Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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A Tale of Two Catholic Colleges

Catholic author John Burger wrote a chapter of a new book, edited by Philip Lawler, entitled When Faith Goes Viral in which he discusses the new evangelization, what works and what hasn’t.

Starting his chapter called “Reaching the Hearts of College Students,” Burger contrasts two colleges.

Here is a tale of two colleges:

Campus A is a modest, static and stable Midwestern Catholic college with about 750 students, who come from not too far away to study things like biology and education. The party scene is strong, with rampant “binge drinking” and a significant “hook-up culture.” Incoming freshmen are greeted with a “kegger,” an event that consistently draws some 400 students year after year. The school’s Catholic roots go back almost 150 years. Members of the religious order that founded the school still have a presence. But there’s no tmuch going on in the way of campus ministry, and while students imbibe the good life at house parties throughout the year, daily Mass on campus attracts only a dozen or so worshipers.

Campus B is a growing college with more than 1,700 students that is rediscovering its Catholic roots. The school has embraced Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s roadmap for truly Catholic higher education.Administrators have promised (and planned) to make the school “one of the great Catholic colleges in America” by focusing on not only academic excellence but also a “thriving faith life.” The spiritual side of that equation is already in full play. The student population is 80 percent Catholic. There are almost 100 Bible-study groups on campus, drawing some 600 willing students. Daily Mass attracts about 400 attendees, Sunday Mass some 1,400. Hundreds attend Eucharistic adoration, which is available 12 hours a day, five days a week on campus and 24/7 at a nearby parish. A major Catholic student organization hosts a luau at the beginning of each year, and although no alcohol is served, the event is well attended. So are many other alcohol-free events throughout the year. Although enrollment has been growing, the number of student disciplinary cases has been dropping. Students hail from some three dozen states, attracted not only by the college’s particular academic strengths but also its Catholic identity. Campus ministry is active, with plenty of volunteer opportunities.Many students spend their vacations on mission trips to places like Iraq,Haiti, West Africa, and the inner city of New York. Every January 22, some 260students take an 18-hour bus trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life.

Where are these two contrasting colleges? They're in the exact same place: Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Campus A describes the school in the late 1990s; Campus B describes it today.

Much of the credit for this transformation, according to Burger, goes to The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) which was created at Benedictine College.

“A good part of the Benedictine revolution was started and led by a student organization: the Fellowship of Catholic University Students(FOCUS),” wrote Burger. “Benedictine College is where FOCUS had its start in1998, and while FOCUS has had an impact on thousands of young men and women at dozens of colleges, Benedictine’s transformation was among its first fruits.”

Please read Burger’s entire chapter, courtesy of Catholic Culture.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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