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Catholic Colleges and Universities

Catholic campuses draw on faith

If you take the rich resources of religion and spirituality out of the educational enterprise, something is missing. That’s why Catholic campuses play key roles in the education of our nation.

“In Catholic colleges there is concerted effort to bring the religious dimension into the curriculum and into extracurricular activities as well,” Tracy Schier, associate director of the Institute for Administrators in Catholic Higher Education, told reporters. She was speaking on the occasion of the first annual gathering of the institute at Boston College in July.

Presidents, vice-presidents, provosts and deans from 22 Catholic colleges and universities participated in this one-week institute, which afforded senior leaders opportunities to explore the principles and traditions that shape and sustain Catholic higher education and to examine the ways in which they affect governance, curriculum and student development.

These leaders came to Boston “hungry for opportunities to deepen their understanding of the complex issues facing their institutions in this time of transition -- and to come away with practical ideas to implement on their home campuses,” Schier said. Topics discussed at the gathering included: religious and lay leadership in Catholic higher education; implementing Catholicism’s communitarian vision; the Catholic college in the service of the community; the Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae; and others.

Schier wants Catholic colleges and universities to continue to flourish. “In my view, the role of Catholic institutions should be to produce human beings who have a faith dimension to their lives, and who don’t buy totally into the culture of ‘me, me, me!’ That’s the Christian tradition: faith, justice and compassion.”

In this special issue, NCR surveys the Catholic college and university landscape. We report on the mood of students and the way Catholic campuses responded in the wake of the events of Sept. 11. We take a look at the present status of the mandatum, the official stamp of approval for theology teachers on Catholic campuses, generated by the Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae. We look at the introduction of the study of spirituality and religious issues in course work leading to degrees in social work and nursing at Loyola University in Chicago and a new initiative at the University of Dayton in Ohio that offers education on the Internet for diocesan catechists and others seeking formation in their faith.

-- Rich Heffern

National Catholic Reporter, September 28, 2001