News Analysis

How US Catholic colleges help students discern

Praying at Steubenville (CNS)

This year, the US bishops’ annual report on new ordinands to the priesthood identifies Catholic colleges having the most ordinands among their alumni.

Of the 67 priests whose colleges were identified, 22 attended colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College: Franciscan University of Steubenville (9) in Steubenville, Ohio; University of Dallas (5) in Irving, Texas; the Catholic University of America (5) in Washington, DC; and Christendom College (3) in Front Royal, Virginia. If this is adjusted for colleges’ total enrolment, graduates of Newman Guide colleges were four times more likely to be ordained priests.

These Catholic colleges are doing something right. The Franciscan University of Steubenville offers a priestly discernment programme, and more than 700 graduates have become bishops, priests and religious Brothers and Sisters. The University of Dallas has 11 alumni who later became bishops, and the Catholic University of America has several alumni who later became archbishops.

Christendom College provides loan forgiveness for students who enter religious orders and take final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In its 40-year history, with an enrolment of about 500 students, the College has helped foster more than 160 religious vocations, including 90 to the priesthood.

One new college seminary is purposely being built just down the road from a faithful Catholic college. In the Diocese of Charlotte, construction for the new St Joseph College Seminary is underway just minutes from Belmont Abbey College. With more than 30 young men already in formation, the college seminarians are benefitting from the abbey’s strong core curriculum, philosophy courses and spiritual offerings on campus.

For so many alumni of faithful Catholic colleges, “community” is cited as one of the key elements that helped them to discern their vocation. By being surrounded by faith-filled friends and leaders on campus, students are encouraged in spending some of their most formative years discerning what God is asking of them.

Kelly Salomon is director of Newman Guide programmes at The Cardinal Newman Society