Teresa Tomeo: Faithful Catholic Parents, Education ‘Key’ to Formation

Popular Catholic commentator Teresa Tomeo celebrates her Catholic upbringing and education amid heartwarming stories, good laughs and practical tips for raising children in her new book, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie: 10 Things My Feisty Italian-American Mom Taught Me About Living a Godly Life.

Tomeo is a well-known Catholic author, syndicated Catholic radio talk show host, and motivational speaker. The Cardinal Newman Society recently caught up with Tomeo to discuss her new book and the role of Catholic parents and Catholic education in forming young people today.

“I fell away from the faith for many years but my Mom and my Dad, plus a really good Catholic grade school education, planted the seeds,” Tomeo explained.  “When push came to shove, I looked in the mirror and slowly came back to my senses.  I don’t think I could have done that without those seeds being planted by a loving Catholic family and good solid lay and religious teachers.”

CNS: In your new book, you share the wit and wisdom of your Italian-American mom, Rosie, through storytelling and practical advice. What do you hope readers come away with after reading the book?

Teresa Tomeo: That we need to get back to the basics; the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, loving one another as Christ and our Catholic faith teaches us.  It’s not all that complicated, except we make it so because we just refuse in this world to put God first.  My mother knew this as did her mother.  It’s common sense but, as I say in the book, that’s something that is not so common anymore.

CNS: Since parents are the first and primary educators of their children, how can Rosie serve as an encouragement to Catholic parents in their role?

Teresa Tomeo: I think she serves as a great reminder to parents to never give up on your children.  I fell away from the faith for many years but my Mom and my Dad, plus a really good Catholic grade school education, planted the seeds.  When push came to shove, I looked in the mirror and slowly came back to my senses.  I don’t think I could have done that without those seeds being planted by a loving Catholic family and good solid lay and religious teachers.

CNS: Your mom provided you with a strong Catholic foundation, including the importance of relying on our Blessed Mother’s intercession, such as when your family escaped unharmed from a gas explosion at your apartment complex. Can you comment on how your mom provided a Catholic witness in both word and example?

Teresa Tomeo: Well she never gave up and she never lost her joy.  She persevered through many a trial and I saw how she grew stronger from those trials and even more importantly I saw how she prayed, went to Mass, and called on the intercession of Our Lady and the saints regularly and she taught me and my sisters to do the same.  We didn’t always listen, at least at first but eventually, her witness made a major difference and still does in my life even though she passed away three years ago.  The phrases in the book, the ten things Mom taught me, were among the most memorable. But she had a lot of other funny but profound sayings as well, so many I could probably write a few volumes worth.

CNS: Another lesson your mom shared with you was “Nevva get too big for those britches” or “humility.” You discuss how social media is one factor contributing to a self-centered society. What are some of the other challenges young Catholics face today?

Teresa Tomeo: Young people are not immune to the epidemic of loneliness as outlined in the special Surgeon General advisory that came out a few weeks ago. And the Surgeon General just released a follow up report to the loneliness advisory raising his great concerns about teens and social media. He says it’s adding to the problems already experienced—so again, families really need to get a handle on media usage. In addition to social media, young people spend far too much time with media in general, which causes them to focus on themselves.  Most importantly church attendance is down overall. That combined with broken families, and families who no longer consider faith or church attendance important, it’s a recipe for disaster.

CNS: How can they grow in humility and virtue?

Teresa Tomeo: Pope Francis spoke about this problem on his recent trip to Hungary telling young people not to be “couch potatoes.” He went on to tell them to aim high and to focus on doing great things for God.  You can’t do this while staring at a phone or laptop. However, young people need to see and hear from and about great witnesses of the faith and to be reminded of so many saints, even their age, such as Blessed Carol Acutis or Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who always looked to Jesus.  They loved life, they had fun, but at the end of the day they had their priorities straight. They need to learn about these and other wonderful examples.  As St, Paul says in Romans 10:17 “faith comes through hearing.” I heard Rosie talk about the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa, and other favorite saints of hers growing up and it eventually made a big difference in my life.  I absolutely love the great cloud of witnesses we have in the ten thousand plus saints in our Church.

CNS: For years, you’ve been a big supporter of The Cardinal Newman Society and faithful Catholic education. Why do you think it’s so important for Catholic parents to seek out faithful Catholic education for their children? What role do you see faithful Catholic schools, homeschool programs & colleges playing in the future of our Church and country? 

Teresa Tomeo: Well again, I credit the solid Catholic education I received for eight years in grade school as key in my formation.  I was growing up in turbulent times back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  But it’s not nearly as turbulent as it is today. We have to be able to know who we are and why we are here.  We have to have a compass and a solid Catholic education is going to help steer one in the right direction.  The religious sisters and lay instructors not only taught us the faith, they taught us the importance of a vocation.  That’s where I discovered my communications vocation.  By the time I was in the third grade, thanks in part to the encouragement of my teachers, I knew that I would be in the communications field.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time but my teachers were the ones who recognized my gift of gab and my interest in writing, and they encouraged me along the way.  I also had a very profound experience when I made my First Holy Communion and that’s what eventually brought me back to the Church.

CNS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Teresa Tomeo: I would just like to end where I began; reminding parents, older siblings, others who work with young people keep planting those seeds.  Keep working hard at looking for good Catholic schools that are true to the faith.  And even if your child does stray, know that you did what the Lord called you to do in terms of bringing them up in the faith to the best of your ability. Keep praying. Keep loving them and keep reminding them when the opportunity arises that God loves them too and that there is always a place for them in your home and God’s house, the Catholic Church. Oh, and as I say throughout the book, a little dose of old fashion Catholic guilt doesn’t hurt either.

National Essay Contest Winner Saw ‘Firsthand’ the ‘Great Riches’ of Faithful Catholic Education

While many students go off to college and lose their faith and joy, one college-bound student saw how his older siblings’ faith was strengthened and lives were enriched by attending a faithful Catholic college—and now he, too, will be attending a faithful college with a $5,000 scholarship.

Jacob Kristine, a homeschooled student from Pennsylvania, is the winner of The Cardinal Newman Society’s 2023 Essay Scholarship Contest. His $5,000 scholarship will be applied toward his first year at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., and he is eligible for continuing scholarships from Christendom in subsequent years.

“My siblings have bestowed upon me the great riches of understanding what gifts a truly Catholic college can impart to a young person. I have seen firsthand how this pursuit of Truth leads to a life that is Good and wholesome and sincerely promotes seeking the Creator of Beauty,” explained Kristine in his award-winning essay, which can be read in its entirety here.

“The friendships my siblings forged throughout their four years among like-minded followers of Christ have challenged them to grow in wisdom, remain faithful to God through worship and devotional practices, and encouraged virtuous living without sacrificing fun, laughter, and an abundantly joy-filled life—then and now,” Kristine continued.

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect on the following question: “The Cardinal Newman Society recently released a 7-minute video on the advantages of choosing a faithful Catholic college. Pick a key point(s) or theme(s) from the video and explain why attending a Newman Guide college will have special value for you.” Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

The judges were thoroughly impressed with Kristine’s essay, which emphasized the academic, spiritual, and social life at faithful Catholic colleges. Kristine is the fifth of eight children in his family and has been homeschooled his entire life. Since third grade, he has served as an altar server at his Catholic parish and worked at the church cemetery as a groundskeeper. He has also enjoyed competing in sports, especially cross country and track and field, which he hopes to continue next year at Christendom.

Kristine explained how The Newman Guide and The Cardinal Newman Society’s “Recruit Me” program proved helpful in his college search:

Without the Newman Guide, I am not so sure that my college search would have been as comprehensive and complete as it turned out. The “Recruit Me” program was a fantastic blessing, as it allowed so many colleges to reach out to me and provide information that I could digest and review. I would then turn to the Newman Guide to further enlighten me about the most vital and important aspects of a truly Catholic college education. With your fantastic resources, I was able to confidently find a home for the next four years that would equip me to become the man of God that this world so desperately needs.

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 here.

Kristine’s $5,000 scholarship is made possible by 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.”

Each year’s winner of the contest also has the opportunity to receive an additional $15,000 from participating colleges over the course of their college education. Sixteen of the Newman Guide colleges, including Christendom 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.

Newman Guide Colleges Prepare Students for Happiness, Says African Missionary

A graduate of Wyoming Catholic College who now serves as a teacher and missionary in Africa says that there’s “no better option” than faithful Catholic colleges for “being formed as a whole person for happiness and flourishing.”

“Any college can provide job training, but Newman Guide colleges are looking at students as a person created in the image of God, so yes, providing the skills and education needed to work in this life, but also to be happy, both in this life and the next,” says Hannah Graves.

Currently serving as a teacher and missionary in Malawi, Africa, Graves credits her faithful Catholic education with giving her the “perspective” she needs to continue her service. “While there is a lot that is beautiful here in Malawi, there are also lots of major problems. Corruption and destitution are ubiquitous.”

After graduating from WCC, Graves worked for a parish in Washington state that wanted to set-up a sister relationship with a parish in Malawi. Inspired to share the joys of her Catholic faith and support the sister parish, Graves took a trip to visit St. Mary’s in Ntaja. During her visit, Graves discovered, “there was a lot about the life in Malawi that appealed to me.” She was drawn to a life of simplicity.

“I have wanted to live so as to ‘tread lightly on the earth,’ and in Malawi I saw the possibility of stepping out of the materialist consumerist culture that has dominated America and to learn to live without ‘essentials’ like refrigeration, air conditioning, dishwashers, and washing machines,” Graves said.

After Graves returned from that trip, she explored the opportunity to share her faithful Catholic education and teach in Malawi full-time.  She contacted the Sacramentine Sisters and moved to Malawi in July 2022. She currently teaches high school students in a Sacramentine school, but she also volunteers regularly at a local orphanage run by Franciscan sisters.

Hannah Graves volunteers at an orphanage run by Franciscan sisters.

Living in Malawi, Graves has noticed that “so much poverty is caused by poor agricultural practices and broken family units.” Despite the poverty, Graves admires the joy she sees. “The women are always so thrilled that I am there… They take such joy in the simplest gestures and so frequently break into song.”

“My neighbor is an Italian nurse who runs physical therapy centers for disabled children (cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, osteogenesis, club foot). On my days off, I go with her out to the villages for the PT sessions. The monthly gatherings at the centers always end with a simple meal. I love ‘helping’ the women in the kitchen and trying to communicate.”

Graves is striving to live a life detached from worldly things, a life of prayer and service for the Catholic Church and the people of Malawi. She plans to stay in Africa for the length of her work permit which is two years, but is “open to considering a longer stay depending on what God seems to want.”

Editor-in-chief of Magnificat Magazine Developed ‘Habits of Prayer’ at Faithful Catholic College

Fr. Sebastian White, O.P.

The editor-in-chief of the popular Magnificat magazine says that a faithful Catholic college is where he “began to develop daily Catholic habits of prayer and a whole Catholic outlook on the world.” Now Fr. Sebastian White, O.P., helps Catholics across the globe strengthen their prayer lives through the monthly Magnificat prayer companion, which reaches more than 300,000 subscribers in English and Spanish through the U.S. edition alone.

Fr. White is a Dominican priest and convert to Catholicism who earned his Master of Theological Studies from the International Theological Institute Catholic University in Trumau, Austria, which is recognized in The Newman Guide. He oversees the monthly publication of Magnificat, which includes the readings for daily Mass, meditations, essays on saints and sacred art, his own editorial, and more.

The Cardinal Newman Society recently asked Fr. White to share how attending a faithful Catholic college influenced him personally and prepared him for his current role with Magnificat.

CNS: What is it that drew you to attend ITI Catholic University? 

Fr. White: In early 2004 I had just returned to the Catholic Church and been confirmed as a Catholic, shortly after graduating from college. (I had been baptized Catholic as an infant, but then raised in a protestant church.) Thomas Howard, a beloved writer and convert who had been a visiting professor at ITI Catholic University in his retirement, became a close friend and mentor. I was spending much of my time reading Catholic books and talking to Tom, and he suggested that I consider going to study at ITI. When I read about the richness of ITI’s international community, the unity of the intellectual and devotional life that it offers, and the beauty and history of Austria, I became more excited at the prospect of living there and studying there. When I applied and was accepted, I knew that it would be a great blessing and would help to deepen my Catholic faith.

CNS: Could you share how your faith was deepened through your studies at ITI Catholic University?

Fr. White: ITI Catholic University is really the place where I began to develop daily Catholic habits of prayer and a whole Catholic outlook on the world. I have always felt that, had I been living in suburban Boston and working for a bank, for example, struggling to find time for daily Mass and daily prayer, I would have had a much harder time maturing as a Catholic. At ITI I was surrounded by other young, intellectually motivated Catholics and formed great friendships that last until this day. Additionally, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Mass in both the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, hikes and excursions to other beautiful Catholic sites, all supported what I was I learning in the classroom. At ITI, the Catholic faith is the air you breathe!

CNS: How did your time at ITI Catholic University help prepare you for your role as editor-in-chief of Magnificat?

Fr. White: At ITI I had to read a lot and write a lot. That was an important formation that helped me, first of all, when I returned to the United States to enter the Dominican Order and in my studies for the priesthood. At Magnificat, I continue to have to read and write regularly. Additionally, ITI gave me a familiarity with the breadth of the Catholic tradition. As the editor, for example, I am responsible for choosing the daily meditations that are a beloved feature of Magnificat. I am better equipped to select those wonderful texts because of my time at ITI.

CNS: What is something about Magnificat that you look forward to sharing with its readers each month?

Fr. White: The most challenging part of Magnificat for me has always been writing the editorial because it is completely open-ended. Whereas the meditations, for example, are essentially a work of selecting and curating great texts from our Catholic tradition, when it comes to the editorial each month, I am, so to speak, starting from scratch. But ITI helped me to grow in the discipline of writing regularly. Consequently, I am less intimidated by the task. Often, I write about my own life and experiences from my upbringing. Readers have seemed to enjoy these stories and feel a personal connection to the editor. I see the editorial as an opportunity for readers to get to know the editor a bit. So over time I have begun to look forward to the opportunity to share some personal story or experience. The Catholic Church is often described as a big family. I think of Magnificat as a family, too.

CNS: What advice would you give to those who are discerning where to go to college?

Fr. White: I think young people ought to consider where they will truly get a good education. After all, college isn’t simply a religious camp. On the other hand, college is a place where a person’s moral and spiritual life can either grow and mature or suffer tremendously. Ideally, young people can find a place that offers both a high quality of academic learning and a milieu in which they can deepen their faith and develop good habits. In college, we are laying the groundwork for the person we will be for the rest of our lives. A good Catholic institution such as ITI Catholic University helps us to grow and mature in faith even while we are learning other natural disciplines.

Faithful Catholic Colleges ‘Vitally Important,’ says Senior Director at Word on Fire

Sean Lee

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!

Newman Guide Colleges Can Help Students Find ‘Holy Spouses,’ Says Author

A Catholic author who studied how saints met their spouses believes that attending a Newman Guide college can “increase one’s odds to find a holy spouse.”

Patrick O’Hearn just released a book titled, Courtship of the Saints: How the Saints Met their Spouses. O’Hearn earned his Master of Science in Education at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and served as acquisitions editor at TAN Books for the last two years.

The Cardinal Newman Society asked O’Hearn how his book can inspire young Catholics today, and the value he sees in students attending a college recognized in The Newman Guide.

CNS: Can you tell us about your new book, Courtship of the Saints: How the Saints Met their Spouses?

Patrick O’Hearn

Patrick O’Hearn: Courtship of the Saints is a book filled with some of the most fascinating stories of how various saintly couples met their spouses. In this work, I was able to interview St. Gianna’s daughter, reveal details in English for the first time concerning Pope St. John Paul II’s parents (now on the path to sainthood), and countless other beautiful couples.

Before I share these couples’ stories, I define what courtship is through the clear teachings of Venerable Fulton Sheen and Father Chad Ripperger. At the end of the book, I include wisdom for those discerning marriage, those already married, and a plethora of beautiful prayers.  This is not just a book for those discerning marriage, but even those married will see that the saints were the greatest lovers in the history of the world.

CNS: How can the 25 saintly couples that you feature in your book inspire young Catholics today?

Patrick O’Hearn: We need to set the bar on courtship and marriage, especially in a time of moral confusion. God calls some men and women to Himself. These souls will spend years preparing for the priesthood and final vows in religious life, and yet, many preparing for marriage spend little time striving for their vocation.  How one prepares for their marriage can likely influence how one lives out his or her marriage.

Furthermore, these 25 couples offer a glimpse into God’s love for His Spouse, the Church. In these stories, we see a love that is passionate and sacrificial.  For that reason, these stories are better than any romantic novel, for they return to the source of love itself, God.

CNS: The college years are often so critical in determining much of the faith and future of a young person’s life. What value do you see in attending a Newman Guide college, not only to prepare for a career, but also for students who are called to the married life?

Patrick O’Hearn: Our first vocation is to be holy. How we live out that vocation (as a priest, consecrated religious, or married) is our second most important calling. Often, young people are so focused on pursuing their occupation rather than their vocation. Our occupation is always at the service of our vocation. The key is to let God reveal our vocation by being open to His will, but also putting ourselves in the best possible places to hear His will. Just as there is the near occasion of sin, there is something on the flip side. The near occasion of grace. That being said, attending a Newman Guide college with its promotion of the sacramental life, faithfulness to the Magisterium, and flowering of Catholic culture increases grace in one’s soul, but also increases one’s odds to find a holy spouse. You are more likely to find a holy spouse at daily Mass than you will at a bar. You are more likely to find a holy spouse sitting in a theology class than sitting in a class on LGBT studies.

CNS: How did your time at Franciscan University of Steubenville earning your master’s degree help prepare you for both writing this book, and your work at TAN books?

Patrick O’Hearn: My time as a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville opened my eyes to the longing on every heart for love. Having served as a resident assistant at Franciscan, I saw so many men who were afraid to pursue women, and so many women who wanted to be pursued. Through my own sufferings, rejections, and disappointments, I believe God prepared me to write this book to give hope to so many people that our God is the “Greatest Matchmaker.” His Divine Providence works mysteriously, but powerfully. We do not know the road ahead of us, but Our Lord and Our Lady walk with us each step of the way.

CNS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Patrick O’Hearn: I would like to say “trust” in God.  I spent so many years worrying about my future vocation. Now more than ever, I realize the Father is carrying us in His arms. He longs for our love. He wants to bless us, and this blessing might come in the way of sufferings and trials. But through these challenges, God is perfecting us. Trust Him… whether it is attending an authentic Catholic school that might hurt the budget, or trust Him when you are worried about meeting your spouse. God is faithful.

College-Bound? Try These Catholic Summer Programs

What better way for a high school student to spend a week or two this summer, than to enjoy a fun and spiritual program at a Catholic college!

A faithful Catholic education can prepare students not only for a career, but for life. Whether or not you plan to attend a Catholic college, a summer program at one of the faithful colleges recognized in The Newman Guide can be enriching and will give you a taste of the benefits of a Catholic education.

Summer programs are a great opportunity for high school students to strengthen their academic and extracurricular skills, grow in their spiritual lives, get a head-start on college visits, learn from distinguished professors, make lifelong friends and experience what faithful Catholic education is all about. Here are some options:

Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., is offering its 2nd annual Summer Leadership Program for rising high school juniors and seniors. “Called Higher,” which runs from July 24-30, is geared towards students “who are academically driven and committed to growing in their faith through the pursuit of higher education.” Participants will get an idea of AMU culture by touring the campus, attending classes and meeting faculty while also getting to explore southwest Florida.

Belmont Abbey College’s Schola program in Belmont, N.C., strives to cultivate a true life of leisure over a one-week session which runs July 16-22. According to the College, students are invited “to slow down, to spend a summer week cultivating the goodness of their souls by reading and discussing classic works of philosophy and literature with friends, having meaningful conversations about the fundamental questions of life, enjoying daily recreational and social activities, viewing films, contemplating beautiful works of art and spending time in prayer and worship with the monastic community of Belmont Abbey.” Videos on the Schola program webpage show some of the highlights of previous years.

The Benedictine College Youth Conferences (BCYC) Immersion program in Atchison, Kan., offers three sessions for students to choose from over 20 “tracks” including, but not limited to, computer science, engineering, nursing, faith and science, philosophy, graphic design, voice and art.  Outside of class, students participate in Bible studies, attend Mass and engage in a variety of social activities from dances to sports to scavenger hunts. Participants report that they come away from the week refreshed and inspired. Benedictine also offers a one-week session for “BCYC Leadership,” which will help students discover how Catholic leadership principles can transform the way they lead at school, in their parish and in their community. There is also a BCYC Encounter conference, led by current Benedictine students, for parish and diocesan groups that focuses on Benedictine spirituality. Finally, Benedictine is inviting rising high school juniors, seniors and graduated seniors to earn three hours of college credit while studying abroad on a “Journey with Dante,” a three-week trip in Italy.

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., offers a wide variety of summer educational experiences with weeklong summer programs focused on architecture, performing arts, the sciences and theology, providing opportunities to rising juniors and seniors for an exciting educational experience in the nation’s Capital. Light the World! Summer Institute lets high school students witness faithful excellence in action in business, science, politics, sports and the arts while meeting professionals who live out their faith in everyday life. The Experiences in Architecture program is an intense two- or three-week, pre-college workshop that exposes students to both the academic and professional sides of the architectural arena, with the capital city as their classroom. Catholic University’s High School Drama Institute is a program for students who wish to study voice, movement and acting with experts in the field. For students interested in the field of Engineering, CUA offers two different summer programs, Engineering New Frontiers and Computational Biosciences Institute. These weeklong programs expose students to many of the engineering disciplines, including biomedical, mechanical, electrical, civil and computer science.

Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., is offering “The Best Week Ever,” a choice of five different one-week sessions throughout June and July. Intended for rising high school seniors, the program instills in students “a deep appreciation for the liberal arts, Catholic culture, true friendship, and the beauty of God’s creation evidenced in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.” Participants attend daily classes in literature, philosophy, history and theology; hike in the mountains; canoe on the Shenandoah River; sing Irish songs; learn to swing dance and forge new friendships. As one student said afterward, “When I first heard about it, I honestly thought the ‘Best Week Ever’ was just an advertisement, but I truly did have the best week of my life and I have made memories I will treasure forever. Not only did I learn so much during my short time at Christendom this summer, but I’ve met the most amazing people and made friends I am still keeping up with. In learning so much about Christendom College and meeting such dedicated Catholics, I grew much closer to Christ and left the program with a desire to continue growing my relationship with God.”

Franciscan University’s summer Steubenville Conferences are popular with Catholic high school students across the country. The three-day Catholic conferences bring teens into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Conferences take place at multiple locations across the United States and Canada, including four conferences at Franciscan University’s campus in Steubenville, Ohio. The theme for the 2023 conferences is “Refuge” (Matthew 11:28 ). Dynamic speakers this summer include Sarah Swafford, Joel Stepanek, Fr. Leo Patalinghug, Mark Hart, Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, and many more. Interested students must apply to attend a conference through a parish, high school or youth ministry group.

High school students and recent graduates are invited to preview the academic community and life of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., through its Collegiate Summer Program, being held June 18 to July 1 and July 9-22. Students are taught by Magdalen College professors each day and are introduced to liberal education through classic texts from philosophy, literature, theology and political thought. Outside of the classroom, program participants attend daily Mass, climb Mount Kearsarge, canoe on a river, relax around bonfires, swing dance, visit local landmarks and much more.

Once again, Thomas Aquinas College is offering its Great Books summer program in two locations: its campus in Santa Paula, Calif., from July 16-29, and its second campus in Northfield, Mass., from July 9-22. These two-week programs engage students in seminars on Plato, Pascal, St. Thomas Aquinas and Kierkegaard, among others. In addition to daily recreational and liturgical activities, the program also includes day trips to nearby cities. A detailed day-to-day picture of what the Great Books program is like can be found on the college’s blog. This program is offered to rising seniors.

Thomas More College in Merrimack, N.H., offers a Great Books program for high school-aged students. This two-week session, offered June 25 to July 8 and July 16-29, will inculcate its participants in a “healthy balance of prayer, work and play” as they read authors like St. Thomas More, Plato, Aristotle and George Orwell. Along with academics, students will go on excursions throughout New England, including hiking mountains, visiting historic locations and visiting the coast.

The University of Dallas in Irving, Tex., offers several summer programs for high schoolers interested in classical texts, art and music. Rising juniors and seniors can experience life on campus during the two-week Arete: An Introduction to the Classics. Students as young as rising seventh graders can attend the Summer Art Academy or the Summer Music Academy to enhance their artistic potential. Both of these programs run for one week.

The University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., offers a summer program for high school students. The Cor Christi Institute program runs for two sessions in July on the University’s campus. This program invites high school students of all grades to encounter Jesus and learn the foundational teachings and practices of the Catholic faith through serious study, good conversation and wholesome friendship.

The University of St. Thomas in Houston, Tex., is hosting a Young Diplomats and Global Affairs summer camp for rising 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from June 12-16, which will include a student-led diplomacy situation exercise modeled on the Diplomacy Center of the United States. That same week, the University’s master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program is sponsoring a Fearless Catholic Writers camp in which students will learn from published authors.

For those rising seniors with adventurous spirits and a love for the outdoors, Wyoming Catholic College’s PEAK program in Lander, Wyo., offers a unique experience. Running from August 1-12, students are given the opportunity to study the Great Books under the instruction of WCC faculty and to immerse themselves in the sacraments. Students are also engaged in a variety of outdoor activities, tailored to the experience and fitness of each participant, including horseback riding, canoeing and caring for livestock.

For students interested in traveling abroad, the University of Navarra offers Spanish Intensive Summer Courses at its language institute on campus, Instituto Lengua y Cultura Española, ILCE. ILCE is offered in-person, so students get to enjoy all the campus has to offer. ILCE will also offer three on-campus courses between June and July on their campuses in Pamplona and Madrid. Students taking these courses can earn college credit and will also have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities outside of class.

Gender Confusion in Australia’s Catholic Schools

In September, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released “Created and Loved: A Guide for Catholic Schools on Identity and Gender.” While the document has thoughtful and salient points regarding gender identity, it also recommends that Catholic schools use the preferred names and pronouns of children suffering from gender dysphoria, providing “flexibility with uniform expectations.”

As a lifelong Catholic educator, I have deep concerns about this approach, which is fundamentally at odds with the mission of Catholic education. The challenge for Catholic schools today is not that we work with gender-dysphoric children, but how. Children suffering from gender dysphoria can be admitted under certain conditions: The gender dysphoria is acknowledged as a disorder; the child’s family obtains proper counseling and treatment; and the child is able to function in an environment where gender expression is expected to match biological reality. However, Catholic schools do great harm by allowing children suffering from gender dysphoria to externally represent and even celebrate that disorder and requiring that others in the school support and participate in it.

The document’s injudicious recommendation stems from three misconceptions.

The first misconception is that it is unacceptable to ask children suffering with gender dysphoria to follow gender norms while in a Catholic school. It is, in fact, necessary for the good of the child as well as the integrity of the school. Eighty-four percent of children experiencing gender dysphoria will not continue to experience it through adolescence and adulthood, according to an oft-cited 2011 study from Sweden. We must therefore love such students through the challenge on our terms, not theirs. This is not unlike how we deal with children with anorexia who have a dangerous distortion of their sense of weight. We admit them to school but require that they receive care, and we refrain from supporting their bodily disorientation through false affirmation.

The second misconception concerns the implications of Christian anthropology and respect for the human person. The Australian bishops’ document correctly notes that Christian anthropology “demands that we respect the worth of each person at every moment of their existence—from conception to death—regardless of who they are or how they present themselves in the world. It also asks us to see each person holistically rather than seeking to define them by just one aspect of their identity.” It continues: “Any relevant educational programme and the care of individuals in a Catholic school must be faithful to this Christian Anthropology.”

However, the document goes on to mistakenly conclude that being “faithful to this Christian Anthropology” and promoting “a fundamental attitude of charity and respect, of care and compassion,” requires Catholic schools to conform their activities and policies to reinforce gender dysmorphia. This is neither caring nor compassionate. We must interface with children “holistically” as integrated beings, a unity of mind, body, and spirit, and not reduce them to “just one aspect of their identity.”

The third misconception is the assumption that, since Christian anthropology provides a basis for human worth and dignity—we are loved by God and created in his image—and since we are made for communion and flourishing in community, any exclusionary activity is an affront to Christian anthropology. With this argument, the Australian bishops compel Catholic schools to accept and placate children who have “transitioned” to a new name, pronouns, or way of dress.

The natural order has supplied children the family as the primary social unit and source of belonging and wellbeing. Formal institutions can assist in creating other environments of belonging, but a child not being admitted to a certain school, for whatever reason, is not deprived of human dignity or worth, nor of family, church, friends, or love.

We must not conflate attendance at a Catholic school with membership in the Church. Most Catholic children worldwide do not attend Catholic schools but are full members of the Church. The modern Catholic school itself has only been widely available for less than 10 percent of the Church’s history, with catechesis and Christian socializing taking place in the home and parish for most Catholics.

Catholic schools are in the business of integrally forming children in mind, body, and spirit. It is what we do, it is all we do, and we do it one way: in conformity with the will of God and with respect for children as mind-body-spirit unities. Those who seek a different type of formation are free to do so—but they cannot demand that we adapt to their differing goals and conceptions of reality and of the human person.

Using students’ preferred names and pronouns goes against the nature and goals of Catholic education. It casts Catholic schools as active participants in the child’s catastrophic quest for emancipation from the body. It has us (knowingly or unknowingly) participating in relativism, gnostic dualism, materialism, and the toxic fluidity of the modern world. It implicates us in destroying the differences between male and female and the dignity of sexual distinctiveness. It involves us in eroding the roots of the family, severing God from his creation, and distorting the nature of reality itself. And worse yet, by our personal example in forming those under our direct care, we invite our students and families to do the same.

Dan Guernsey is a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and a 30-year veteran of Catholic education.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the online edition of First Things on February 3, 2023.

Catholic Student Policies Protect Students, Educators

In faithful Catholic education, we don’t just teach skills, facts, and figures. We strive for “integral Christian formation,” helping students know, love, and serve God in this life and enjoy eternity with Him in the next. Our student policies, therefore, should promote virtue and holiness.

The formation in Catholic education is integral because it engages the whole student as a unity of mind, body, and spirit. We cultivate the human power of reason, train the will for moral action, and order the passions toward true goodness. We don’t adopt harmful practices, and we don’t permit harmful behaviors.

Our formation is Christian, because it embraces the dignity of every student as made in the image and likeness of God, called to communion with Him through redemption in Jesus Christ.

This agitates modern sensibilities. Today, families are constantly exposed to the rhetoric of division and resentment inspired by critical race theory, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and gender ideology. Some consciously adopt these non-Catholic worldviews, while others succumb over time to the unrelenting pressure of media and entertainment, especially on the internet and social media. They may even sue Catholic educators to force changes that compromise Catholic teaching and prevent true Catholic formation.

Of course, all this presents opportunities for us to present the Gospel and God’s loving plan for His children. As educators, we don’t shrink from proclaiming this message. Instead, we take up our role in the Church’s mission of evangelization.

One way to counter the ever-pressing culture is to produce and implement truly Catholic policies related to student formation and student conduct. The clarity of such policies and their consistent implementation will not only avoid conflicts and lawsuits, but will give the school or college strong credibility when claiming rights of religious freedom.

Start with Admissions

To conduct a review of your student policies, a logical place to start is admissions. Sharing the mission and vision of a school and its accompanying behavioral expectations in introductory meetings can greatly reduce the likelihood of moral confusion, sinful behavior, or future scandal. In cases of students struggling with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, policies should ensure attendance is an option if and only if the student is open to formation aligned with Christian anthropology and does not promote or overtly express disordered inclinations.

Human Sexuality Policies

Human sexuality policies can help guide school operations and interactions with students and all members of the educational community. These policies should explain that the institution will relate to all persons according to their biological sex at birth and maintain appropriate distinctions between males and females, especially in matters of facilities use, athletics teams, uniforms, and nomenclature.

Catholic educators teaching about human sexuality should ensure that all materials and instruction are carefully vetted for fidelity to Church teachings, taught by qualified and committed Catholics, and targeted to the appropriate age and developmental stage of the student. These materials should be shared in advance with parents, giving them ample time to withdraw their child from the program should they so choose.

Also included in these policies should be a prohibition against advocating for moral behavior at odds with Catholic Church teaching or participating in activities that tend to encourage immoral behavior.



Policies related to athletics are also critically important, as sports uniquely involve the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. In addition, while sporting activities often cast the broadest net for interaction and are highly valued in our culture, we have seen how they can be distorted to promote a disintegration of the mind, body, and spirit. These are most evident in today’s gender-ideology-fueled controversies. Catholic education sports policies must be articulated to address these concerns.

Policies should guard against exploitation or idolatry related to the body and protect the body not only from physical injury but also from any attack on its physical, spiritual, and psychological integrity.

Policies should also ensure that all personnel and players are formed in a Christian and virtue-based approach to sport. Introducing virtues such as justice, with its emphasis on fair play and respect, or temperance, with its emphasis on modesty and self-control in action and speech, especially in moments of pain and tension, provides lessons carried far beyond the playing field.

The benefits derived from well-written student policies are increasing. Not only do they help form a Christian community by setting clear expectations for student conduct, but they also differentiate Catholic education from secular options, all too willing to adopt the moral whims of the day. In this aspect, policies are tools of evangelization.

If you’ve procrastinated writing or refreshing your school policies, delay no longer! Clear Catholic policies will serve as pillars supporting your claim to religious freedom when a lawsuit arrives.



Five Defenses for Catholic Education

You’re going to court—it’s almost inevitable.

Hopefully, your Catholic school or college has done all it can to protect itself from legal threats. It has adopted clear and consistent policies and employment resources, explaining its devotion and obligations to your Catholic mission. It’s done its best to avoid misunderstandings and head off lawsuits by students and employees.

But in today’s secular and often hostile culture—in which even many Catholics seem confused about topics like abortion, contraception, marriage, sexuality, and gender—discrimination lawsuits are bound to happen. And their frequency is likely to increase in the coming years.

So how does Catholic education defend itself in court?

During The Cardinal Newman Society’s recent three-part webinar series, Protecting Religious Freedom in Catholic Education, Luke Goodrich, a vice president and senior counsel at Becket Law, shared five key legal defenses available to Catholic educators. None is sufficient in itself, but together they offer powerful protection

1. Ministerial exception

According to Goodrich, the ministerial exception bars federal courts from interfering in a church’s choice of its ministers. Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the government has no business telling a religious organization who’s going to fill a “ministerial” role, including teaching the Catholic faith. If an employee of a Catholic school or college has substantial religious functions, the institution may be shielded from that employee’s discrimination lawsuit, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs. Morrissey-Berru (2020) and Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC (2012). This likely does not apply to every employee.

2. Title VII religious exemption

Many employee lawsuits are filed under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Religious employers, however, are generally exempted from Title VII when they make employment decisions based on religion.

This is especially important following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), which redefined sex discrimination to include biases against “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” To better qualify for the Title VII religious exemption, Catholic schools and colleges should give clear mission-centered reasons for their employment decisions—such as the necessity of ensuring faithful Catholic instruction and formation, a teacher’s willingness to teach Catholic doctrine regarding marriage and sexuality, and the importance of witnessing to Catholic moral teaching—without expressing personal approval or disapproval of an employee’s sexual or gender preferences and behaviors.

Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools and colleges that receive federal funds, also is being interpreted by the Biden administration to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” But Title IX has an exemption that applies broadly to religious institutions. To defend against the Administration’s threats and lawsuits regarding athletics, restrooms, employment, and more, Catholic educators should be prepared to assert this exemption.

3. Religious Freedom Restoration Act

A near-unanimous Congress approved the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to ensure that, even when the government has a “compelling public interest” to act in a way that impacts religious activity, it must do so in a manner that allows the greatest religious freedom. Courts have used RFRA to exempt religious organizations from federal laws—such as mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives—when the exemption does not substantially thwart the broad impact of the law.

Today some in Congress are trying to undermine RFRA. The proposed Equality Act, for instance, would remove RFRA as a protection for religious employers against the bill’s provisions regarding sexuality and gender identity. According to Goodrich, the Equality Act is a legalistic Trojan horse that would coerce both individuals and religious organizations into violating their religious beliefs.

4. Church autonomy

Federal courts prefer to resolve legal disputes by applying clear statutes rather than Constitutional claims, but Catholic educators should vigorously assert their freedom of religion. The Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment guarantee the rights of religious organizations to control their internal affairs and make important internal decisions based on their religious beliefs. Because they are religious institutions, Catholic schools and colleges have the right and obligation to uphold Catholic teachings in their policies and practices. Because their mission is religious education, Catholic schools and colleges have the right and obligation to form the minds and souls of students in accord with Catholic beliefs, including moral teachings and Christian anthropology.

5. Expressive association

Beyond religious activity, the First Amendment protects free speech generally, including the right of expressive association. This means that the government cannot normally interfere with people gathering or otherwise associating to express opinion, even when that opinion may be unpopular. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court found that a non-religious organization was nevertheless permitted to establish membership requirements forbidding homosexuality. It is important that Catholic schools and colleges not only define their mission as the task of education but also that they firmly state their purpose within the Church’s own mission of evangelization. Catholic schools and colleges are communities devoted to professing the Catholic faith and preaching the salvation found only in Christ. Catholic education, therefore, has the right of association, to express a shared belief and worldview.

Additional Steps

Goodrich encouraged Catholic educators to have a clear picture of the religious nature of the roles within their organization. Write down the specific duties for each position, articulate them during the hiring process, and incorporate them into training, supervision, and employee evaluations. Incorporate the Catholic faith into the teaching of every subject.

Goodrich advises that school administrators clearly know Church teaching. He told the story of a Catholic school principal encouraging an employee to receive in vitro fertilization treatment, unaware that it violated Catholic Church teaching. This put the school in a bad legal position.

Catholic education leaders who were unable to register for this three-part webinar series but would like the video recordings can request them at (703) 367-0333 x128 or jmcclain@cardinalnewmansociety.org