Reforging Catholic Identity

Strengthening and renewing the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges and universities is a critical concern on many Catholic campuses. Reflection and planning on the topic have become more focused as the number of religious men and women teaching in them has declined and as an earlier generation of Catholic scholars and teachers, largely trained in Catholic colleges and graduate schools, retires. Priests and religious have been replaced by a younger generation that includes far more women and is drawn from a wide range of religious traditions. In many cases before arriving at Saint Mary’s or Loyola, they have no more experience with Catholic education than with Tibetan Buddhism. In theology, they are more likely to be recruited from Yale and Chicago; in philosophy, from Brown and Pittsburgh; and in other disciplines, from better graduate schools across the country, in which sympathy for the Catholic tradition is usually minimal.

Concern about the increasingly secular character of Catholic colleges and universities is felt within the sponsoring religious communities, by alumni and parents, in diocesan offices, and at the Vatican. Efforts to deal with this concern in a realistic and effective way are part of the regular agenda of boards of directors and councils of deans. Every college president today understands that the refashioning of Catholic identity in a way that will be effective in a new social and...

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About the Author

John Langan, SJ, is the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University where he teaches ethics and international affairs in the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service.