Catholic Universities are not just for Catholics, says Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda, rector of the Gregorian University. Catholic Universities must offer the Truth to anybody who seeks it, whether Catholic or non-Catholic. Catholic education is aimed “to all men and women who wish to receive an integral education for the development of a free and responsible personality.”
This is something that hits home for me. Being involved in Catholic education (although not at the University level), I know the struggles to reach out to non-Catholics while maintaining a strong Catholic identity. Some (perhaps most) schools that are seeing their non-Catholic enrollment rise aren’t doing a good job of keeping their Catholic identity, that is for sure, but that does not mean it is not possible. I think if we are doing the right things, our schools can be places that are thoroughly Catholic, yet that also attract truth seeking young men and women. In a way, we should be glad that our schools are seeing more non-Catholic kids. I mean, heck, we need young people in the Church. And I am not saying this as one who believes we should water-down our faith and worship to “attract youth”; rather I say this as someone who would rather see more baptisms than funerals at my local parish. Jesus does not wish to see anybody lost, and we have a chance to seriously evangelize and catechize students who may yearn for the Truth, and yet not know where to seek it. And if students don’t have a yearning for the Truth? Then, it is our job to help foster a search for the Truth among Cath0lics and non-Catholics. Is this a lot of work? Yes, perhaps, but 12 men going out to spread the good news across the known world was a little daunting as well!
I know firsthand the progress I see in non-Catholic students and parents. When someone dismisses these students and parents out-of-hand, or suggests they don’t deserve to be at a Catholic school, I have to stand up against this.
I know the responses I may hear: “but David, Catholic schools and Universities aren’t doing this; they are just becoming less and less non-Catholic with every non-Catholic kid…why bother?” My answer would be “what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?” I have to remind some of my Catholic friends, as Nicene Hobbit has pointed out to me before, that the opposite of misuses is correct use, not necessarily disuse. Just because Catholic Universities and schools may not be doing very well at educating non-Catholic (and Catholics!) in the Faith doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea.