On many campuses throughout the country God has been unceremoniously evicted in an effort to completely alienate faith from knowledge. But one organization is attempting to buck that trend by establishing Catholic dormitories on the campuses of secular universities.
The Newman Student Housing Fund recently announced that the Florida Institute of Technology will soon be home to a 150-bed dorm primarily for Catholic students interested in living in a faith-filled environment.
While the idea is certainly great news, it’s not completely unique. In fact, this is the second recent announcement of a Catholic dorm being constructed on a secular campus by the NSHF as work is already underway at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center, which will include a dormitory for 280 students and a chapel.
And these two dorms will be similar to Newman Hall, a 600 bed facility, which already exists directly adjacent to the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Newman Hall was created with the help of funds raised by the Zerrusen family, which later founded NSHF.
Matt Zerrusen, President of the NSHF, told The Cardinal Newman Society that he helped organize these efforts in order to provide students with “a faith-based living environment.”
He added that, of course, vocations would be a welcome benefit as well.
Father Douglas Bailey, chaplain of Catholic campus ministry at FIT, told The Cardinal Newman Society he was excited about the dormitory. “It’s a great way to bring God back to the university,” he said.
Fr. Bailey said that sometimes it’s difficult for students to retain their faith without a support network. This dorm, he says, provides support for students interested in deepening their faith.
“For too many, college is the time where they forego their religious beliefs and immerse themselves in the experience of college life,” said Fr. Bailey. “Their faith gets put on hold, never to be regained in many cases.”
“College is not a break,” he said, but an opportunity to establish a foundation for a lifelong deepening faith.
“So many students lose their faith during their college years,” agreed Zerrusen. “Hopefully this will help to change that.”
Zerrusen said that being a Catholic is not mandatory for living in the dorm. In fact, he believes the dormitories could also be a great evangelization opportunity. And males and females will either be in separate buildings or separate floors with key codes that don’t allow visitors after hours.
“We’re trying to give the students a positive environment,” he said. “A lot of dorms just pop open their doors and it’s a party.”
“We’re hoping to give students a chance to succeed,” he said. “Put them in a place where they can make good decisions.”
Zerrusen said he’d like to see more dormitories like these on secular campuses in the future.
Such secular/Catholic partnerships are even making their way into the classroom on at least one secular campus. Last year, the University of Mary and Arizona State University — the nation’s largest undergraduate institution —entered into a unique private-public partnership that provides an opportunity for ASU students to take courses from U-Mary in theology or Catholic studies as a complement to their ASU degree.
U-Mary President Father James Shea told The Cardinal Newman Society at the time that this is a “unique way for us to bring Catholic education to Arizona in a vibrant and faithful way.”
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