Q. What role do you think the Catholic Faith should play in the academic and community life of a Catholic College?
A Catholic college should be Catholic all through, in all its academic and communal parts, and not Catholic in name only. In recent times we have seen far too many Catholic institutions that are Catholic in name only or ‘Catholic-lite’ and we have not had the opportunity to see the real thing.
A Catholic College cannot witness to Catholic truth unless each of its administrators, lecturers and tutors witness to that truth not only with their words and their works but most importantly in the conduct of their lives. Such visible leaders must be publicly committed to presenting what the Catholic Church teaches and to never present ideas contrary to the Magisterium of the Church. One cannot protect these truths without appropriate safeguards and sanctions. It should be understood that divorce, adultery, abortion, drunkenness, addictions, active homosexuality and similar actions are grounds for instant dismissal. Each lecture hall and tutorial room should have recording apparatus installed, and have lectures and tutorials taped randomly and checked for doctrinal errors. When errors are found they are to be rectified swiftly. Every effort should be expended to ensure that the witness given by word and deed is authentically Catholic.
A Catholic College should equip its students not only with secular learning of the highest quality but also with sound doctrinal teaching. Students need to know how well founded the truths that the Catholic Church teaches are (Luke 1: 4), and how to defend them. Each year a subject in apologetics and in theology needs to be mandatory for every student, staffed by the most interesting, zealous and knowledgeable people possible.
To be an effective Catholic witness in today’s world one’s knowledge of Catholic truth cannot remain at primary school or high school level, it needs to be at university level. Students need to experience that the pursuit of Catholic truth is as essential as the pursuit of knowledge in the arenas of law, medicine, education, engineering, science and anthropology.
Within the secular subjects provided by the College, a sense of wonder and awe at the work of the Creator and respect for God’s laws, natural and revealed, must be inculcated. Each subject’s content must exhibit fidelity to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, and lead naturally to greater knowledge, love and respect for God. The work of a Catholic college should pulse with the plea ‘Show us Your ways, help us to understand Your truths, reveal more of Your wisdom, plan and knowledge to us’. In all there should be recognition that it is because God works in beauty and order that we can study His works in the various secular and religious subjects and thus come to greater knowledge and love of Him.
A Catholic College should provide the environment for students to learn about living a thoroughly Catholic lifestyle. An array of options for growth in spiritual life and in social life should be offered.
For the development of spiritual life the provision of several daily Mass times is necessary, as well as the provision of several daily times for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance. There should be two chapels open 24 hours a day, one for women and one for men. At each chapel two religious staff would be at hand at all times for counselling, one to listen and one as a witness to prevent scandal. The Liturgy of the Hours should be prayed in common in as many locations as possible, and every kind of prayer group, Marian, Divine Mercy, Charismatic, Bible Study etc encouraged.
At the heart of community life there should be the witness and continuity provided by religious orders. The members of these orders, one for men, one for women, would provide the counsellors in the chapels, and as many administrators, lecturers, tutors and dormitory supervisors as possible. The witness and fidelity of those who have chosen a lifelong commitment to God is essential for providing a stable Catholic environment and culture upon which the ever changing cohorts of students can find nourishment and challenge.
Life is not all study and prayer, recreation and fun are important. Catholic Colleges need to provide safe and fun options for social interactions. Sport, drama clubs, Christian music concerts, Christian art exhibitions, talks from prominent Catholic lay visitors are all needed. Quality outreach options for those called to evangelism and those called to works of mercy (soup kitchens, hospital and prison visitation etc) should be available. Weekly sharing groups to assist students connect with each other, and look out for each others needs are essential, as it is so easy to feel lost and isolated in a large institution. The lessons learned in social interaction are just as formative as those learned in class time and study time.
A Catholic College to be worthy of the name has to be Catholic in its leaders, in its prayer life, in its social life and in its pursuit of truth. To obtain such a College requires great commitment and continual vigilance.
It is possible to attain the real thing, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, USA has done it, and has done it so well that it has a glowing international reputation. A Catholic College should never settle for being anything less than the real thing.