A few months ago at a Fellowship of Catholic University Students breakfast on the campus of a Virginia university, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, former Catholic campus minister at the University of Illinois and now executive director of the Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, highlighted a few points about college students that hit home.
Drawing from statistics and experience, Msgr. Swetland said the way to get young people to form a lifelong attachment to the Faith for life is to hook them between the ages of 18 and 24. It’s during that age range, he said, when they are most likely to become excited about and invested in the Church. It’s then when they form their most “significant” friendships and relationships. And it’s then when their vocational seeds are sown.
During those crucial years, then, the Church needs to make sure it’s front-and-center on college campuses, both Catholic and non-Catholic. It needs to be a living, breathing, serving, welcoming, loving home-away-from-home for students in order to win them over to Jesus at the time in their lives when it’s been proven to really count.
This week’s Catholic Colleges special section highlights specific lives that have been changed because of their Catholic-college experiences. Student athletes entered into the community to work with the poor and with at-risk children (Page 13). A Catholic school teacher attributes her vocation to her lifelong education in the Faith (Page 16). One student points to her Catholic college as a place where she’s gained “lifelong friends who have helped me become a better version of myself” (Page 20).
Catholic schools also make headlines when questions arise about their Catholic identity. Brian Fraga writes about the dual responsibility of Catholic schools: to uphold the Faith while continually questioning and searching for the truth (Page 6).
On an unrelated, sorrowful note, the prayers of the staff of OSV Newsweekly are with the victims and families of those killed and injured in the April 15 bombings in Boston. Coming four short months after the shootings at Newtown, eight months after the shootings in Aurora, on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the slayings at Virginia Tech University, and a few days short of the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings, it seems terror has solidified its place as a reality of our post-9/11 American life.
It’s a bitter reality to face, one in which 24-hour news stations run explosion footage on a loop, and one in which improvised explosive devices exist outside the deserts of Afghanistan.
In this age of instant news, social media was flooded immediately with reassurances of safety, inquiries about loved ones, frustration and anxiety. But most prevalent were the assurances of prayers.
So our prayers unite with yours as we hold our breaths and wait for what comes next.