Representatives from dozens of Catholic colleges and universities worldwide gathered at Franciscan University of Steubenville to dialogue about the purpose and identity of Catholic higher education.
College presidents, administrators, and faculty shared their visions and aspirations for Catholic education, April 19-22.
Archbishop Michael Miller, who is the secretary for the Congregation of Catholic Education in Rome, delivered the inaugural Henkels Lecture.
In his lecture, Archbishop Miller spoke about the need to strengthen and maintain Catholic identity within Catholic institutions of higher learning. Addressing the neglected norms of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II's 1990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic higher education, he objected to the "bleaching" of Catholic identity.
"Some institutions have ignored, hidden, or lost their ecclesial identity," he noted.
To correct that problem, Archbishop Miller urged schools to adopt quantifiable measures of assessment for their Catholicity. He recommended that schools ensure that a majority of the faculty are Catholic, that all scholarship and research are in accord with Catholic teaching, and that the schools' theologians obtain a Mandatum from their bishop, guaranteeing that all they teach is in conformity with the Church.
Fr. Michael Garanzini, SJ, president of Loyola University in Chicago, spoke on Friday about the obstacles Catholic colleges and universities encounter when attempting to strengthen their identity, the challenges of integration and the need for service as a component of that identity.
On Saturday morning, Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, president of the University of Notre Dame, addressed the importance of the intellectual life on the Catholic university campus and the need to facilitate a dialogue between faith and reason.
"What are the implications of God's law for society, for the moral life, for music, for literature, architecture, economic life, political life, and so on?" Fr. Jenkins asked. "These are questions that should animate the life of the Catholic university."
European Parliament Vice President Mario Mauro on Sunday delivered the closing address. He asserted that Catholic universities must show man "the meaning of his life and teach him how to be human."
"We have tried to get by in education with giving all the information, except the information that matters most, information about meaning,” he said. “The results are in front of us: invincible boredom, an incapacity for true interests. What students really need is to be introduced to the totality of reality and to be shown its relevance to their life."
For the next several years, the Franciscan University at Steubenville will devote the spring Henkels Lecture to the topic of Catholic higher education.