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Holy Spirit College in Atlanta Rises on the Two Wings of Faith and Reason
By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 19th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The missionary task we face requires the preparation of young men and women in the fullness of the authentic Catholic faith which only an authentically Catholic education can provide. That is why I am becoming a booster of this little Gem in the crown of Christ the King called Holy Spirit College.
ATLANTA, GA (Catholic Online) - As the beatification of the Venerable John Paul II draws near I have been reflecting on his monumental contributions. Those who read me know of my conviction concerning the role that the new and renewed Catholic Colleges and Universities have in the "New Evangelization". One of his great contributions was the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, From the Heart of the Church (Ex Corde Ecclesia). The sign of fidelity in a Catholic College is their embrace of this Apostolic Constitution.
I am deeply pained to read of "Catholic" Colleges which have lost their way. I am glad there are groups such as the Cardinal Newman Society to expose the all too frequent accounts of infidelity and shine the light of truth on these institutions. They call these erring institutions out of darkness and into the light. Some will turn and be authentically renewed. Some may not.
However, there are a growing number of authentically Catholic Colleges and Universities. They are among our greatest missionary resources. They are forming the "living stones" the Apostle Peter wrote of in his first letter to the dispersed Christians (1 Pet. 2:5) for the work of the Church in the Third Christian millennium. The men and women graduating from these Colleges will lead the West out of darkness and serve the new missionary age of the Catholic Church.
The missionary task we face requires the preparation of young men and women in the fullness of the authentic Catholic faith which only an authentically Catholic education can provide. That is why I am becoming a booster of this little Gem in the crown of Christ the King called Holy Spirit College. I recently spoke with the President of Holy Spirit College, Gareth N. Genner.
The occasion which prompted our conversation was the transfer of ownership of one of my favorite Catholic Book Publishers, Sophia Institute Press. Recently I went through the annual ritual of clearing my shelves of books in order to make room for more. As I packed the boxes, my dear wife of 35 years played the role which keeps me from being overwhelmed by books in my home office. We haggled over many books and, as usual, she won most of the disputes.
That was until I reached one of my all time favorite books, "Trojan Horse in the City of God" by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand. It was one of the beautifully presented classic Catholic books adorning my shelves published by Sophia Institute Press. I have kept it readily available for years. I refused to part with it because it is a regular reference. She didn't argue with me on that one. I wondered if it was partly due to its sheer aesthetic beauty. So, after that experience, when I read the Press release that Holy Spirit College and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts had purchased Sophia Institute Press I was pleased to discuss the news with Gareth Genner, the President of Holy Spirit College.
In the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities entitled "From the Heart of the Church (Ex Corde Ecclesia)" Blessed John Paul II explained the link between the New Evangelization and Catholic Colleges: "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."
Holy Spirit College lives, as this deacon tries to live, in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. It has a clear self understanding of its mission. Its undergraduate College will remain small in number and focus on preparing students for degrees which will be of direct service to the Church. In August 2010 the College admitted its inaugural cadre of full-time undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor of Philosophy Degree.
The students of Holy Spirit College pursue majors in Philosophy, Theology, and Catholic Education. They anticipate the addition of additional majors through a partnership with Ave Maria University. They have initiated a Masters of Theology Program and anticipate the development of additional graduate degrees of Master of Philosophy, Catholic Education, and Psychology. Long term, the College will offer a PhD in Theology. When that happens, I hope they consider a deacon for that faculty.
The emphasis on Philosophy places the College in the forefront of responding to the recent "Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy," which Pope Benedict XVI approved Jan. 28 (the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas). The emphasis on theology places it in the center of Ex Corde Ecclesia which reminds us, "Theology plays a particularly important role in the search for a synthesis of knowledge as well as in the dialogue between faith and reason. It serves all other disciplines in their search for meaning." (#19)
Holy Spirit College offers a classically oriented liberal arts curriculum understanding there is no dichotomy between "faith and reason". In Blessed John Paul's Encyclical Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio) he wrote "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."
Fidelity to the teaching office of the Catholic Church is the lifeblood of this College. President Genner told me the College is "loyal to the Magisterium and absolutely in step with the Holy Father", to which I responded with a hearty "Amen". He made a point of telling me that they reject the labels "liberal" and "conservative". It was music to my tired ears because so do I. For this College, as I have said for years, "Catholic is the Noun" and not simply an adjective.
A Catholic College must 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. A 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 describes Holy Spirit College. Its unique history has given it a very distinctive environment in which this Catholic culture flourishes. It was birthed from the vibrant Holy Spirit Parish in Atlanta and the wonderful Holy Spirit Preparatory School. They share the campus and together experience the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Patron of this wonderful Catholic community. The College enjoys dedicated facilities within the parish complex including college lecture theaters, a satellite library, a break room, and offices.
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