Catholic colleges seek identity

Catholic colleges seek identity

As the US bishops prepare to open their fall meeting in Baltimore this week, various media are looking at Catholic issues. Yesterday, the Boston Globe looked into Catholic colleges searching for their identity. “Searching” is right since so many of them seem to have lost it, an identity that should be as obvious as the adjective in front of “colleges”: Catholic.

The article looks at various colleges and looks at different programs they’re introducing to shore up their Catholic identity.

The push is being driven by a confluence of factors. At most Catholic colleges, the number of faculty and administrators who belong to the founding religious orders is dropping precipitously. The percentage of undergraduates who attended Catholic high schools is also dropping, meaning that matriculating students have an increasingly weak formal understanding of their own faith.

... Some scholars said the moves also reflect an increasing emphasis in American culture to examine the relationship between religion and public life and to talk more openly about the role of faith in society.

A couple of years ago, the Cardinal Newman Society used data from a larger survey by a UCLA higher-education research institute to determine, among other things, that Catholic students who go to Catholic colleges are much less likely to come out as practicing Catholics than those who go to non-Catholic schools. What does this tell us about the environment of those colleges? It tells me that while poor catechetical formation of children before they go off to college is a problem, it is not the only one. A big part of the problem is the way the faith is practiced and presented on those Catholic campuses. After all, if it’s all relative and you can believe whatever you want and rules don’t matter and all the rest, what’s there to hold on to?

While I think that hiring more Catholic faculty is a good first step, it’s not a panacea, especially if that faculty consists of people who dissent from the faith that is the basis for their hiring. If Catholic colleges want to have a greater Catholic identity maybe they should take seriously their task of acting “in loco parentis” and continue to inculcate in their students lives of virtue and timeless values. Teach them responsibility, accountability, self-control, and chastity. Those will stand them in much greater stead throughout their lives than all the “diversity” and “multicultural” activities that make up so much of campus life these days.

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  • Start with a solid campus ministry.  If the priests who serve are dynamic, holy, evangelical, and orthodox the students will come to love and live the faith.

  • Scherza, I was at Agape Latte and I don’t think the Globe fairly represented Cronin.  She talked about how in college her reasons were wrong but that she learned that the point of it was to enter into the “Sacred Mystery” that is the Eucharist.  To receive His Body and Blood, even though it’s something so hard to believe, is a great gift because she knows what it is now.  Sometimes it is hard to focus at Mass but we must try to, in order to prepare ourselves for the Eucharist.  The talk was much more than the article portrayed it to be.

  • Wasn’t it Bishop Sheen who said that he would rather a Catholic send their children to nonCatholic colleges so they would not have their faith stolen from them?

  • This past Sunday my daughter and I attended an Open House at a Catholic College in the Bronx in NYC. In the invitation for the Open House, the school indicated that Mass would be at 10:30 AM, tours would stop for Mass and after that would start again along with department recruitment areas. The Open House was full by 9:30 AM, lots of parents (mothers mostly) and their potential college bound freshmen. I would say maybe five of those families attended the Mass.

    I realized that Mass was not a priority for most of these families.

    The school is lovely, statues of saints all over the place, a large grotto with the Fatima children and the Blessed Virgin, incredibly beautiful although somewhat wreckovated Church dating from about 1865 right on campus… 

    I guess what I am saying is that people like us who want Catholic schools to stop being hypocritical – be what you say you are – we are in the minority. I don’t believe most Catholics care at all.