Promote Catholic Higher Education

St. Benedict Hall at Benedictine College. St. Benedict Hall at Benedictine College.

My experience has convinced me that projects like the Gregorian Institute are key to the future of the Church. If you want to change lives forever, you have to reach them in college. And if you want to change a culture, you have to renew the universities.

I had stopped practicing my faith 25 years ago when I happened into the Great Books institute that Father Joseph Fessio started in San Francisco. The institute changed that. By reading the greatest thinkers in history, we learned that truth was knowable, that human choices have eternal consequences, and that the exciting intellectual fads of our time were neither new nor freeing.

I and many others returned to the sacraments. And once we returned, our faith wasn’t just a private thing. We tried to find positive ways to make it reach the world. I met a network of alumni from my institute and schools like it in Washington, D.C., where I became a congressional press secretary, and in the Catholic press, where I became executive editor of the National Catholic Register. I couldn’t have done either without them.

For years, my wife urged me to look for work in higher education. Finally, in 2009 I did. I had read all about Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in the Register.

  • Benedictine College was a “real college,” 150 years old, with football, basketball, and other varsity sports, and a beautiful collegiate campus. Starting in 1990, the year Pope John Paul II promulgated his apostolic constitution for higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Benedictine had renewed itself from the ground up, in a return to the school’s roots that started with the Theology and Philosophy departments, and with the students.
  • Benedictine College prides itself on being “the Flagship College of the New Evangelization.” The college was the birthplace of FOCUS. It sends more students from further away to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., than any other university. The campus offers perpetual adoration, four daily Masses and daily confession. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann comes to campus to receive students into the fullness of the faith (16 this year), to send off students who are entering religious life (12 this year), and to discuss Catholic identity issues with our senior Theology and Philosophy majors.

So I started working at Benedictine College, teaching in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department, publishing articles as Writer in Residence for the school, and editing The Gregorian speech digest and blog.

With the Gregorian Institute, the school is engaged in the intellectual and moral battles of our time, equipping Catholic leaders with the kind of in-depth formation that is so vital, and that only higher education can provide.

A few examples of speeches we have shared in The Gregorian:

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who edited the Catechism, chose Benedictine College to deliver his speech about faith and science: “Pope Benedict, Regensburg, and the Controversy of Creation and Evolution.”

Gov. Sam Brownback, Governor of Kansas, gave a moving testimony of how Mother Teresa’s fearless living of her Catholic identity in public life changed his life, helping bring him into the Catholic Church.

Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. came to Benedictine College fresh from a CNN debate with Stephen Hawking, and showed how “it is both reasonable and responsible to believe on the basis of physics that there is a very powerful and intelligent being that caused our universe to exist as a whole.”

Dr. Robert George delivered his speech “The Life of Faith and the Moral Life” on campus, challenging students: “Perhaps Christ is looking at you or me, with love, and asking us to put at risk our reputations or prospects for career advancement.”

George Weigel delivered his speech “Defending Religious Freedom in Full: A Generation’s Challenge,” saying, “If religiously informed moral argument is banned from the American public square, then the public square has become, not only naked, but undemocratic and intolerant.”

Future editions of The Gregorian will feature speeches by Barbara Nicolosi, who brings Catholic truths to Hollywood, and Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, the Catholic scholar who was featured on “Oprah.”

The Gregorian website is a kind of companion to The Gregorian. Launched on Sept. 3, 2011, the feast of St. Gregory the Great, the website was writing about the contraception mandate when it was a threat, not a storm — and we even scored some scoops.

  • We reported how Benedictine College’s three principal officers — the president, dean and chief financial officer — all registered formal protests in Washington before the new regulation took its final shape.
  • We were the only Catholic source to report on the U.S. bishop’ full-page ads at Christmas that tried to head off the mandate. Benedictine’s president was a signatory on those ads.
  • When the editor of Benedictine College’s student newspaper reported that a non-Catholic Christian college was suing the Obama administration, her report was picked up us and by Fox News.

The excellent journalism and commentary on the Gregorian website has received national notice.

  • A national magazine plans to publish a Gregorian blog post, “How the Church Fathers Can help Us Engage the Culture for Christ.” The post is by Benedictine College’s Dr. Jamie Blosser, a Patristics expert and theologian previously with the U.S. bishops.
  • “Engaging the Public Square: Six Principles From Scripture,” by Benedictine College’s Vaughn Kohler, doubled as a National Catholic Register article.
  • Our weblog writers have included Notre Dame’s Brad S. Gregory, former  Protestant pastor and scholar, Ron Ratliff, and we have featured original speeches by FOCUS founder Curtis Martin and theologian and author Dr. Ted Sri.

We are promoting Catholic academia in The Gregorian speech digest and the Gregorian website by taking the best of Catholic higher education, and providing it free to as many people as we can. There are many ways to support Catholic colleges and universities. By supporting the Gregorian Institute, you can target your support to promoting Catholic identity in public life.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.