REPORT CARD: Newman Guide Colleges Recognized; University of Mary Students Invited to White House; DePaul University Loses Catholics

Catholic Schools Week celebrates unique contribution

National Catholic Schools Week is celebrated this week to acknowledge the “spiritual, academic and societal contributions” of Catholic schools across the country. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states that nearly 1.9 million students are currently educated in 6,429 Catholic schools in around the country. Ninety-nine percent of students graduate from high school, and 86 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college. But it’s important to note that their work doesn’t end there.

“Catholic schools provide an invaluable service to young people, their families, and our nation by helping to form women and men with the sharp intellects, broad perspectives and big hearts who bring their best to communities near and far,” Bishop George Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education, said. “Jesus Christ came to change hearts and to serve—one person at a time—and so Catholic schools invite students to encounter Christ, to be changed by Him, and love God by serving others with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength.”

The big question, of course, is how many Catholic schools accomplish this greater mission? Often we hear the statistics about graduation and college rates, which are good, but where is the evidence that Catholic schools are forming saints?

We look to the Catholic Education Honor Roll schools as models to be emulated throughout Catholic education, so that Catholic parents nationwide can be confident that their children are getting the best Catholic formation.

Why Catholic school?

Pamela Lyons, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, got it right when she answered an important question recently in a column for the Catholic San Francisco: “Why Catholic school?

“Catholic schools create educational opportunities that not only address the intellect, but of equal importance, the spiritual, moral, and social aspects of every child,” Lyons wrote. “The difference lies in our pursuit of academic excellence as a pathway to a greater good.”

She added, “I always tell our teachers that we are educating our students to change the world, by contributing to the Kingdom on earth, with their ultimate goal being entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

That’s what Catholic education is all about.

USCCB seeks to turn the tide of Catholic education

We all know the grim numbers.

The National Catholic Educational Association reports 1,393 Catholic school closings or consolidations from 2007 to 2017, compared to just 287 school openings. In that same decade, enrollment declined by 19 percent to less than 1.9 million students.

Now, in an effort to “transform” Catholic schools, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Catholic Education, in a program sponsored by the University of Notre Dame, met with Catholic education leaders and dozens of bishops to discuss turning the tide.

Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops’ education committee, said that talk of academics and discipline, while important, was not enough without also considering the importance of “preparing the whole person for college and for heaven,” according to CatholicPhilly.com.

We live in “a very secular society, and fewer and fewer people see the value of that spiritual development,” Bishop Murry said. “I think that becomes the task of evangelization. Just programs to get people into church are not enough. We have to change hearts.”

That all sounds wonderful. But wait—sponsored by the University of Notre Dame? The hypocrisy is striking.

Newman Guide colleges recognized

The organization Online Christian Colleges named several Newman Guide-recommended colleges to its list of Top 30 Conservative Christian Colleges and Universities. The rankings were based primarily on their focus on Christian coursework, tuition value, and student-to-faculty ratio.

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts was the highest-ranked Catholic college and the sixth overall. The University of Dallas, Ave Maria University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Thomas Aquinas College (California) were also named.

DePaul newspaper: Hey, where’d all the Catholics go?

Just one decade ago, 57 percent of incoming DePaul freshmen reportedly identified as Catholic. In 2017, however, that number has plummeted to 38 percent, according to The DePaulia.

At least some of the reasons for this drop off are likely found in these disturbing nuggets in the news story:

“When Selena Miller, a practicing Catholic, applied to DePaul, she had no idea it was a Catholic university.”

“With signs welcoming LGBTQ+ youth, it doesn’t feel like the Catholic faith of yesterday. People don’t seem pushy; they just seem happy to see you.”

“At a school of nearly 23,000 students where at least a third are reporting as Catholic, it would stand to reason that thousands of Catholic students should be roaming the halls. Yet most weekly events put on by Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) draw between 10 to 25 students.”

Amanda Thompson, director of CCM, said, “DePaul has more of a progressive, liberal Catholicism. …Thompson said that you don’t have to be ‘staunchly Catholic’ to fit in at DePaul. …Thompson said that the lack of Catholics at the supposedly Catholic university ‘isn’t necessarily a bad thing” because ‘this is a place of dialogue.’”

I think those comments sum up the problem rather well, don’t you?

The world’s largest pro-life sleepover. Ever.

The Catholic University of America recently hosted what might just be the world’s largest pro-life slumber party ever, with more than 1,000 high school students staying at the Newman Guide-recommended college’s athletic center the night before the March for Life.

This event, titled “Pro-Life Hospitality,” was organized by CUA’s Campus Ministry, along with the help of hundreds of student volunteers.

“We need to show that Catholic University is welcoming and ready to serve others,” said Anna Mazur, associate campus minister for Women’s Ministry & Pro-Life Ministry.

CUA provided the accommodations without charge. The article, published at CUAtower.com,  said the faithful Catholic university hopes the event showcased the beautiful campus as well as its commitment to service to prospective college students.

White House hosts UMary students in Rose Garden

Twenty University of Mary students, many wearing blue and orange stocking caps that read, “University of Mary For Life,” were President Donald Trump’s guests in the Rose Garden as he addressed, via satellite, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers at the March for Life on Jan. 19.

The students from the Newman Guide-recommended college learned of the invitation following morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

“We’re so honored to be at this famous place for this historic moment in our country, representing our state and our Catholic university,” said UMary junior Hailey Hilzendeger. “I can speak for my classmates and say how proud we are to be students at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., where we stand for the life and dignity of all, and cherish the numerous opportunities we are blessed with, like this one, in order to make a positive and profound impact on American culture and be part of the pro-life generation.”

Wyoming Catholic College celebrates 10 years

Created with the intent of having students engage with the natural world and the Catholic faith, Wyoming Catholic College is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

“I would say these 10 years have really been a succession of miracles,” said Bishop David Ricken, the former bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo., who was partly responsible for the university’s founding.

The faithful Catholic college was featured in The National Catholic Register for its Great Books curriculum, its outdoors programs, and its strong commitment to the Catholic faith.

“These 10 years have kind of validated us in the world’s eyes and given us a standing among colleges in the country that have some similar programs to ours,” said Glenn Arbery, the college’s president.

The college plans to formally celebrate its anniversary at commencement this spring with keynote speaker Joseph Pearce, a prominent Catholic author and senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society.

Academic freedom found at Catholic colleges rather than secular ones, says student

Jeremiah Poff, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner about academic freedom being more prevalent at conservative Catholic universities than at secular, liberal institutions.

“While conservative students at the University of California, Berkeley are constant targets of discrimination and suffer through liberal bias from their professors, I have been protected from that,” he said. “One might think that a college with such a conservative bent among the students and faculty would result in an echo chamber and an indoctrination similar to that which occurs on other college campuses across the country, but I believe this could not be further from the truth.”

In fact, he added, perhaps the most important thing he’s learned at Franciscan “is the ability to think critically and, as a result, understand what true freedom means.” Poff said he has learned that the truly free person is the individual who seeks out excellence and virtue in everything he or she does.

Former U.S. apostolic nuncio visits Thomas Aquinas College

In the wake of the Thomas Fire, which damaged the campus of Thomas Aquinas College and the surrounding region, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio emeritus to the U.S., visited and offered Mass on campus in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.

“You give me unexpected joy to be with you today for the celebration of this Eucharist at this college dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas,” Archbishop Viganò said in his homily. “I have been spending almost five years in this great country as the representative of the Holy Father, and I heard many, many times people speak about your college. And, of course, I was waiting for the occasion to come, to see this great institution which is very well known in all the country and beyond.”

Franciscan University confronts crises in college education

In light of mounting student debt, decreasing confidence in the value of a college education, and a lack of free speech on many campuses, the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville will host a two-day conference entitled, “The State of American Higher Education 2018,” to be held April 6-7.

“Leading scholars will address how the integrity of the American university can be restored and discuss these issues in depth, many of which have substantial implications in the broader culture,” said Dr. Stephen Krason, associate director of the Veritas Center and a political science professor at Franciscan University.

While some of the twelve speakers will discuss issues facing both secular and religiously affiliated colleges in general, Dr. R. J. Snell, director of the Center on the University and Intellectual Life at the Witherspoon Institute, will speak specifically on “Why Faith-Based Institutions Are the Best Hope for the Revival of the Liberal Arts and Higher Learning.”

Dr. Gerard Bradley of the University of Notre Dame will speak on “The State of American Catholic Higher Education;” Dr. Patrick Deneen, also from Notre Dame will speak on “The Consumerist Mentality in American Higher Education and its Consequences;” and Dr. Benjamin Wiker of the Franciscan University of Steubenville will speak on “The Collapse of the Liberal Arts and Its Consequences for the American University.”

Former student sets fires at St. Catherine’s University

A former St. Catherine’s University student said she set multiple fires at the Catholic institution in retaliation for U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she reportedly told police she intended to burn the university to the ground.

“You guys are lucky that I don’t know how to build a bomb because I would have done that,” Tnuza Jamal Hassan said upon being charged with arson, according to The Daily Mail.

The former student allegedly set four fires at the St. Paul, Minn., campus, one of which was in a building housing a daycare center with 33 children. Thankfully, due to the sprinkler system, no one was injured.

Interestingly, the most media outlets completely ignored the story.

Debt forces Hamburg archdiocese to close one-third of its schools

Sad news.

The Hamburg, Germany, archdiocese is planning to close eight of its 21 Catholic schools due to overwhelming debt. Hamburg Vicar General Ansgar Thim called the “far-reaching, painful cut” difficult for everyone involved.

Around 9,000 students currently attend the 21 schools run in the German archdiocese.

Newman University cancels controversial art show

After an outpouring of criticism, Newman University canceled an art exhibition titled “Rainbow in Reverse: Queer Kansas History.”

The on-campus exhibit was set to feature the lives of LGBTQ Kansans through several mediums, including sculpture and photography, according to Kansas.com.

Newman Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly McDowall Long said the university “understands that diverse perspectives, in an atmosphere in which the human dignity of each person is respected, are key to learning,” yet “we thought it was best to make this decision.”

Seems like a poor idea from the start, but congratulations to the University for making the right final decision.

Land O’ Lakes (LOL): No laughing matter for Catholic universities

Stephen Heaney, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., wrote an excellent piece at The Public Discourse on the subject of the infamous Land O’ Lakes Conference, which is a must-read for anyone interested in Catholic education.

“The LOL version of the university is fundamentally anti-Catholic. It adopts the modern university project as its own—a project that we have already shown is rotten at its core. Yet even if it were not, LOL commits the same category mistake as the modern university project, taking it as given that there is such a thing as a pure university, and that other features (like Catholicism) can be added or dropped without effect to the fundamental project of the institution. Most importantly, in order to be considered a university at all by those who fancy themselves the arbiters of what counts as knowledge, the Catholic university must abandon its fundamental truth claims and its proper relationship with those entrusted with the proclamation of that truth. These are the conditions for sitting at the table with the popular kids.

“The Land O’ Lakes Statement: Fifty years ago, we should have laughed out loud. Now, it is no laughing matter.”

You must read the entire piece. It’s spot on.

Survey: Young people cannot imagine life as a priest or religious

A disturbing survey of 1,178 Catholic high school and college students by the Diocese of San Jose Vocations Office concluded that young people cannot imagine life as a priest or religious.

Father Joe Kim, director of vocations and seminarians, wrote in the California Catholic Daily that although a great majority wish to achieve something great with their lives (95%), only 1.9 percent of young men say they would seriously consider priesthood and 0.9 percent of young women say they would seriously consider religious life.

That is a disaster and a sure sign that many Catholic schools are failing in one of their primary responsibilities—to evangelize.

“Given that our diocese needs to ordain 45 new priests in the next 14 years just to cover for retirement of our clergy, these conversations with young men in our local Church are particularly significant,” Fr. Kim wrote.

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