Understanding the Ministerial Exception

Will the ministerial exception help protect your Catholic school or college?

Short answer: It depends on you.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s rulings in Hosanna-Tabor (2012) and Our Lady of Guadalupe School (2020), the term “ministerial exception” has become common parlance for Catholic educators. But there is much about the exception that is misunderstood and remains undetermined. Benefitting from this powerful legal protection requires some effort to understand its intricacies.

One thing is certain: the ministerial exception depends on an employee’s real and documented religious duties. When such duties are not obvious to a secular court—as they might otherwise be in the case of a priest, nun, or religious teacher—the determination of an employee’s “ministerial” status may hinge on how clearly and convincingly an employer has defined a position and the strength of the institution’s overall religious identity.

Powerful protection, limited scope

The ministerial exception is not found in any law or regulation.

It is a legal principle derived from the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, which bars government interference in religion. It also follows from the Establishment Clause, which forbids government to select religious leaders or set the criteria for their selection. Therefore, if an employee of a church or religious organization is deemed “ministerial” and sues for employment discrimination, a federal court will simply refuse to hear the case rather than risk unconstitutional entanglement with religion.

According to the Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor, federal courts must “ensure that the authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful—a matter strictly ecclesiastical—is the church’s alone.” This is at the heart of America’s “first liberty,” the freedom of religion.

Although the ministerial exception clearly applies to clergy and women religious, in 2020 the Supreme Court affirmed that a Catholic school religion teacher is also a “minister” of the Catholic Church for legal purposes, because teaching the Catholic faith is a sacred duty. The Court considered a number of factors—job title, job description, religious activities, job qualifications, training—none of which, it said, is determinant in itself. Since then, other federal court rulings have applied the ministerial exception to bar claims by school leaders and guidance counselors as well as parish employees.

The ministerial exception is powerful, because it can protect Catholic schools and colleges from lawsuits over abortion, “gender identity,” or “sexual orientation.” It not only protects employers, but it also avoids the cost and publicity of a trial.

It is not, however, a perfect shield for Catholic education. Many legal experts doubt that it applies to every employee, such as support and maintenance staff, but it depends on their religious duties. If even a small portion of employees are not covered by the exception, then a Catholic school or college still needs clear and consistent policies that explain the institution’s religious obligations and help employees understand expectations, so that the institution can avoid lawsuits and claim other religious protections when a suit goes to court.

The ministerial exception depends on an employee’s real and documented religious duties.

The ministerial exception also causes a serious dilemma for Catholic education: it leaves ministerial employees without any recourse to the courts in cases of discrimination based on race, sex, age, etc. A very important task for Catholic dioceses, schools, and colleges will be to ensure fair solutions for employees, such as arbitration—but the arbiter must be familiar with and fully devoted to protecting the mission of Catholic education and upholding Catholic teaching.

Looking for answers

There are still many questions about the ministerial exception that remain unresolved by federal courts, such as:

  • Does the exception prevent lawsuits related to all employment issues—hostile workplace, employee benefits, wage and hour policies—or only related to hiring and firing?
  • What duties, other than teaching religion, qualify someone as a minister—and what portion of an employee’s job must be devoted to religious activity?
  • Does the exception apply only to religion teachers or also to other teachers who are required to integrate the Catholic faith into their courses?
  • Does the ministerial exception apply equally to higher education as to elementary and secondary education?
  • Does the exception apply to support staff, if they are assigned religious duties and are selected according to religious criteria?

Until these questions are answered, it will be important for Catholic schools and colleges to fight for every inch of protection under the ministerial exception. It would be dangerous to assume the exception’s broad scope until courts have affirmed it, but it would also be self-defeating to accept a narrow reading of the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, even outside these legal considerations, there is a lack of consistency among Catholic educators about the moral and religious responsibilities of teachers and other employees in service to the mission of Catholic education. To help address this concern, The Cardinal Newman Society has just released Policy Standards on Moral Expectations of Employees in Catholic Education, our new recommended standards for employee policies in Catholic schools and colleges.

Recommended practices

To increase the likelihood that courts will apply the ministerial exception to certain school or college employees, consider doing the following:

  • Clearly tie employee duties to the Catholic mission of the school or college—not only the formation of students but also evangelization—and to any Church source or document that indicates the ministerial basis for the position.
  • Ensure that job descriptions, employee contracts, performance reviews, etc., clearly identify religious duties associated with each employment position.
  • Indicate ministerial status in employee titles when possible.
  • Job qualifications and training should reflect the ministerial importance and nature of the position.
  • Clearly communicate religious duties on job applications, during interviews, and in hiring communications.
  • Promote and support ministerial activity through continuing education and training with emphasis on the Catholic mission of the school or college and employees’ religious duties.

These recommendations are drawn from The Cardinal Newman Society’s work with legal experts and our own study of the issue, but we are not legal professionals. Employers should not act without the counsel of an attorney who is familiar with First Amendment law.

After Roe v. Wade, Catholic Colleges Prepare Pro-Life Nurses

Many people are asking, “What’s next for the pro-life movement after the overturning of Roe v. Wade?” One strategic answer coming from faithful Catholic colleges is to populate the medical field with more pro-life, ethical leaders.

More than half the colleges recommended in The Newman Guide offer nursing programs, and some also prepare students for other medical careers. These are colleges rooted in the truth of human dignity and Catholic moral teaching, and already many graduates have become pro-life leaders in the medical fields.

Now that commitment to pro-life healthcare is growing, with several exciting, new programs.

Continue reading at the National Catholic Register…

Catholic College Scholarship Contest Invites Applications

MANASSAS, VA – The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) is pleased to announce its seventh annual Essay Scholarship Contest. The winning essay writer will be awarded $5,000 toward the cost of attending a faithful Catholic college recognized in The Newman Guide in the fall of 2023.

In addition, several Newman Guide colleges have agreed to supplement CNS’s scholarship with additional $5,000 grants to the winner over three additional years, according to criteria established by each college.

All of the details about the Contest can be found at this link: https://newmansoc.org/EssayContest

The CNS scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, strong advocates of faithful Catholic education.

The contest is open to high school seniors in the United States who sign up for the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and check out the recognized colleges in The Newman Guide during their college search.

The topic for this year’s contest is to reflect, in 400-600 words, on the following:

The Cardinal Newman Society recently released a 7-minute video on the advantages of choosing a faithful Catholic college. Pick a key point or theme from the video and explain why attending a Newman Guide college will have special value for you.

Essays will be judged by how well they demonstrate appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

Last year, the Newman Society announced Sarah Davis, a homeschooled student in Pennsylvania, as the winner of the CNS’s sixth annual Essay Scholarship Contest. She received a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va. She may also be eligible for additional $5,000 grants from Christendom College.

In her winning essay, Davis reflected on how attending a faithful Catholic college that is strongly devoted to the Eucharist will uniquely impact her religious, moral, intellectual, and social formation. The winning essay was a timely piece, as the U.S. bishops conduct a three year “Eucharistic Revival” to increase devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

“If our Eucharistic Lord reigns over the college which I attend, I will be challenged to let Him reign over my own heart and life,” Davis wrote. “In front of the Blessed Sacrament, I will find the strength to conscientiously perform my duties as a student, treat others with true charity, and keep fighting for sanctity.”

“Therefore, no matter what God asks of me after college, I can be assured that this devotion to the Eucharist, nurtured during college, will be my strong foundation as I continue to grow into the woman God has created me to be.”

Davis’s entire essay can be read here.

Questions about this year’s Essay Scholarship Contest can be directed to Programs@CardinalNewmanSociety.org.


For Media Requests: Please contact Kevin Murphy, vice president of marketing and communications, at KMurphy@CardinalNewmanSociety.org or 703-367-0333 ext. 108.

Cardinal Newman Society Celebrates 15 Years of The Newman Guide

MANASSAS, VA – On today’s Solemnity of All Saints, The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) celebrates 15 years of The Newman Guide, which recognizes Catholic colleges for their strong fidelity and formation. Every year, more than 75,000 families use The Newman Guide to find a faithful Catholic college, and now CNS will reach more families than ever with a NEW video helping Catholic families navigate their college search.

“Every young adult is called to be a saint,” said Kelly Salomon, director of family and parish programs for The Cardinal Newman Society, who produced the new video and manages the Newman Guide. “We want Catholic families to know and choose great Catholic colleges that not only educate for careers but form students for sainthood.”

“And for me, it’s personal,” she adds. “The Newman Guide helped me find my own Catholic college, and I want others to have the same extraordinary experience.”

The Cardinal Newman Society launched the first edition of The Newman Guide in 2007, after years of decrying infidelity and scandal across much of Catholic higher education. The Guide has become families’ most trusted source of information on Catholic colleges that have stayed true to the Catholic faith while integrating it across the curriculum and campus life.

The late Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, wrote the preface to the first edition of The Newman Guide and said it was the Newman Society’s “most important contribution to Catholic higher education ever.” Newman Guide college leaders today confirm that the guide has been instrumental in their success.

Today, Newman Guide colleges are thriving. While total college enrollment in the U.S. has declined 14 percent since 2012, Newman Guide college enrollment increased more than 10 percent in the same period.

In addition to the Guide, The Cardinal Newman Society sponsors Recruit Me, an opportunity for high school students to get recruited by Newman Guide colleges. Recruit Me subscribers are eligible to participate in an annual essay contest, for which the winner receives a $5,000 scholarship. Also, this year CNS will distribute 60,000 copies of My Future, My Faith, a publication explaining the benefits of a faithful Catholic college.

The Cardinal Newman Society’s new video, based on the content in My Future, My Faith, explains the advantages of faithful Catholic education. It helps families consider academics, residential life, spiritual life, and campus activities from a Catholic perspective.

The Newman Guide’s impact is immeasurable, because one can never truly account for winning souls for Christ. May God continue to bless The Newman Guide and lead many more families to experience the blessing of faithful Catholic education.


For Media Requests: Please contact Kevin Murphy, vice president of marketing and communications, at KMurphy@CardinalNewmanSociety.org or 703-367-0333 ext. 108.


Bellarmine Fund: Sharing the Treasure of Faithful Catholic Education

Three college students who first met while attending a Catholic high school in Florida have launched a scholarship fund to help others experience faithful Catholic education at a Newman Guide college.

“As we went off to different colleges, we kept in touch and found time to catch up whenever we returned home for school breaks. During one of those breaks, we began to discuss ways the three of us could work together to build up the Kingdom of God,” explained Matthew Uzdavinis. “We all wanted to serve the Church in some specific way.”

The fruit of the discussions between Uzdavinis, Justin Bailey and Andres Donovan is the Saint Robert Bellarmine Fund, which annually awards scholarships to 10 high school seniors who display both merit and need and wish to attend one of the Catholic colleges recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society for fidelity and strong Catholic formation. The $8,000 scholarships are renewable for four years. The fund is guided by the Bailey Family Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to improving the availability and quality of post-secondary education.

“When we started the Saint Robert Bellarmine Fund, the three of us were convinced we wanted to focus solely on promoting and making Catholic higher education possible,” said Uzdavinis. “However, we didn’t want to lead students to secularized Catholic colleges that do not teach the fullness of the Catholic faith and perhaps even purposely sway young people from what the Church has taught for centuries.”

“In such places, divine truth is set aside for radical ideologies and socially progressive propaganda, as if truth were somehow outdated and left behind for something better,” Uzdavinis lamented. “It’s a tragedy when this occurs, because when truth is abandoned, delusion sets in. We see this everywhere in our world today.”

“The Cardinal Newman Society’s list of recommended colleges is, in our opinion, the best catalogue of authentically Catholic colleges in the country,” Uzdavinis explained. “We decided to limit our scholarship opportunity to students who want that truly faithful Catholic education for themselves.”

The Saint Robert Bellarmine Fund will be an answer to prayer for many Catholic families eager to experience faithful Catholic higher education.

“We hope to help Catholic families throughout the country who could use the financial assistance,” Uzdavinis explained. “We know from personal experience higher education can be expensive, but we’ve discovered a treasure in faithful Catholic education and this fund is designed to share that treasure with others.”

Building from experience

The Bellarmine Fund’s founders recall their wonderful experience of Catholic education at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla.

“The bell rang and down the aisle came about 10 altar boys all neatly arranged with cassock and surplice, incense, golden torches—all the smells and bells of Catholic liturgy. At that time, I had just graduated eighth grade and wasn’t versed or interested in the faith, but this procession on my very first day at my new high school caught my attention,” remembers Uzdavinis.

“The beauty and reverence of the liturgy was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it transferred into the way theology was taught in the classroom by our teachers,” Uzdavinis continued. “From that point on, the relationships I cultivated with priests, seminarians, teachers and other students grew because they were all grounded in an awe and love for the authentic Catholic faith.”

Uzdavinis became “great friends in the Lord” with Bailey and Donovan, who were impacted by similar experiences.

“I remember having teachers at Jesuit High School who would sit with me after school for long periods of time, explaining the faith. I was shocked to discover the Church always had answers to questions I thought problematic. It strengthened my faith immensely,” shared Bailey.

Donovan agreed: having teachers who were “firm in their faith” was instrumental in his life and in his decision to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, a faithful Catholic college recognized by The Newman Guide.

“All of my teachers since arriving at Franciscan have stressed the importance of allowing my faith to be integrated into every aspect of my studies. They have taught me to be proud that I am Catholic and to think for myself. I want every Catholic to be encouraged to integrate their faith into every part of their lives,” urged Donovan.

Launching Task Force for Eucharistic Education

In support of the U.S. bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival, The Cardinal Newman Society is collaborating with Catholic educators nationwide to launch the Task Force for Eucharistic Education—an initiative to help solicit, identify, and promote inspiring efforts by Catholic schools, homeschools, colleges, and individuals to help revive:

  • Eucharistic literacy – teaching young people the truth of the Real Presence in the Eucharist
  • Eucharistic liturgy – improving music, prayer, and reverence in school and college liturgies
  • Eucharistic devotion – increasing prayer and adoration among young people
  • Eucharistic living – helping students live according to the reality of Christ within them

The project was announced today at Sacra Liturgia, an international conference on the liturgy that was supported in part by The Cardinal Newman Society and featured Society President Patrick Reilly’s public interview with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on the renewal of faithful Catholic education. Several prominent Catholics and leaders of national education associations have agreed to help promote the Task Force and serve on its steering committee (see list below).

“Catholic education is the Church’s primary means of evangelization, and it is key to the success of the Eucharistic Revival,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “Americans’ lack of belief in the Real Presence is a crisis of education, not dissent. Young Catholics are confused and need faithful Catholic education, not just flashy events and youth programs amid a culture that disdains religious belief and morals.”

The Task Force invites educators, parents, and students to sign up at EucharisticEducation.org and identify projects including academic conferences, research, publications, formative student programs, liturgies, prayer, and more—anything that strengthens understanding and devotion to the Eucharist within Catholic schools, homeschools, or colleges.

The Cardinal Newman Society will highlight and promote Task Force members and their projects through the Society’s magazine Our Catholic Mission—which is mailed to Catholic education leaders and bishops nationwide—and in Catholic media.

Already the Task Force includes many of America’s most faithful Catholic schools and colleges among its inaugural members. “We hope for an explosion of inspiring projects that help renew faithful Catholic education and form a new generation of young people deeply in love with Jesus Christ,” said Reilly.

For more information on The Cardinal Newman Society and how you can join the Task Force, go to EucharisticEducation.org

Steering Committee of Task Force for Eucharistic Education 
  • Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director, Secretariat for Catholic Education, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Deacon Keith Fournier, Dean, Catholic Online School
  • Charlie McKinney, President, Sophia Institute Press
  • Father David Pivonka, T.O.R., President, Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Dr. Robert Royal, President, Faith and Reason Institute
  • Dr. Michael St. Pierre, Executive Director, Catholic Campus Ministry Association
  • Patrick Reilly, President, The Cardinal Newman Society
  • Monsignor James Shea, President, University of Mary
  • Lincoln Snyder, President, National Catholic Educational Association
  • Father Peter Stravinskas, President, Catholic Education Foundation
  • sister Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P., President, Aquinas College (Nashville)
Inaugural Institutional Members of Task Force for Eucharistic Education 
  •  Academy of Our Lady (Marrero, La.)
  • Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, Fla.)
  • Beckman Catholic High School (Dyersville, Iowa)
  • Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
  • Benedictine College (Atchison, Kan.)
  • Christendom College (Front Royal, Va.)
  • Father Gabriel Richard High School (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Holy Apostles College & Seminary (Cromwell, Conn.)
  • Holy Child Catholic School (Tijeras, N.M.)
  • Holy Rosary Academy (Anchorage, Alaska)
  • John Paul the Great Catholic University (Escondido, Calif.)
  • Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts (Warner, N.H.)
  • Maur Hill-Mount Academy (Atchison, Kan.)
  • Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School Coraopolis, Pa.)
  • Regina Pacis Academy (Norwalk, Conn.)
  • Rhodora Donahue Academy of Ave Maria (Ave Maria, Fla.)
  • Seton School (Manassas, Va.)
  • St. John Vianney High School (St. Louis, Mo.)
  • St. Theresa Catholic School (Sugar Land, Tex.)
  • Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, N.H.)
  • University of Dallas (Irving, Tex.)
  • University of St. Thomas (Houston, Tex.)
  • Walsh University (North Canton, Ohio)
  • Wyoming Catholic College (Lander, Wyo.)

We Need ‘Eucharistic Education’

As the U.S. Bishops prepare to kick-off a three-year revival on devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, I have been reflecting on how faithful Catholic education is key to the success of this revival. It is the Church’s primary means of evangelization.

Consider Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where the truth that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian life” is taught and livedWhile many Catholic colleges spend time and resources on extravagant athletic or arts facilities, yet they neglect the formation and souls of their students, Christendom graduates smart, virtuous, and capable Christians and focused its latest capital campaign on building a magnificent new Christ the King Chapel to glorify God.

Many Christendom students attend Mass every day, and they don’t have to worry about “fitting it in,” because classes and activities are never scheduled during Mass times. There is a refreshing emphasis on beautiful, reverent liturgy in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Students have frequent opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confession. The First Friday Holy Hour is popular, as well as the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

That’s Eucharistic education. It places Christ at the center, with the Mass at the center of campus life, and students are taught to live as bearers of Christ within them.

Sarah Davis, a homeschooled student in Pennsylvania, who will be heading to Christendom College this fall, was drawn to study at a college which “keeps Our Eucharistic Lord at the center of campus life,” according to her award-winning essay submitted to The Cardinal Newman Society. She won a $5,000 scholarship in the Society’s Essay Scholarship Contest, in which high school students were asked how attending a Catholic college that is strongly devoted to the Eucharist will uniquely impact their religious, moral, intellectual and social formation.

Such a “devotion to the Eucharist, nurtured during college, will be my strong foundation as I continue to grow into the woman God has created me to be,” Davis predicted.

“In front of the Blessed Sacrament,” she wrote, “I will find the strength to conscientiously perform my duties as a student, treat others with true charity, and keep fighting for sanctity. If our Eucharistic Lord reigns over the college which I attend, I will be challenged to let Him reign over my own heart and life.”

While Sarah will find strong support for her faith at Christendom College — one of several colleges recommended in the Newman Guide and the Register Guide for truly Catholic education — the reality is that many of her peers students go off to college and lose their faith. After college graduation, nearly 75% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

While this may seem a crisis of dissent, it is more a crisis of education and a failure of the Church. In that same study, about two-thirds (64%) of the young adults who denied the Real Presence admitted to being unsure or unaware of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. And 62% actually believed the Church teaches that the Eucharist is just a symbol of Christ.

We greatly need a revival of Eucharistic education. It is in faithful Catholic education that young people learn not to separate their lives and their knowledge from Christ, who enters into every study and every activity. We need this in our Catholic parish schools, lay-run independent schools, homeschools, hybrid programs, and colleges.

Christendom College is a shining example of the Eucharistic education that every Catholic child needs and deserves. It is a great feeling to help Sarah Davis get this sort of education — but the Church should be committed to ensuring it for every baptized child and young adult.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

College-Bound Student Desires Holy Eucharist at ‘Center of Campus Life’

Sarah Davis

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced that Sarah Davis, a homeschooled student in Pennsylvania, is the winner of the Society’s 2022 Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Davis will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., this fall. Below is the full text of her winning essay. More information about the Contest can be obtained here, and students who want to be eligible for next year’s Contest can sign up for Recruit Me here.

For the past eight years, my family has been blessed to live across the street from our parish. This proximity to Jesus in the Eucharist has had a strong influence on my upbringing. Daily Mass, personal prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and monthly Adoration have been non-negotiable family practices which have laid a strong spiritual foundation. Now that I am preparing to leave home for college, I wish to attend a college which will help me to maintain and augment this foundation rather than having to struggle to keep it. I am convinced that a faithful Catholic college which is strongly devoted to the Eucharist will uniquely and positively impact my religious, moral, intellectual, and social formation.

First, attending a college which keeps our Eucharistic Lord at the center of campus life will bolster both my religious and moral formation. A college which loves the Eucharist treasures the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the high point of the day and provides ample opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration. It will not be a struggle, therefore, to enshrine Mass and Adoration as the center of my own life while my personal relationship with Jesus is fostered through these daily encounters. Moreover, pouring forth from this cherished time with Jesus will be the grace to live a virtuous life. In front of the Blessed Sacrament, I will find the strength to conscientiously perform my duties as a student, treat others with true charity, and keep fighting for sanctity. If our Eucharistic Lord reigns over the college which I attend, I will be challenged to let Him reign over my own heart and life.

A college-wide devotion to the Eucharist will also strengthen my intellectual and social formation. While adoring Our Lord in Mass and Adoration, I will be reminded that the ultimate goal of my studies is a deeper knowledge of God, whether that is attained directly through the study of theology or indirectly through such disciplines as philosophy, literature, and science. Therefore, as I ponder before the Blessed Sacrament the truths I am grappling with in class, I will be led into a deeper relationship with Truth Himself, present in the Eucharist. Moreover, worshipping the Eucharist with my peers will help foster authentic, Christ-centered community which is rightly oriented toward the glory of God and our common pursuit of holiness. In front of our Eucharistic Lord, I will also be able to pray for my classmates and learn from Christ how to love them in a truly Christian way. A college devoted to the Eucharist, therefore, will help me to place Christ at the center of both my studies and my relationships.

Thus, just as devotion to the Eucharist has been integral in my formation growing up, it is also a non-negotiable factor when considering college options. A college which has a deep love for our Eucharistic Lord will enable me to continue placing God at the center of my life, grow in knowledge of the truth, and develop authentic relationships, ultimately leading me to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, no matter what God asks of me after college, I can be assured that this devotion to the Eucharist, nurtured during college, will be my strong foundation as I continue to grow into the woman God has created me to be.

Graduation Honor for Cardinal Newman Society

On Saturday, May 14, Patrick Reilly, president and founder of the Cardinal Newman Society, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Benedictine College.

The award is in recognition of the Cardinal Newman Society’s work for 29 years in promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. Benedictine College is recognized in The Newman Guide for its fidelity and Catholic formation of students including Patrick’s oldest son, who graduated during the same ceremony.

College President Steve Minnis asked the graduating students to raise their hands if they were influenced by The Newman Guide.

“It is a great blessing to see the large number of students and families impacted by our work at the Cardinal Newman Society,” said Reilly. “I dedicated the award to the Society’s amazing staff, and I thanked all those who are working toward the renewal of faithful Catholic education. This special award is also a testament to our devoted members, who have prayed and sacrificed to support the Cardinal Newman Society’s vital efforts.”


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‘Study with the Best’ at a Newman Guide College, Says Founder of Popular Catholic Website

Shaun McAfee

EpicPew.com—a Catholic website known for its humor and the creative approach it takes to share about the Faith—had its origin at a faithful Catholic college recommended in The Newman Guide. Now the founder of EpicPew recommends faithful Catholic colleges to families looking to “study with the best and grow deeper in the Faith.”

In 2013, when Shaun McAfee was enrolled online at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, which is recommended in The Newman Guide, he was classmates with a number of energetic friends who were interested in writing like he was. They were asked to resurrect the College’s “Dead Philosopher Society,” based on the “Dead Poets Society” from the popular film.

“The team assembled and wrote on various topics of theology, philosophy, and the defense of the Faith and morals,” he explained. “But soon we all graduated and didn’t want to disband, so we carried this to what became EpicPew.”

“The idea was the same,” he continued. “Write about the Church, apologetics, and culture, but in a fun and enthusiastic style. So, with these friends, most of them classmates, like Abby and Doug Johnson, Chloe Langr, and others, we launched the site in 2014.”

This successful website has been even more fun to maintain. “It’s been a hoot, and we’ve evolved the style, approach, and model. It’s a really fun group to be part of, and I’m still thrilled when someone mentions EpicPew or when a person I meet around the internet or real-world raves about the site.”

This website wouldn’t be possible without the stellar education offered by Holy Apostles, where McAfee earned a master’s degree in dogmatic theology. As he explained, “I had a wonderful time, semester to semester, exploring the rich teachings of the Church on several subjects such as Mariology, systematic theology, the sacraments, and the Church Fathers.”

Even though McAfee has a day job, he has continued to apply himself to personal study and writing. “[Since graduation], I have written about 800 articles online and 11 books to date. It’s been a whirlwind, but I rest my success on the great methods and resources I discovered at Holy Apostles, not to mention all the networking I was able to do.”

“Holy Apostles showed me that although I had mastered some subjects, there is no end to the topics a Catholic can study (and write on) and perhaps even contribute some understanding to the field.”

McAfee praised the Newman Guide colleges: “One can spend all 12 years of primary school in a ‘Catholic school’ and be catechized but not evangelized. I know there is something special, then, about these Newman Guide schools and how the entire approach to studies is oriented to conversion and intellectual discipleship. I have been asked several times, ‘How do I choose a good Catholic school?’ and I always say, ‘Read the Newman Guide online.’ It’s good advice if you want to study with the best and grow deeper in Faith.”

For McAfee, what sets Holy Apostles apart from all others is the “flexibility and high quality of online students. I earned my degree with a full-time job and several young kids. Others have even greater life demands to overcome and Holy Apostles routinely satisfies the demand for even the toughest schedules. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that it’s very affordable!”