By: Laura Dodson
In this era of unprecedented attempts to separate God from our daily lives, on March 1, Arizona State University (ASU), the largest U. S. public university and University of Mary (U-Mary), a private Catholic institution entered into a collaborative agreement to provide courses in theological studies and Catholic studies to ASU students.
“Arizona State University is built on the principle of inclusion,” ASU President Michael M. Crow explained when asked about the font of this commitment. “Our objective is to provide a welcoming academic environment that fosters open communication and intellectual growth for students of all faiths. We commend Father Shea and the University of Mary for reaching out to us and giving us this opportunity to work with them to better serve the Catholic community.”
Located in Tempe, Ariz., ASU has an enrollment of 70,000 students, approximately 18,000 are Catholic. Students come from all fifty states and 100 countries.
“Students can continue at a secular university in pursuit of their studies in engineering or law or dance and they can enrich their professional careers with a deeper understanding of their faith,” said Amy Brant, an ASU freshman from San Jose, Calif. who is majoring in communications, but would like to minor in Catholic studies and aspires to become a canon lawyer. “The Church really needs holy, Catholic doctors and all professions who live out their faith in what they do. This is great for people like me who want to pursue their faith, but it’s also great for someone who says, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’”
Founded in 1959 in Bismarck, ND by the Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation, University of Mary has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, with distance education at 18 sites in the U.S. and a new campus in Rome, Italy.
“The collaboration of the largest public university in a large Catholic community with a Catholic university — the potential for good in the formation of young hearts and minds is very great,” said Father James Patrick Shea, University of Mary President. “An 18 year old is asking questions of deep importance to life that you cannot answer outside of community. ASU is providing the atmosphere and we want to provide a meaningful community that serves the needs of the students of ASU, which enhances the good work already being done at the Newman Center and which serves the mission for which the University of Mary was founded.”
Beginning with the fall semester 2012, ASU students will have the opportunity to take individual courses or will be able to minor or major in theological or Catholic studies offered by U-Mary at the ASU campus. The courses will be taught at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center, adjacent to the ASU campus.
“It is remarkable that ASU has shown itself to be so inclusive,” said Father Robert Clements, Newman Center Chaplain. “It makes our Newman Center the focus for Catholic higher education in the heart of the largest public university. It’s the Lord’s image of the leaven in the dough. Speaking truth and love is what leads you to God. College is the most exciting time of life and to have truth and love found there— if you can find God, you can see God everywhere.”
Craig Koenig is an ASU junior from Austin, Texas who is majoring in accounting and facilitating a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Bible Study.
“It’s important to note that ASU is supporting the Newman Center more than I ever expected,” Koenig said. “Catholic institutions have always been centered on education and it’s great to see a huge university take part in Catholic education. Now students can grow in their faith through Catholic studies.”
“It was Blessed John Henry Newman’s vision to complement secular education with faith,” said David Pederson, Newman Center director of development. “We see over 1,000 students each week at Sunday Masses, daily Mass, Bible studies and other events. We’re constructing a new facility of 6,000 square feet and I see involvement of our Catholic students as limitless over the coming years.”
MaryBeth Mueller, superintendant of schools for Diocese of Phoenix was very much a participant in the collaborative process and shared her excitement for Catholic school teachers who will be able to take classes in the faith; for Catholic students to be able to grow in their faith in the presence of daily Mass and the sacraments at the Newman Center; and for Catholic high school students who will receive dual credit from U-Mary for junior and senior theology classes.
“In looking at this, I think this collaboration certainly demonstrates the Benedictine values of community, hospitality, moderation, prayer, respect for persons and service that U-Mary offers,” Mueller said. “And now they will be enhanced by this partnership of U-Mary, ASU and the Newman Center.”
A University of Mary Day is already scheduled for March 22 beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the ASU campus for leadership and staff and concluding with a meet and greet for students, parents and parish leadership.
“I am a member of the Blessed Pope John Paul II generation,” Father Shea concluded. “He believed deeply in the culture of the Church in the world. His presence is very much in this collaboration and I feel his presence in my priesthood. I was 34 when I became President of University of Mary. I’m the first of the JPII generation to be entrusted with leadership in a Catholic college or university.
President Crow became president of ASU in 2002 — the same year I was ordained priest. He saw a vision of a new university collaborating with the private sector. It’s a wonderful concept. I love Catholic education — everything about it, the power to transform. The hand of providence is so clear in this.”
Photo Provided By: ASU Media Relations Photographer Tom Story