Friday, September 30, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am
QUESTION: My son is a senior in high school and will be making a final decision about college very soon. My husband and I want a Catholic college for him, but he prefers a state school. What do you think?
ANSWER: The Book of Genesis reminds us that even Jesus “grew steadily in wisdom and age and grace” (Luke 2:52). Unfortunately, our culture too often understands “growth” as gaining marketable skills or making the right connections. But for the Christian, it must be different. The growth of the whole person (body, mind and spirit) is a personal obligation of each individual before the Creator. But before a young person is able to take up that task, it belongs to the parents. They are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.
As college approaches, a young person prepares to leave home, likely for the first time. Parents know that moment as a leap of faith. Did all that they tried to convey really sink in? How will their son or daughter live their Catholic faith away from home? For the young person, they too prepare to take up the responsibility of a faith life outside the home. Such a time can be very challenging and even painful for parents and children, but it is inevitable.
Questions about schools are best posed in that context. There are the obvious questions about a school that will best fit the intellectual capacities of a young person. Then there is the question of where will be the best context for growth in “wisdom, age and grace?”
The Vatican agency responsible for Catholic education (in “The Catholic School,” a document published March 19, 1977) said: “Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school.” It goes on to say: The Catholic school is committed to the development of the whole person. Its aim is the critical communication of human culture and the total formation of the individual (articles 34-36).
Despite that, the Catholic college or university can only provide opportunities for the students. They must choose to make use of them or not. And it must be admitted that opportunities for such growth are not limited to Catholic schools. This means that real growth can always be found for those who really want it.
In the end, whatever school a student chooses will only be as good for their full growth as they allow it to be. Catholic schools provide an atmosphere and context where faith is in the forefront. The school’s leadership is charged with providing a context where Catholic faith is taught, fostered and respected. Campus ministry is provided as a valued aspect of the school’s life. At most secular schools, some form of campus ministry also can be found.
But often college students find a source of strength in their faith not on campus but in a nearby parish, where what they experienced at home is continued. Ultimately, the life of faith is a journey, but each person has to choose to walk it.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.