Common Core violates the principle of subsidiarity.

National standards tend to confine educators to a particular vision for education, which stifles innovation and threatens the independence and unique mission of Catholic schools. In April of 2014, the U.S. bishops’ office for Catholic education issued a statement acknowledging their concerns about the Common Core:

In the Church, the principle of subsidiarity directs that human events are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the individuals affected by the decisions being made. … This principle provides a great strength for Catholic schools as it gives the local diocesan and school community the ability to make decisions at the school level related to guidelines and curriculum. It also allows for adjustments and adaptations to be made by teachers and administrators for the children under their care.

Subsidiarity also applies to the parents’ role as first educators of their children, a fact taught clearly in the Holy See’s teaching on Catholic education. Parents have been largely absent from decisions regarding the Common Core. Our Catholic Is Our Core initiative seeks to bring parents into the conversation so their concerns are heard.

9. The Common Core may endanger religious freedom for Catholic educators.

State and federal involvement in Common Core could lead to religious liberty violations. Catholic schools’ protection from threats like the HHS mandate depends on showing consistent Catholic identity, because First Amendment protections often depend on demonstrating a bona fide religious character. The Common Core may diminish a school’s Catholic identity by “crowding out” important elements of authentic Catholic formation, emphasizing skills and practicality over vocation, and failing to teach reasoning from a foundation of truth.

10. Our “common core” is our Catholic faith.

Catholic education didn’t become successful by striving for secular standards; its success begins with its Catholic mission. Traditional classroom methods and pedagogy in Catholic schools developed precisely because of the desire to form students morally, spiritually, intellectually and socially. “Reforms” that are not rooted in the Catholic faith are unlikely to bear good fruit.

Many educators see the danger. In a Cardinal Newman Society survey of Catholic high school principals, only 26 percent told us they prefer to adopt the Common Core as it is, without significant changes to protect Catholic identity. Among principals of our Catholic High School Honor Roll schools, 32 percent would reject the Common Core entirely, while 40 percent want the Church to pause and take more time to study the standards.

Our purpose, then, for our Catholic Is Our Core initiative remains “to provide those concerned about faithful Catholic education with solid information, analysis and arguments to more fully understand the potential impact of the Common Core on Catholic education and to advise caution about the Common Core until it can be further studied and evaluated.” It is our hope that the Common Core proves to be the catalyst that leads to more helpful standards and reforms, resulting in even stronger Catholic education.