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Catholic College and Universities

Loras gets $10 million


A fundraiser’s fantasy came true this past spring at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. An alumnus and his wife -- who wish to stay anonymous -- gave the small, diocesan liberal arts college $10 million to found a Catholic Studies Center.

Loras has been talking about such a center for six years. The grant will allow Loras to create a diverse operation with a community component as well as an academic program that will tie the college more directly into the Dubuque archdiocese, said John Waldmier, associate academic dean.

Dubuque’s archbishop, Jerome Hanus, is Loras’ chancellor and holds one vote on its board. He also appoints the eight diocesan priests who serve at the college.

Five years ago Loras inaugurated its Pastoral Education Graduate Studies program, anticipating 30 to 35 candidates by 1998. Instead, it has almost 75 enrollees, noted the college’s fundraiser, James Collins, who sits on the archdiocesan education board. Collins said that the archdiocese “desperately needs certificate programs in church finance, music ministry -- even parenting. We require 60 credits of an accounting major, but none to be a parent,” he said.

One thing Loras will not do with the $10 million is to erect a new building. Ample space already exists. Loras will, however, establish a Chair for Catholic Thought, available to Loras faculty, and it will also bring in prominent theologians for a semester. Loras will also explore using the Iowa Communications Network for transmitting its programs for lay education around the region.

Waldmier said he’s heard talk on campus that changes in the Catholic church in the 21st century -- new models for parishes, ministry and governance -- will begin first in the Midwest and only later spread to the coasts. That’s why he believes that centers for Catholic Studies at Loras and at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul will become influential.

Loras hopes to link study with service. Already students who work in Appalachia over Thanksgiving vacation and those who volunteer to go to Central America during the summer recess coordinate their projects with members of the social work and religious studies departments.

Early in the exploratory process for a center, Loras faculty, staff and administrators received copies of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on higher education. “It’s taken very seriously here and comes up often at meetings,” Collins said. Most recently, some educators wanted to know how to address the college’s largely merit-based financial aid awards in light of Ex Corde. The archdiocese’s 215,000 Catholics include many rural poor and Hispanics who would benefit from need-based awards.

National Catholic Reporter, October 16, 1998