Catholic Identity in a University
7 November 1997
onika Hellwig, executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, had a facetious suggestion to a persistent question during a lecture Nov. 5 at The Catholic University of America: "Why should Catholic universities exist at all? Why, for instance, not have superb Newman Centers on secular campuses?"
Hellwig, who has a long and distinguished career as a leader in Catholic education, said that while all universities are charged with advancing scholarship and sharing knowledge, "a religious university does these things, relating everything to ultimate concerns with the understanding that Jesus Christ is the key to it. "
"A Catholic university, " she added, "does all this out of the particular resources of our tradition. . . with a passionate conviction based on the continuity of faith and reason. "
Hellwig, who earned a M.A. in 1956 and a Ph.D. in 1968 from Catholic University, said that the problems facing Catholic universities include "enormous expense and sacrifices by parents, the exhaustion of presidents who are constantly trying to raise money, the difficulty of competing for resources, and the fact that faculty make quite a sacrifice in salary to teach at our institutions."
What should a Catholic university be like? she asked.
"It needs to have a traditional affiliation with the Catholic community, Catholic teaching, Catholic experience, Catholic worship, Catholic tradition and needs to have a traditional affiliation which is acknowledged and cherished now," she said. "There has to be a visible, tangible presence of Christian faith and life on campus."
The lecture was co-sponsored by Catholic University's Department of Religion and Religious Education and the Life Cycle Institute.
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Revised: 7 November 1997
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