Several Catholic colleges especially effective in fostering vocations

A student talking to sisters at a vocation fair at Franciscan University
A student talking to sisters at a vocation fair at Franciscan University


During this National Vocation Awareness Week, the Cardinal Newman Society reports that several Catholic colleges have had “notable success” in fostering vocations among their students.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a nonprofit organization committed to the renewal of Catholic higher education, is highlighting the vocational efforts of several colleges, which are also profiled in its book “The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.”

The CNS attributes the schools’ successes to several factors, which include formal vocation programs, a robust campus ministry, or a faithful learning environment which emphasizes the Catholic intellectual tradition.

At Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, 11 percent of graduates since its founding in 1971 have reportedly entered religious life. In 2007, university president Thomas E. Dillon attributed this flourishing to Catholic fidelity, the school’s academic program, its chaplains, the lay witness at the college and a supportive student body.

The 35-year-old Magdalen College, based in Warner, New Hampshire, has seen about ten percent of its graduates enter religious life. In addition to receiving a liberal arts degree, most of its graduates receive a Vatican-approved catechetical diploma.

“Magdalen sees that the pursuit of wisdom is incomplete without the corresponding pursuit of holiness,” said Magdalen President Jeffrey J. Karls. “This emphasis in the program, embodied in the lives of the college’s faculty and staff, encourages students to genuinely discern God’s will for them.”

Students’ common life and mutual influence, in Karls’ view, provides “great preparation for the pursuit and fulfillment of the religious and priestly vocations.”

Christendom College, located in Fort Royal, Virginia, claims 54 graduates ordained to the priesthood and another 60 men and women who have entered religious life. The college has an annual discernment weekend, whose 2008 event was attended by Bishop of Arlington Paul Loverde.

The small liberal arts college also provides opportunities for students to discuss vocations with chaplains or to participate in discernment through St. Philip Neri Oratory.

Both Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida sponsor pre-theologate programs for men discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. This year Franciscan University has 56 men in its program, while Ave Maria has about 30.

According to CNS, Ave Maria has a unique Women’s Discernment Program designed to help young women discern vocations to the religious, married and consecrated life. The residential program, which this year has some 20 women, is run by the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a new apostolic movement.

Director of campus ministry at Ave Maria Father Robert M. Garrity commented on the vocations, saying:

“Simply put, in Newman’s terms, there is a ‘Springtime’ happening in the Church, in which many young people want to do God’s will.  We pray for all of our young people, that they will be open to God’s call in their lives, whether the call is to priesthood or religious life, or to holy matrimony, or to the single life of service.”

Joseph A. Esposito, director of CNS’s Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, made general comments:

“These are some examples of the great work being done on faithful Catholic campuses to provide a new generation of priests and other religious.  These colleges take seriously their relationship with the Church and joyfully promote and evangelize the Catholic faith.”

Esposito said he hoped the successful vocations work at these colleges will inspire “an even greater commitment among the nation’s Catholic colleges and universities.”

National Vocation Awareness Week lasts from January 11 to January 17.

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