This morning sees the release of the Cardinal Newman Society’s new edition of their Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. The University of Mary, where I work teaching Theology as well as serving as Director of the Christian Leadership Center, is listed.
I’m pleased to see the CNS recognize our efforts to strengthen our Catholic identity and mission, as we’ve been working hard on it, building on what President Emerita Sister Thomas Welder and others with and before her established and developed. (We’ve never been a place in need of saving, as it were, so we’re not so much engaged in a turnaround as we are engaged in invigorating and reinforcing our identity in these times that demand it.) The Newman Guide describes us as follows:
The University of Mary (UM) is part of a second generation in the renewal of Catholic higher education. The 53-year-old University has been taking exciting steps to reinforce its academics, student life, and Catholic identity, following the example of Newman Guide colleges that have likewise embraced their Catholic mission.
In other ways, UM is unique for The Newman Guide. It emphasizes career preparation, with a majority of students majoring in the health sciences or business-related fields. Only about half the students are Catholic, and more than 80 percent attended public high schools. Many of the students do not attend UM primarily for its Catholic identity.
But seriously Catholic students will want to take advantage of the new Catholic Studies Program and the residence halls dedicated to fostering spiritual development and discernment. Exemplary students can also participate in UM’s unique program to develop “servant leaders of moral courage” in their chosen fields.
Father James Shea, a diocesan priest who became president of UM in 2009, has led the University’s renewal with the support of the founding Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation, who reside on campus and continue to help govern. The Diocese of Bismarck and the nearby Diocese of Fargo have also taken a strong interest in the University and its growing influence in North Dakota.
Father Shea studied for the priesthood at the Catholic University of America (CUA) and observed the improvements at CUA during the tenure of Father David O’Connell, C.M. (now Bishop of Trenton). Bishop O’Connell helped the young UM president prepare for his position—the very capable Fr. Shea was an extraordinary 33 years old upon his appointment—and the path of both institutions has been similar.
“Catholic identity in education is the motivating passion of my life,” Fr. Shea said before assuming the presidency. “I am committed to the deepening and the invigoration of the Catholic identity of the University of Mary.”
That he seems to be accomplishing much faster than anyone could have anticipated. And while students from out of state may require some time getting used to North Dakota winters, UM is an attractive choice for students looking for a career-oriented university that is in good Catholic hands, and all at a quite affordable price. Tuition for 2012-13 is just $13,600, not including options for financial aid [emphasis mine; we’re inexpensive!]. […]
The new Catholic studies program is modeled after the well-respected program at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota; founding director Dr. Matthew Gerlach formerly studied and taught in the UST program. The courses offer a firm grounding in the Catholic intellectual tradition, especially theology and philosophy. More than an academic program, Catholic studies students and faculty form a community that meets weekly for Mass and dinner, participates in Eucharistic Adoration and confession, engages in service activities, attends the March for Life, and comes together for social activities.
Catholic Studies students are especially encouraged to study abroad at UM’s campus in Rome, but other students are eligible to participate in the five-week or full-semester programs. The Rome program costs nothing extra—tuition and room and board costs are the same as Bismarck, and financial aid carries over. Students study and explore Rome and the Church, and courses cover several of UM’s general education requirements.
Enhancing the relatively small liberal arts faculty, Fr. Shea recently hired Dr. Carol Andreini, the longtime director of the Cardinal Muench Seminary’s classics program. Priests who studied under Dr. Andreini throughout the Bismarck and Fargo dioceses helped fund the position after the Seminary was closed. […]
Given the diversity of beliefs among students, UM’s campus ministry is Catholic but also ecumenical, often taking a nondenominational approach to Christian prayer and social gatherings. Student participation has grown noticeably in recent years.
The University takes a peer ministry approach, with students assisting the full-time staff including two Benedictine chaplains, a lay director, and a young sister from the on-campus Annunciation Monastery.
The four campus chapels are Catholic, and Mass is offered once each weekday and on Sunday. Daily Mass attendance is about 100 students at last count, and the University reports that most of the Catholic undergraduates living on campus attend Sunday Mass. At the beginning of students’ freshman year, each residence hall celebrates Mass and students receive a medal of St. Benedict.
Confession is available each Thursday evening and by appointment. There is also Eucharistic Adoration throughout most of Wednesday, on Tuesday afternoons, and on Thursday evenings, Rosary four days a week, and Stations of the Cross during Lent. Campus ministry hosts retreats for students every semester in their residence halls. Lecture series and social events occur frequently to foster spiritual development and discuss moral issues.
Helping to strengthen students’ spirituality is the Catholic evangelization group FOCUS, which recently was invited to campus. FOCUS sponsors several Bible study groups and promotes Eucharistic Adoration.
UM’s Collegians for Life group is sponsored by campus ministry, adding a Catholic element to the usual pro-life activities such as a prayer night to honor St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who sacrificed her life for her child…
The University has recently increased its emphasis on vocational discernment. The sponsoring Benedictine Sisters are available to be prayer partners for female students, who are also invited to spend a weekend living at the Annunciation Monastery. And for men, the new St. Joseph’s residence hall houses 30 students interested in living a virtuous life and possibly discerning a call to the priesthood. The hall also houses Bishop Paul Zipfel, the recently retired Bishop of Bismarck, and the diocese’s director of vocations, Fr. Tom Richter. UM has just launched a similar hall for women, St. Scholastica’s, with two Sisters living on the hall with 40 young women.
The University of Mary’s renewed vitality as a Catholic university is exciting and pervasive. The faithful curriculum and attention to ethical development, the Catholic Studies Program, the responsible campus residence policies and new halls for seriously Catholic students, the new Rome campus, and other factors combine to make UM a wonderful new addition to The Newman Guide.
But UM is also unique for the Guide, with its heavier emphasis on career preparation in health, business, and education. We anticipate that its impressive renewal is not complete, as Fr. Shea and a number of committed officials and faculty members continue to strengthen the academic program and campus life, so that Catholic students will find a faithful and increasingly fervent atmosphere at UM. The University is seeking students who are eager to take advantage of the current offerings while contributing to UM’s development.