Catholic universities are “essential agents in the new evangelization,” and to “be what they are called to be,” they must rise to meet the challenge of providing students with a sound education in the faith, writes a Catholic priest.
Monsignor Stuart Swetland, who serves as the executive director of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, says that an “essential starting point for colleges and universities… is an explicit Christocentrism that is faithful to the teachings of Christ and his Church.”
He makes arguments in support of the idea that Catholic colleges should be about evangelization, in an article originally published in the National Catholic Register, and recently reprinted in The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He writes:
First, most of our colleges and universities are residential and therefore require a vibrant, faithful, focused pastoral ministry. Second, the research, teaching, and studying that is essential to the nature of a university stem from the innate desire in all of us to know and live in accordance with what is true… Third, every university recognizes its essential role in forming the next generation of intellectual and social leaders. But this commitment to service (in other words, one’s vocation in life) ultimately makes sense only if there is meaning and purpose to reality… Fourth, a university is the ideal place for forming disciples who can live completely integrated lives.
Msgr. Swetland believes that “every student (whether Catholic or not) who attends a Catholic college or university should be thoroughly familiar with the person of Jesus Christ and his teachings.” He says that these institutions need to “do more” for Catholic students:
We must afford the opportunity for our Catholic students to appropriate their faith on an adult level, making a personal commitment to an intimate, passionate relationship with Jesus and his community, the Church. They should have a working knowledge of at least the basics of Church teaching, as compiled in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. God willing, they will go beyond the basics to begin to live a life of theological study and prayer that will deepen their faith and commitment.
Msgr. Swetland offers practical tips for Catholic colleges to form graduates who are apostles of Christ. He says that many colleges will require more “agents of evangelization” than are currently on campus, and so he encourages recruiting and training other young adults to help form their peers in the faith. Additionally, Catholic colleges need to offer “remedial” training in catechetics for students who are unprepared for learning more about the faith.
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