A leader in an apostolate that is reaching millions of Catholics and drawing them into—or back into—the Catholic faith believes that faithful Catholic colleges are “vitally important” in forming strong Catholics.
Sean Lee, senior director of operations at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, explains that “College is a crucial time for students to form strong friendships, learn how to engage with ideas and to deepen their relationship with Christ. Faithful Catholic colleges are the best place to do that.”
The Cardinal Newman Society recently asked Lee about his experience at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., which is recognized in The Newman Guide, and how it prepared him for the work he does today.
CNS: Can you tell us about your experience at Ave Maria University?
Sean Lee: My experience was tremendous. I am a cradle Catholic and went through the public school system prior to attending Ave Maria. By the time I was ready for college, I was drifting away from my faith, and so Ave Maria served as a very important pivot moment in my life. It was at Ave Maria where I met some of my closest friends, friends who showed me what a relationship with Christ looks like. I was taught by an incredible faculty who really cared about forming us in the intellectual tradition of the Church. I was afforded the opportunity to play sports and study abroad in Rome, two experiences that really shaped me in profound ways. In short, Ave Maria changed my life, it gave me life-long friendships, it provided me with a strong foundation for my future work and it allowed me to encounter and deepen my relationship with Christ. I’m forever grateful.
CNS: How did your education at Ave Maria help prepare you for the work you do at Word on Fire?
Sean Lee: It was critical. The liberal arts education Ave Maria provided has been a bedrock for so much that I have done and do at Word on Fire. Being able to think critically about ideas and issues has been very important in my work.
CNS: Word on Fire is about drawing people into or back into the Catholic faith. What are some exciting projects underway at Word on Fire?
Sean Lee: Where to start! We continue to work on the Word on Fire Bible and will soon be launching volume three of seven. Plans are underway for our second Wonder Conference which focuses on the intersection of Faith and Science, a topic that’s so important with an increasingly secularized culture. Bishop Barron, of course, will continue so many of his evangelical initiatives, all the while modeling a way for Catholics to engage with the culture. There are a lot of exciting talks, shows, and videos we are planning for Bishop Barron that I’m really excited about. As important as it is to form our young students in the faith, it’s just as important to provide opportunities to adults with faith formation. In that vein, I’m excited about the future of the Word on Fire Institute, where we plan to transform it into an engaging community that equips individuals through its courses to become modern day evangelists. Those are just a few of so many projects we’re working on.
CNS: What role do you see faithful Catholic colleges playing in forming strong Catholics?
Sean Lee: They are vitally important, especially in this increasingly secular world. College is a crucial time for students to form strong friendships, learn how to engage with ideas, and deepen their relationship with Christ. Faithful Catholic colleges are the best place to do that. Many of our staff members come from Newman schools, and we’re very blessed to have them. They are well educated and very motivated by the missionary work of Word on Fire. We need more of them!