Newman University engages in a number of activities to evaluate its effectiveness in various areas. How well, for example, do we serve the academic needs of our students? How well are we managing our finances? How do we best attract new students to the university?
Asking and finding answers to questions such as these is essential to the success of any university. But then, Newman is not “any” university. It is first and foremost a Catholic university. And as such, it is just as important that we ask and seek answers to the question, “How much does our Catholic identity form every aspect of the university?”
The guidelines for how Catholic universities are to be authentically Catholic were addressed in Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae (see story in the Fall 2011 Challenge Magazine). In 2001, the bishops of the United States released a document that applied Ex corde Ecclesiae to this country, and last spring initiated a 10-year review process of American Catholic universities.
Recently, the Most Rev. Michael O. Jackels, Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita, visited Newman University and spoke to faculty and staff on his views regarding the spiritual and ecclesial state of the university – its Catholic identity – as well as how the university has implemented Ex corde Ecclesiae, and how it should continue to do so.
“A Catholic university is committed to inform and carry out its teaching, research and service with the Christian message, as it is transmitted by the Catholic Church, all the while maintaining the academic freedom and institutional autonomy proper to the nature of a university,” Jackels said. “A Catholic university accompanies the pursuit of academic excellence and teaching of truth with a theological perspective, an ethical concern, a dialogue between faith and reason, and an integration of knowledge between disciplines.”
Jackels spoke of the Church’s view of education as a part of its mission – in fact its principal mission – to evangelize.
“[A Catholic university] is also an agent of the Church’s mission to evangelize,” he said. “That’s why there is an explicit, visible relationship between the Catholic university and the Catholic Church on the local and universal levels.”
Jackels listed a number of guiding principles that should be incorporated into the teaching and research of a Catholic university: the principle that we are a part of others, and not apart from them; that we care for others because we care about them; that we regard human life as sacred; that we honor marriage and family life; that we respect the dignity of every human person; that we serve, even make sacrifices, to benefit others; and that we are stewards, not owners.
As for his evaluation of how Newman lives up to these principles, Jackels’ assessment was simple and straightforward:
“Let me be clear that fidelity to Catholic identity is not a concern at Newman University,” he said. “This is a Catholic university worth preserving.”