Catholic institutions educate to bring about not only knowledge, but also wisdom
Kyle Pero may have been your typical undergraduate while at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. A double major in history and political science, Pero was a member of the history honors society and also active with student government. After graduating in 2010, he enrolled at Pace Law School, where he recently entered his third year, having spent summer 2012 in an internship under Judge Loretta A. Preska, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and a Saint Rose alumna.
All fairly routine activities for an aspiring law student. But Pero also had experiences while at Saint Rose that deepened his faith and helped guide him as he advanced his academic and professional career. He led the campus's Catholic Student Club, served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and lecturer for college Mass and was an active participant in two major events centered on social justice.
Following a Well-Formed Conscience
"One of the key values I learned at Saint Rose was the primacy of conscience," Pero said. "The idea that a well-formed conscience leads you in the right direction and that you must obey it above all else has been powerfully transformative for me. It is especially helpful when there are many competing messages or an overload of information. Your conscience still provides the base point for exploring uneven terrain."
Pero's experience is not unique. Around the country, Catholic colleges and universities offer students of all backgrounds and abilities the same opportunities found at other institutions- student government, study abroad, community service activities. But Catholic higher education supplements those offerings by grounding them within an environment of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Some studies have also suggested that Catholic college students take advantage of things like volunteering and community service activities at a higher rate than their colleagues at other types of institutions. Research commissioned by the National Catholic College Admissions Association (CCAA) and released earlier this year from Hardwick Day shows that 74 percent of Catholic college student participated in these activities, compared to 58 percent of students at national flagship universities (see figure page 72).
Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, points out that Catholic institutions of higher education are distinguished not by numbers, but by the values they instill in their students. "As Pope Benedict himself has said, a university's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students [served]. Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics," Galligan-Stierle said. "It demands and inspires much more: namely, that every aspect of learning reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. In this way, Catholic colleges and universities make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society."
In short, Galligan-Stierle said, Catholic institutions educate to bring about not only knowledge, but also wisdom. "So much of education is learning and testing and that is what it must be. What makes us special is that.. .we set before our students opportunities to embrace the best of what we all are as Catholic higher education."
The "best" of that tradition includes a commitment to service and to social justice. Jordyn Arndt, a graduate of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, cites not only her coursework and field experiences in shaping her academic and career choices, but also her experiences with faithbased campus programs. Two immersion trips organized by campus ministry and focused on social justice broadened Arndt's perspective and gave meaning to her studies. "The Catholic social justice teachings that are embedded in many of the courses at St. …