Category Archives: Catholic Higher Education

World’s “Oldest” Catholic university to reconsider “Catholic” identity

The Catholic University of Lueven, founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V is said to be entering into a process to re-consider their Catholic identity, even to the point of removing the adjective “Catholic” from their title, a news item on the Cardinal Newman Society’s webpage said, reporting a Brussels-based news article on October 7.

The university’s rector Mark Waer, 59, a trained physican and medical researcher in nephrology and immunology, has reportedly said, “The Catholic message is not appropriate for the university…” after the criticism from Catholics about the granting of the Nobel Prize to the instigator of IVF technology. Waer only began his term as rector of the university in 2009.

The University’s mission statement can be read here.

Ushaw College Seminary to close in 2011

UK’s The Tablet ran a news piece today saying the seminary for the North of England dioceses, Ushaw College, is closing at the end of the school year in June 2011. Currently, 7 English dioceses are served by UC. Ushaw was first founded in Douai, France in 1568 and has been located four miles west of Durham City since 1808.

From its heyday of 400 men studying for the priesthood to 26 today, the Ushaw has a staff of 62.

The story of Ushaw is grim and it sounds like St Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) which has fewer than 25 seminarians for the secular priesthood. For the time being SJS is working alone and is slated to merge with Huntington’s seminary.

Catholic education: where is it going and why?

The Catholic school system in the US has been in a very desperate shape for years: acute and chronic money problems, lack of good, solidly trained Catholic teachers and administrators, a coherent vision of Catholic education as it interfaces with the charism of the religious order/diocese operating the school, building & grounds in near of repair, low endowments, etc. Then there is the assessment of what is purported to constitute a Catholic school: poor formation in the faith, the arts & humanites and science suffer, good use of current technologies, and engagement with people who do things differently, engagement with the vulnerable and culture of life, etc. Many, many Catholic schools don’t offer the Sacrifice of the Mass on a weekly basis for the students; and very few of them that I am familiar with offer reliable guidance and formation of the faculty and parents. In my book, if the bishop rarely shows up and the pastor visits the school only when there is crisis. then the problem is more acute.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a product of a lot years Catholic education and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love my time in the Catholic schools I attended but I can see the gaping holes in education and experience. I also believe that the Church needs excellent schools and formation programs.

Five exceptions to this critical view may be the five schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport recently named “Blue Ribbon” by the US Dept of Ed. But for these success stories in Catholic Education there are thousands of others pointing to major problems.

Today, there is an article in Time that speaks to a corrective of what is noted above. The dynamic Mr. Ekicsen is asking the right questions and seeking reasonable solutions. The bishop of Patterson made an excellent choice in hiring Eriksen and I pray his project thrives. It will –the saints are behind him. Read about the Eriksen initiative…

I think of a few things that are contributing to a renewal of Catholic eduation in the US: 1) Luigi Giussani’s The Risk of Education; 2) the Ed Conference; 3) UND’s ACE program; and 4) Dwight Longenecker’s booklet The Risk of Faith; 5) Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of reality because I know there are plenty of more good programs/schools out there so please forward the names to me.

Ave Maria University fires Fr. Fessio, again!

Fr J Fesio.jpgAs it’s reported in a few places, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, the well-known and gifted teacher and leader was fired by Ave Maria University. The matter of his dismissal revolves around all things, financial matters of the university. Something mentioned here before. So, one must ask if the university is going to be able to make it in the long haul or is the pizza man’s dream over. All are called upon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for Father Fessio and, of course, for Ave Maria who once again makes an imprudent decision just because someone disagrees with their philosophy. Sounds like the roundheads are at it again. Read the news article on this event. Father Fessio’s email follows:

This morning, (Monday, July 20th) Dr. Jack Sites,
Academic Vice President of Ave Maria University, flew from Houston, where
he was attending a meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,
to San Francisco, to inform me personally that I was being dismissed from Ave
Maria University. Our meeting was amicable and Dr. Sites, as always, acted as a
Christian gentleman.

He said that the reason for my dismissal stemmed from a
conversation I had in November of 2008 with Jack Donahue, then chairman of the
board of AMU. At that time I felt it an obligation to speak to the board
chairman before the upcoming board meeting, to make sure he was aware of the
urgency of the university’s financial situation. After I had informed him,
using projections based on publicly available documents and statements, he
asked me what I thought was the solution. I told him that there were policies being
followed that were at the root of the problem, that the present administration
was irrevocably wedded to those policies, and that without a change of
administration the university was at great risk.

Dr. Sites said that Jack
Donahue related this conversation to Tom Monaghan, and it was decided (I don’t
know specifically by whom) that the university could not have a faculty member
making these criticisms of the administration and thus undermining the

Dr. Sites told me that there were unspecified others who had
similar substantive concerns that I was undermining the university.

I continue
to support the university. I pray for its success. I have great admiration for
the faculty, students, and many of the staff. I do disagree with some of the
policies of the administration. This seems to be the reason I was fired the
first time, in March 2007, since the official explanation was
“irreconcilable administrative differences”.

Nevertheless, I think it
is an accurate summary to say that I am being dismissed as a faculty member
because of a private conversation with the chairman of the board in which I
made known my criticisms of the university administration; and because of
allegations which have not been made known to me and to which I have not been given
an opportunity to respond.

I will continue to recommend AMU to students and
parents. And I will continue to think my dismissal is another mistake in a long
series of unwise decisions.

Fordham favors secular respectability instead of the Gospel

Yet another example of Catholic higher ed making foolish distinctions in order to justify their morally wrong actions and doing an end-run around the face of Christ and His Church. It is not merely as one headline reads: contempt for the bishops BUT contempt for Christ!

Fordham honors pro-choice secular leaders. Read for your self here and here.
Is Fordham really Catholic AND Jesuit? What is Archbishop Dolan going to do about this matter? Will the Jesuits sit back and capitulate to secular mediocrity?
It wasn’t too long ago that Fordham Law honored an abortion-approving Supreme Court Justice.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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