Scholarship Winner Eager for Truth: ‘Faithful Catholic Colleges Carry on the Fire of the Church’

Jace Griffith, a graduate of Idaho Falls High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was selected as the winner of The Cardinal Newman Society’s first annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Griffith will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., this fall.

Griffith spoke with the Newman Society about why she chose a faithful Catholic college to continue her education, how Catholic college communities foster “stronger and better” friendships, and how her public school education inspired her to defend her faith.

The Cardinal Newman Society: You said in your winning essay that you trust “faithful Catholic colleges will continue to teach their students the fullness that is real truth and real joy.” Why was it important to you to choose a faithfully Catholic college?

Jace Griffith: Jesus tells us he would rather we be cold than lukewarm. Catholic colleges which are not faithful lack the courage to present the fullness of God’s truth to their students, which can harm relationships with God and with the Church. On the other hand, faithful Catholic colleges carry on the fire of the Church and refuse to be lukewarm, calling their students to gain understanding of even the deepest and most challenging mysteries of the faith. By promoting the whole truth of the Church, faithful Catholic colleges allow students to deepen their relationships with Christ and to better understand and defend His teachings.

The Newman Society: In your essay, you spoke on the importance of having a Catholic education, in general. But, why did you choose Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., specifically?

Griffith: Because of its location, Benedictine offers a small community setting with all the benefits of Kansas City just a half-hour drive away. The college is also widely praised for its biology program. This was my original choice for a major, and though I have since changed to pursue psychology, it still piqued my interest. I found that Benedictine was well-known for both its academic and its religious vigor, and that it offers many internship opportunities within its psychology program.

The Newman Society: What was it about the colleges you learned about through the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program that ultimately led you to choose a college recommended in The Newman Guide?

Griffith: Thanks to the Recruit Me program, I gained a lot of attention from faithful Catholic colleges all around the country and was able to make decisions about what I was looking for and whether I wanted to pursue a faith-based education. The direct contact made the idea of going to a Catholic college much more real, as they expressed real interest in pursuing me as a student and worked to help me meet deadlines and organize the scholarships and financial aid that will allow me to attend Benedictine this fall.

The Newman Society: One of the aspects of Catholic education you praised in your essay is the way “Catholic colleges bring together young adults with similar goals and morals.” Why is this important to consider when choosing a college?

Griffith: A community of like-minded friends and peers provides students with a support system and helps them to work together towards a common goal: Heaven. Catholic community is not about reassuring each other that you’re all perfect saints and that you have all the answers. Instead, Catholic communities help their members to turn to God when in doubt and to fight against temptation. As the youth of the Church it is especially important that we find others who are developing alongside us and who understand our struggles and our questions. Not to mention that every friendship and relationship is stronger and better with God involved.

The Newman Society: What other factors should help determine a graduate’s choice of college (i.e. single-sex dorms? Theology courses? Liturgy offerings?)? How did those factors help you choose?

Griffith: Graduates should keep in mind that not every faithful Catholic education is the same: in fact, they are widely varied across the country and each have their own communities and opportunities. For example, my older sister went to the tiny, fiercely faithful Thomas Aquinas College. This featured single-sex dorms, classes of about 15 students, and a single degree option. As someone who is not pursuing a Liberal Arts Degree and wanted a more relaxed atmosphere, I took into account the academic programs available, the dorm life, and the number of students campus-wide as I made my decisions about applying to and choosing a college.

The Newman Society: In your essay, you wrote about growing up in a city where Catholics are a minority. Could you expand on that a little more? How did that affect your education?

Griffith: There is only one Catholic high school in the state of Idaho, and though I worked hard for a good education at my public school, I know what my preference would have been. I really did have to fend off tissues on Ash Wednesday and explain what Good Friday was to the attendance lady every year. In a way, it’s good practice for defending your faith and for making the choice to defend it, but there have also been times when I’ve felt isolated, or like my efforts as a Catholic were useless. I found passion for Christ in tiny groups of Catholic youth, gathered into a run-down parish basement on Sunday nights as we worked through Bible studies and moved closer to Heaven with the help of each other and a very determined youth minister. My isolation as a Catholic is part of the reason events such as the Idaho Catholic Youth Conference were so vital to my religious development. It was absolutely necessary for me to see that there are thousands others like me: that my Church is not dying or suppressed, but that it lives and triumphs in the name of Christ Jesus.

The Newman Society: What do you think will be the biggest changes between the public high school you graduated from and the Catholic college you’ll be attending?

Griffith: The biggest change will be being surrounded by others who understand Catholicism and have the capacity to discuss it and to help me grow and learn. At my public school, I have at times explained the very basics of the Catholic faith to others who have had little exposure to it, and at a Catholic college I will have friends and peers and even teachers who understand the faith. I’ll have many immediate, nearby, personal sources to help me develop my relationship with God and the Church.

The Newman Society: What are you most looking forward to about going to college at Benedictine?

Griffith: I am most looking forward to seeing friends, peers, and even teachers at Mass. Finally, “people I know from church” and “people I know from school” will not be two completely distinct categories. I am ready and waiting to be part of a community which shares not only classes but also communion.

The Newman Society: Have you decided on a major yet?

Griffith: I will be pursuing a degree in psychology. I plan to go on from my bachelor’s degree to my master’s and my Psy.D., and to one day become a practitioner of clinical psychology. I’m glad that I’ll be starting this journey at a faithful Catholic college which will teach psychology in the context of the dignity of the human soul.

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