EDUCATOR’S PERSPECTIVE — Catholic colleges can help with that

Sister Kathleen Marie Cash, OSB

I know that, for many of my students, the question of college admissions weighs heavily on the brain. Students and parents alike are thinking about questions of school size, academic programs and geographic locations. But I also know that, when talking with students making this important decision, there is one question that I think stands out above all the rest: What kind of person do I hope to become?

This is a question that must be answered individually by each student; however, for many of the answers that I have heard students give, I have one simple response. There is a Catholic college that can help you become that.

Whether you are a high school student just beginning to explore college options or a parent helping your own child make the final decision, I want to offer you the same advice I offer my own students: Give serious thought to the benefits of Catholic higher education. Here are some of the responses my own students give me:

I want to be a highly educated person.

As a teacher and a recent doctoral student, I have committed my life to the pursuit of education, and I think this statement is of paramount importance. Whether you are thinking about a career or you see college as a stepping stone for further post-graduate education, I know that many are looking for an academically rigorous school that offers the highest educational standards. Catholic colleges and universities have a long tradition of academic excellence.

Many Catholic schools focus on the liberal arts education espoused by Cardinal John Henry Newman. In his idea of a university, the author encourages a good foundation in a variety of subjects with an emphasis on building critical thinking skills.

Other Catholic universities are known world wide for their contributions to science, faith and reason. Regardless of what subject you wish to study, Catholic schools all over the country offer high quality academic programs.

I want to help others.

This is a response that I hear commonly among my socially-minded students. We encourage teenagers to spend time volunteering or taking part in community service opportunities. I find even those students who are not leaning toward service- oriented careers feel a pull to connect themselves to the wider community through some sort volunteer opportunities.

Again, Catholic schools have a lot to offer in this capacity. Driven by the tenets of Catholic social teaching, many institutions offer service projects in both their local communities and the wider world.

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has found that students who go through Catholic higher education are not only more likely to find service opportunities in their college, but are also more likely to remain committed to service after college. For students wishing to spend a life in service to others, Catholic institutions offer a strong foundation.

I want to be the best person I can be.

Although many teenagers state their response in this way, what I hear when they this to me is, “I want to become the person God created me to be.”
Catholic colleges and universities are uniquely situated to help students reach this goal. For me, this was the number one factor in choosing a Catholic college. After months of research, I came to the conclusion that schools invested in Catholic education were also invested in their students as
whole people.

The deciding factor for me was when the Brescia’s campus minister spoke with a group of visiting students and told us that his hope for us, after four years of college education, was that we would head into the world as fully flourishing individuals, situated to be most fully the person God hoped of each of us.

Founded on the teachings of Christ, these colleges have a unique ability to look at the God given gifts of each student and to draw those out.

While academics are important in a Catholic institution, so is care of the body and the soul. As a teacher who has a great deal of love for her students, this is the thing I desire most of all as I say goodbye to graduating seniors each May.

As you consider all the options, I think it is important for all students to ponder what it is they want to become, and I hope that, whatever the answer, Catholic colleges and universities can help them to do just that.

Sister Kathleen Marie Cash, a Sister of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Ind., is a math teacher at Trinity High School and a graduate of Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky.