Tag: religious studies

Picking a Catholic College

The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College started in 2007. It is a guide published once a year by the Cardinal Newman Society to aid students and parents in choosing the right Catholic college or university based on several different categories. It seeks to include only schools which comport to the principles set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

 

They break down everything from on-campus housing rules to curriculum to tuition. In fact, they found in 2009 that the colleges and universities most faithful to the Catholic teaching were often the most affordable in tuition. The selected schools also provided more financial aid (39%) than the average private institution (29%).

 

This year shows two new universities recommended for the first time ever: The University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and the Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Philippines. These two universities offer courses to students who only speak English, and are faithfully Catholic in their teachings and curriculum, as well a being a fantastic opportunity for students who want an international college experience.

 

The University of Navarra is founded by a Saint, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (also the founder of Opus Dei), and places huge emphasis on providing a personalised education. In 2008 is had a ratio of one teach for every five students. With 42 undergraduate programs and 25 master’s programs, it allows for non-native speakers to take classes entirely in English for the first two years of study. After the first two years you can continue but will need to have learned the language. That is actually one of the perks of the school. Not only can you graduate from the Higher Institute of Business Studies, one of the most respected programs, but you can come out with fluency in a second language as well. In Spring of 2016 they only had 25 American students, but are looking to expand that number in the coming years.

 

The Holy Angel University teaches entirely in English, and has been in operation since 1933 in the old convent of the Holy Rosary Parish Church. Aside from the major and professional subjects of study, all students are required to take 12 units of Catholic Theology classes, and are required to attend 8 units of PE, with a choice afterward between ROTC and civil service training.  Considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, HAU is “a universe within a university” where thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors from diverse backgrounds converge every single day for intellectual, creative and social interaction.

If you are a student looking for a great Catholic education, or a parent looking to provide a larger world-view in addition to a quality faith-based education, these colleges make great options!

Catholicism’s Impact on the History of Education

In today’s day and age, when it is easy to both take a Catholic education for granted, and, at the same time, potentially harbor feelings of persecution of faith in education, it is important to remember and appreciate the tumultuous history of public education and Catholic education.

While learning and passing on knowledge is intrinsically wired into the brain of all humankind, and there have been teachers and students as long as man has walked on this Earth, the history of formal education in the Western world is much shorter than the history of man, and it is firmly grounded, from the beginning, in Christianity.

Even in Ancient Rome, long considered the intellectual empire of education the pre-Middle Ages world, there is little record of anything indicating free and available education. Only the elite of Roman wealth and society could expect a complete education, and education in this time was seen as more of a status symbol of wealth and leisure time than it was as a practical concern. For a large portion of the Ancient World, literacy was reserved for religious scholars and scribes, and classes or schooling were largely absent. For years, those without wealth and status in cultures from from Israel to China primarily educated themselves by apprenticing in a trade or devoting themselves to religion. Prior to the Middle Ages, India had the most developed and publicly-available education from around 1500 BC to 600 BC, but as the caste system developed it became far more discriminatory.

It wasn’t until during the early Middle Ages that the monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church  became the centres of education and literacy. Evidence of classes and schools in monasteries as the forerunners to the later idea university can be found dated as far back as the early 6th century, a full century before Islam created The University of al-Qarawiyyin which is the oldest existing continually operated university in the world in the latter part of the 7th century.

Free education for the poor was officially mandated by the Church in 1179 when it decreed that every cathedral must assign a master to teach boys too poor to pay the regular fee; parishes and monasteries also established free schools teaching at least basic literacy skills. This was the basis from which all of modern education has sprung, world-wide.

The first American schools founded by the colonists in the 17th century are not actually the first American schools, as the history of Catholic education in the United States is actually older than the United States itself. Religious education was brought to these shores by Spanish missionaries accompanying explorers and conquistadors, and were followed shortly thereafter by French compeers.

Even though English Catholics founded Maryland as a Catholic colony in 1634, and most colonies were founded by Christians and Catholics seeking religious freedoms from the Anglican church, it took some time for Catholic education to take root widely. The end of the Revolutionary War saw the real growth of Catholic schools in America, with Georgetown University being founded in 1789, just a few short years later.

The Catholic education established in the United States saw hard times hard times and a simultaneous boom in the 1840’s when Horace Mann worked to create a statewide system of professional teachers and “common schools” rather than the private schools that had existed before. Mann believed that education should be available to all, and the movement quickly gained strength. Many states began passing “compulsory attendance” laws. No one person did more for public education in the minds of the American people.

However, Horace Mann was also a Presbyterian minister, was also establishing curriculum and ideology for these public schools that drastically shifted education towards a Protestant one, and required that the King James Bible be used in schools. Catholic teachers who refused to participating in the reading of the King James Bible were often dismissed from their teaching positions, and Catholic children in public schools were often bullied and shunned, Tensions built so high in the 1840’s that they began causing riots and violence, with the most severe being the May 3, 1844 riot in Philadelphia that destroyed dozens of Irish Catholic immigrant homes, with Catholic schools and churches being burned to the ground.

This tension against Catholicism in public education created a demand for private Catholic schools, and in 1852 the First Plenary Council of Baltimore urged every Catholic parish in the country to establish it’s own Catholic school for that very reason.

Growth of the Catholic school system grew until 1920, and then the growth became explosive, with an all-time high in the mid 60’s. The mid 1960’s saw 4.5 million elementary school students enrolled in private Catholic schools, with a further million in high-schools, which began a blossoming need for Catholic universities.

Though we are seeing a decline recently from the years that were the peak of enrollment, it is no doubt that Catholicism, and the drive to educate the world in faith and higher learning for centuries, has made our culture what it is today.

His Holiness Pope Francis on Family, Education, and the Catholic Faith

His Holiness Pope Francis has finally finished his Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation, after a year and a half of work. The document was requested by Synod fathers, is expected to be published on April 8th, and is greatly anticipated by many. It’s an educational address regarding the family’s role in the Catholic faith.

There is a lot of discussion about what the tone of the writings will be, as he has been recognized for some of his unconventional practices and been dubbed “the modern-day pontiff”, so some of what we may read in this forthcoming document may make some waves in the faith, although he has also been very outspoken on the role of the family in non-secular education, amongst other beliefs, so we may not read anything new, it may be an official word on things he has said and written before. There is a great expectancy surrounding this document, and a fair share of speculation as well.

According to quotes from Catholic Online: “This the most important test for this pope to show us how he deals with dissent in the Church, how he deals with divided issues,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian who directs the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic school in St. Paul. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “That document notably recommended a significant softening of the church’s practice toward those who have divorced and remarried.”

At the end of the Synod on the Family in the fall of 2015, the attending bishops wrote a summary document with the intention of advising him, and this document will be based on the synod’s final report, as in past synods. “We humbly ask the Holy Father to evaluate the opportunity of offering a document on the family, so that in it, the domestic church may ever more shine Christ, the light of the world,” the Oct. 24 report stated.

This document may just be a restating of the ideas and thoughts of the Bishops in his own words, or it may turn out to be a completely new document of his own writing. “The document will identify the current stresses on family life from poverty, migration, and war, as well as the hostile legal and cultural framework of contemporary Western society, which Francis calls ‘ideological colonization,'” stated Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh to ‘Our Sunday Visitor.’ “The exhortation will be an uplifting tribute to the enduring power and beauty of family life, offering support and consolation to those struggling against fierce contemporary headwinds to hold families together.”

In Pope Francis’ three years since having been elected to the papacy, he has been very outspoken on the role of Catholic education in the world and in the Church, and has particularly emphasised parent’s proper role as the primary educators of their children. He has been outspoken in the fact that non-secular schooling alone is not enough for children, that parents need to educate the children in the ways of the Catholic faith at home, as well. “It is your right to request an appropriate education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. As parents, you are the depositories of the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate your children, thus helping in a positive and constant way the task of the school.” Said Pope Francis.

“Taken as a whole, his statements centered on rebuilding a more ‘human’ education — relax the ‘rigidity’ of schools, reach out to the margins of society, decrease the emphasis on intellectual ‘selectivity’ that tends to exclude rather than invite participation, and open young hearts and minds to God,” wrote Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. He added that the comments by Pope Francis to the Vatican Congress “should not be construed as pulling the reins on evangelization in schools. Instead, we should celebrate Catholic education as the Church’s key means of evangelization, in human formation that invites the student to know, love and serve God.”

“The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness,” the Holy Father said when speaking to catechists and teachers in Uganda last December. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith.” He also does not limit this role to teachers, but also faculty and coaches who are in the lives of the children as well. “How important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged!” Said Pope Francis in May. “And how important it is that he be an example of faith! All of us, in life, are in need of educators; mature, wise and balanced persons that help us grow in the family, in study, in work, in the faith,” he added.

Questions about the leniency of divorced and remarried families receiving Holy Communion is expected to be addressed, as well as how the LGBT should be addressed, and during the Synods there had been a clear division of opinions in that regard. There was, however, a unified idea that families need to have an increased and renewed focus on the church from all involved at the Synods.

“I expect the papal document to be a typical Bergoglio combination of challenge and encouragement,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, using Francis’ family name, according to National Catholic Reporter. “This pope has a strange ability to say things which can be quite searing but end up being heartening.”

“If the pope can get the mix of encouragement and challenge right, he’ll be the unifier that Peter is meant to be, leading us beyond ideological dogfights and confirming us in the faith.”

Pope Francis’ addressing of the topics of divorced and remarried Catholics has become “the most important moment in the Church in the last 50 years. This was the biggest sign of hope that in the Catholic Church there are ideas, and we can talk about it. No one before Francis ever had the courage to think about that,” according to Faggioli.

Seven Characteristics of Effective Catholic School Leaders

As the Associate Superintendent for Leadership Formation in the Archdiocese of New York and a national consultant serving Catholic schools throughout the United States, I am often asked what makes an effective Catholic school leader. While I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I can proclaim that I have worked in thousands of Catholic schools in more than 120 of the Catholic dioceses throughout the United States and my observations are as follows:

 

All Effective Catholic School Leaders do these 7 things…

 

  1. Understand that the primary job of a Catholic school “and therefore the primary responsibility of the principal“ is to build disciples for Christ. Everything else is secondary.
  2.  Encourage parents to assume their role as the primary catechists of their children. Parents cannot outsource religious instruction to schools or parish religious education programs. For better or for worse, children will follow their parents’ example.
  3. Recognize that they are responsible for the spiritual formation of their staffs. This means more than just the occasional diocesan formation class; it means forming them through prayer, retreats, and spiritual reading, and inviting them to participate in the faith.
  4. Ensure that the catechetical textbooks and materials used in their school conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  5. Model an example of joyful faith and holiness to their staff, faculty, and students.
  6. Hold high expectations for all students, staff and families.
  7.  Create a climate hospitable to education and shape a vision of academic success for all students

Secular Criteria for Colleges Can’t Tell the Whole Story

With a recent article published by Newsmax on the top 40 Traditional Catholic and Jesuit Colleges in America, some debate has been raised on the topic of secular college standards versus faith being the defining factor in choosing a school. Managing editor of the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Adam Wilson, argues that a college’s Catholic identity should be of paramount concern.

 

“Students must weigh all options, including a school’s selection of majors, its location, post-graduation job success rate, class size, and student-to-faculty ratio.” Says Newmax, but then it also goes on to say that legacy and influence are subjective criteria compared to statistics like student retention rates. While these factors are great to take into consideration, do they accurately portray the Catholic structure of the college and the ideals that it espouses?

 

A Newsmax rep spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society to explain “that special consideration was given to “institutions that allow students to give back or care for others while growing spiritually,” but that they ultimately “wanted the list to feature exceptional institutions that ‘strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education.’” Only one of the universities in the Newsmax ratings is recommended by the Newman Society for its commitment to a faithful Catholic education. Georgetown University, on the Newsmax list as the number two top Catholic college has actually had a canon law petition filed against it due to the numerous Catholic identity abuses, demanding that the university either remove it’s Catholic affiliation or take significant steps to restore the Catholic identity it once held.

 

So where should you look to for a college that is based in spirituality but also hits the academic criteria desired for success of the students? Keeping in mind that it is not just a college of faith that is important, and if they adhere to what the Church envisions for Catholic universities, but also that the students will enroll in institutions that aim to strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education. The legwork here mainly falls to you. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has compiled a list of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States that gives you a base to jump of from, and everyone looking into a Catholic institution should read the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae. It is important that the institutions and bishops in the United States are understanding and using the application of that document to bring their identity in line with the Church’s vision. The only way you can know if the needs of the college are aligned with the needs of your family and your faith is to ask the important questions yourself. Class size and student retention, while important factors to consider, simply are not representative of the ideals of a college or it’s ability to nourish a student’s faith. Campus ministry and residence life, as well as the faculty and percentage of Catholic students in attendance are all integral to the process.

 

As Pope Benedict XVI addressed to Catholic educators in 2008 where the Holy Father stated that “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics.” Instead, Catholic identity “demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. In this way, our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society,” he continued. “They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others.’”

 

More Information on Catholic Education

steve-virgadamo-catholic-educationA Catholic school education provides young men and women with a strong religious presence of mind. With correct teachings, young men and women start to see a bigger picture in their life and focus their sites on where they want to be and how they can get there. A Catholic school education really does aid in the productive ability of today’s youth to make the correct choices by employing detailed information and looking to God.

Below you find more reasons that a Catholic school education is beneficial for students whether they are enrolled at a young age or look to a Catholic institution for their collegiate career. Enjoy and be sure to share!

1. Discipline:

At a Catholic school students learn to push themselves to what they believe their limit is and then over-achieve what they previously thought was possible. Catholic education provides students with all the necessary tools to allow them to explore their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Above all else though, students learn to not give up and find a solution to anything that stands in their way.

2. Learning About the Arts:

A proper Catholic education will expose young students to the wonders of the finer arts. Students will have the best opportunity to explore their interests in music, drama, theatre, and even more. Students will learn and be able to become involved in live features and expand their personal skills sets, further diversifying themselves for the next phases in their lives. A well-rounded student always makes a larger impact.

3. Achieving Personal Excellence:

Catholic schools promote a certain level of healthy personal competition. They allow students to push themselves and learn even more. Students are given all the opportunities possible to try new interests and become leaders. It is the duty of the student to share their knowledge with others and walk the correct path while promoting a healthy and religious lifestyle.

4. A Deeper Look at One’s Self:

While studying at a Catholic institution students are surrounded by a loving, accepting, and embracing atmosphere. There is never a shortage of people to talk to and bounce ideas off. The ability to discuss your feelings and invest in your future will allow you to further your learning and increase your self-worth. Both the administration and God are always there to listen.

5. Carrying the Weight of Catholic Identity:

A Catholic school education provides young men and women with all the tools to set them up for success. But how does the Catholic education system grow? The men and women who graduate and become valued alumni are the crux of expanding the Catholic faith and education ideals. These special men and women carry with them a level of responsibility to share their experiences with others and walk in the light of the lord.

 

I hope you enjoyed the article and please feel free to share!

-Steve Virgadamo