Catholic identity must become the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. When it does, the building of a Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit. Holy Spirit College is responding to the Lord's invitation to build such a College in Atlanta, Georgia.
President Gareth N. Genner of Holy Spirit College in Atlanta, Georgia
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - Catholic Colleges and Universities are an indispensable missionary resource for the New Evangelization. The task we face in the West requires the solid preparation of young men and women, fully formed in the fullness of faith and equipped with the excellence which an only an authentically Catholic education can provide. That is why I am pleased to write about Catholic Colleges and Universities which are worthy of the name.
In the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, From the Heart of the Church (Ex Corde Ecclesia) the Venerable John Paul II explained the vital link between the mission of the New Evangelization and authentically Catholic Colleges and Universities. He wrote, "By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church's work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown.
"Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language. ..Precisely because it is more and more conscious of its salvific mission in this world, the Church wants to have these centers closely connected with it; it wants to have them present and operative in spreading the authentic message of Christ. (# 48 and 49)
Catholic identity at a Catholic College requires that the academic community understand its ecclesial nature. In an institution, just as in persons, this identity begins from the inside and works its way throughout like leaven or yeast in a loaf. Catholic identity must become the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. When it does, the building of a Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit.
This kind of Catholic culture ensures the integration of the faith in every aspect of the academy, through both word and witness. Such a Catholic culture flourishes when all who are involved in this educational mission, from the Catholic College President to the Professor in the classroom, first view themselves as disciples, lifelong learners, followers of the Teacher, Jesus Christ. This kind of response is always lived within His Body, the Church, into which they have been incorporated through Baptism. That Church is by its very nature, a teacher, and they participate in her educational mission.
After all, the Catholic College is not a private College with a church affiliation. It is a Catholic College.
In his masterful letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to a ".renewal of their minds". (Romans 12:2) This renewal of the mind is the essence of Catholic education. It affirms that there is a constitutive connection between truth, freedom, education and the ability to form an authentically human and just culture.
Pope Benedict XVI's regular references to the prevailing ".dictatorship of relativism" underscores the deep concern that Holy See has concerning the current challenge facing the West. The commitment to the existence of an objective truth which can be known and the formation of men and women in that truth for the sake of service, characterizes the Catholic educational mission. The Venerable John Paul's Encyclical Letter "The Splendor of Truth" (Veritatis Splendor) provides a synthesis of the Church's teaching on our capacity to grasp truth's existence, be formed by it and live in it for the sake of others.
It is the Church which is vested with Christ's authority to teach the truth. Catholic Colleges are an extension of this teaching work of the Catholic Church. In the words of the great Western Bishop Augustine: "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church."
The Risen Christ still teaches. Through His Church He continues to influence all of human culture. Thus, at the forefront of the mission of the Catholic Church is the education of the next generation of Catholic men and women. It is Christ the Teacher who teaches His children in the Catholic College. In an address to educators in 1979 John Paul proclaimed "Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others."
Catholic education exists to put students in touch with the source of all Truth and Beauty, Jesus Christ. For example, instruction in the sciences, though certainly pursuing and utilizing all available methods for scientific inquiry, should present that science is to be at the service of truth, the dignity of the human person from conception until natural death, marriage, the family and the common good. Math should be presented as a language with which we are enabled to plumb the depth and beauty of God's creation.
At a Catholic College students should be introduced to the masters, the great classics of Western Civilization. They should discover the rich tapestry of art found in the heart of the Church and come to understand that the Church has birthed some of the greatest artists in human history precisely because she reveals God the Divine artist. Students at a Catholic College should not just read about Aristotle, or Plato, or Saint Thomas Aquinas but actually read these great teachers who informed the foundation of Western Civilization.
Catholic Colleges should stretch students academically, promoting excellence and not minimalism. In an authentically Catholic educational philosophy there is no dichotomy between "faith and reason" or faith and intellectual excellence. In one of the encyclical letters of the Venerable John Paul II, Faith and Reason (Fides et ratio) he expressed this unity so clearly: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth-in a word, to know himself-so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."
Recently I discovered another authentically Catholic College which has been raised up by the Holy Spirit to take its place in this vital mission. This new College is located in Atlanta, Georgia and is appropriately named Holy Spirit College. It has taken the above quotation from "Faith and Reason" as a part of its own self description. It seeks to respond to the challenge of the Church to build an authentically Catholic College in complete fidelity to the Magisterium. Its educational motto is particularly compelling to me "Catholic, Classical, Complete".I encourage our readers to visit its web site here. The following description of its mission is taken from that site:
About Holy Spirit College
Holy Spirit College is an independent, authentic Catholic liberal arts college governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees and supported by a distinguished Academic Advisory Board. Holy Spirit College is not affiliated with any religious order or congregation. Holy Spirit College (HSC) was founded in 2005 as an undergraduate college offering courses in the Liberal Arts to students enrolled at Holy Spirit Preparatory School. Graduates of those courses have gone on to study at many of the finest undergraduate institutions in the United States including Harvard, The University of Notre Dame, Emory University, Vanderbilt University and The Naval and Air Force Academies.
In 2009, Holy Spirit College was authorized by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission (GNPEC) to offer both a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) Degree in addition to the Associate of the Arts Degree in Liberal Arts (A.A.). HSC is preaccredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE). Spring 2010 was a time of growth and structuring of the HSC program as we entered into an articulation agreement with Ave Maria University, adopting their core curriculum to allow for students attending HSC during the freshman/sophomore years to transfer to Ave Maria to complete a major not offered at HSC. With the finalization of the articulation agreement, formal expansion of program offerings began July 1, 2010.
In August 2010, in addition to its dual credit students from Holy Spirit Preparatory School, the college admitted its inaugural cadre of full-time undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor of Philosophy Degree. These students were offered majors in Philosophy, Theology, and Catholic Education as well as the opportunity to complete additional majors through our partnership with Ave Maria University.
The college expects to initiate a Masters of Theology Program (subject to GNPEC approval) in Spring 2011. Subsequent years anticipate the development of additional graduate degrees of Master of Philosophy, Catholic Education, and Psychology.
Holy Spirit College is blessed with a beautiful and mature campus setting that is shared with both Holy Spirit Parish and Holy Spirit Prep. The college enjoys dedicated facilities within the parish complex including college lecture theaters, a satellite library, a break room, and offices. A student common room with study, dining and relaxation areas is located in the nearby Commons Building and accessed by college students only via an entry key code. The newly created Alternate Energy Center provides an avenue for environmental science labs and research.
I have contacted the President of Holy Spirit College, Gareth N. Genner and the Chair of the Faculty of Theology, Father Paul Burke. I hope to visit the campus in the future and interview them both. I will keep our readers informed. In the meantime, let's pray for Holy Spirit College and all of the other Catholic Colleges and Universities doing the vital work of preparing the missionaries for the New Evangelization.
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