The College of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More—which also goes by the nickname Fisher More College—has recently undergone a significant transformation, including an emphasis on traditional Catholicism and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, as well as accredited online courses that can be applied toward an undergraduate degree.
The small College, founded in 1981, had 40 students in 2013-2014, all of them Catholic. Now President Michael King is trying to enlarge the College, beginning with a new campus and a long-term goal of 250 students.
The recent addition of St. John Fisher as a patron signals a greater emphasis on spirituality, including the development of a residential campus where students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and traditional prayer.
The orientation is unique among Catholic colleges, and it has led to some disagreements about tradition and contemporary Catholicism; a professor’s criticisms of the Second Vatican Council last academic year provoked internal debate, and concerns prompted the chancellor and a professor to resign.
But Dr. King says the College does not question the validity of the Ordinary Form Mass and eagerly submits “with mind and will to the infallible teachings of the Church and Her ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
The curriculum still includes the classical liberal arts and the Great Books, but with much greater emphasis on philosophy and theology. The core requirements account for three-quarters of the credits required for graduation, including eight courses in theology and seven in philosophy. Students take a series of seminars on the interior life to support their spiritual development.
Also, whereas the College formerly awarded only degrees in liberal arts, now the College also offers concentrations and degree programs in classical studies, history, literature, philosophy, and theology. Fisher More is also seeking accreditation to award a degree in finance and economics.
The College is governed by an entirely lay board of trustees. President King was formerly at Benedictine College (Kansas) for 10 years as professor of finance and chairman of the business school, following several years as an entrepreneur, investment banker, and employee for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
Tuition is far below average private college tuition in Texas—and after scholarships, the average student pays even less. The College deliberately does not participate in the federal loan program, but it also is committed to helping students avoid private debt by providing generous scholarships and a work-study program.
All students study for a bachelor of arts in the liberal arts, but beyond the core required courses, students can opt for a general liberal arts degree (requiring eight additional courses approved by the dean) or a concentration. The requirements vary from five additional courses for theology, philosophy and literature, and six courses for history and classical studies.
The substantial core curriculum has a Catholic emphasis throughout, with eight foundational theology courses. The last required theology course is Catholic Social Teaching, which begins with the French Revolution and the papal teachings of that time, not the 1960s.
Theology electives include Mariology and Theology of the Roman Rite. This latter course studies the theology of traditional Roman liturgical prayers and structures—not only the Extraordinary Form Mass, but also the Breviary and papal liturgies.
Although Fisher More’s theology is faithfully Catholic, theology professors do not currently have the mandatum
to teach. The College hopes that all theology professors will have the mandatum
soon after a new bishop is installed in the Fort Worth diocese. The president of the College and all faculty take the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, as well as the Oath Against Modernism issued by Pope St. Pius X in 1910.
The seven required philosophy courses emphasize Thomistic philosophy. Fisher More does not begin theology courses until the sophomore year, following the traditional scholastic order of philosophy before theology. The sequence in the core curriculum is based on the tradition that theology presumes philosophy.
Whereas the College previously required four years of both Greek and Latin, Greek is no longer required but offered. Students have two semesters of Latin requirements, but those who do not pass the Latin placement exam may be required to take an additional two semesters of introductory and intermediate Latin.
Other core courses include six in literature, four in history, and one each in art, math, music, natural science, and rhetoric. Some courses are scheduled with an interdisciplinary approach; for instance, Ancient Greek and Roman History is taken at the same time as the literature course Epic 1, featuring Homer and Virgil. The Art and Civilization course looks not simply at paintings, but also architecture, churches, cities, and music. The course emphasizes the roots of art in all of the humanities, including theology, and in Western culture and Catholic Christendom.
Students are required to participate in weekly Spiritual Seminars, which are not for credit. These are one-hour seminars with a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), leading students into the interior life through mental prayer, Mass, Marian devotion, and other pious devotions.
Socratic dialogue is an important part of classes and seminars. The core curriculum begins for freshmen with Logic and Rhetoric, which prepares students for engaging in Socratic dialogue responsibly. In addition to the College, Fisher More operates its own classical high school on campus. It is considering opening an elementary school in the near future.
The College has a relatively strict dress code. For classes and in the chapel, men wear long pants (no jeans) and collared shirts with ties; women wear dresses or blouses with skirts, but no pants or shorts. Suits and dresses are worn at occasional formal college events. Leisure wear includes shirts with sleeves, and no shorts for the women.
College courses in the new Fisher More Online program are accredited and can be transferred to another institution or applied to a Fisher More degree. Students usually meet with their instructor and classmates for two live, interactive sessions each week. Students must have access to computers with internet and voice and video capability. The 2013-14 courses cover subjects in literature, philosophy, history, math, science, Latin and music.
Fisher More says that campus life is “centered around the Sacred Liturgy,” and the liturgy is very traditional.
“The College’s first goal is to foster true devotion and piety in our students through the liturgy and tradition of the Catholic Church,” explains the College. “All graces, even intellectual graces, flow to us from Christ our Lord and thus through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Hence, Fisher More is a place of spiritual formation and scholastic excellence.”
There is one Mass each day, including Sunday, and they are always celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. Nearly all the resident students attend Sunday Mass on campus, and nearly all attend daily Mass.
Confession is available 20 minutes before and after each Mass, except for the full hour allowed on Mondays. Students gather for communal prayer including daily morning prayer (Sext) chanted in Latin, a daily Rosary, the Angelus at noon, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Eucharistic Adoration each Friday.
The College has one full-time chaplain, Fr. Joseph Orlowski, FSSP. Masses are celebrated daily in a chapel located inside the College building that was built in 1907. After restoring the chapel to its original beauty—it hasn’t been used as a chapel for 25 years—the capacity should be about 250 people, with a choir loft and confessional.
Beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year, Fisher More is located in a new campus at the very large former Our Lady of Victory building in Fort Worth. The five-story, 76,000 square-foot building was built in 1909 and served as the provincial house for the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. The College plans to house 60 students immediately and up to 120 students within two years. Students will live in the top two floors, with men and women separated by east and west wings.
The building includes a chapel, classrooms, offices, a library, a refectory, and high school facilities. Initially the campus will occupy three acres, but the College hopes to acquire additional acres and build new facilities in the future.
Students who do not live locally with their parents are expected to live on campus. Visitation by students of the opposite sex is never allowed in the residences. Currently a coed student lounge is available from 9 a.m. until midnight for socialization.
The College does not allow alcohol on campus.
Fisher More is located in a residential neighborhood of southeast Fort Worth near Texas Christian University and near a few other small colleges. The city of 658,000 people has more than doubled its population since 1950, with a crime rate significantly above the national average but relatively low among large U.S. cities.
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is between the two cities, about 15 miles east. The Baylor All Saints Medical Center is two miles from campus.
The College has not in the past devoted substantial attention to student life outside the classroom, but that is changing. Fisher More has hired a Director of Student Life who organizes campouts, weekend outings, events, and spiritual activities such as Eucharistic Adoration.
Students, faculty, and staff gather together for a communal lunch each weekday. It often includes a spiritual reading.
There are no formal clubs, but some students work with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to help the poor and there are plans to begin a Legion of Mary apostolate for students. In addition, students help with teaching and organizing catechism classes, children’s choir, and training for altar servers.
The College sponsors occasional lectures and events, such as the 2012-2013 Year of Faith Lectures Series. It featured such speakers as Christopher Check of Catholic Answers, speaking on the Battle of Lepanto, and Dominican Father Thomas Joseph White on Marian theology. Actor and director Chuck Chalberg presented his biographical play on G.K. Chesterton.
The Fisher & More College Institute of Apologetics offers lectures to help Catholics to defend the Faith and expose error in other religions and world views. All lectures are presented by theology professor Karl Strauch.
Fort Worth boasts a number of cultural attractions, including theater, music, sports, a zoo, and a science center. The Kimball Art Museum is regarded as having one of the best collections in the world, including examples of modern architecture, and the Amon Carter Museum is noted for its displays of American art. There are many employment opportunities, including the headquarters of Lockheed Martin, American Airlines and Radio Shack. The city is home to several other colleges including Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University. Dallas is 30 minutes east and offers a number of additional activities and opportunities.
The College of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More is on the move with a revised curriculum, new campus, and plans for substantial growth. The College trusts in Divine Providence in all things, but it hopes to possess all the ingredients of success.
Fisher More’s attraction is clearly its strong curriculum with heavy emphasis on philosophy and theology. But Catholic families will also find a highly traditional liturgical and prayer life that is uncommon even among Newman Guide
colleges. The academics and spiritual life combine to provide a thoroughly Catholic experience that aspires to the higher things.