Catholic colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are planning special Masses and other events to commemorate the Year of Faith and encourage students to grow in their relationship with Christ.
“This year we're focused on faith,” said Tom Hoopes, vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Ks., where the Year of Faith is the school's theme for the next three semesters.
“Our belief is that faith renewal will only take off insofar as it’s rooted in the academic and intellectual tradition of the Church,” Hoopes told the Cardinal Newman Society. “A university’s job is to take all this excitement about the faith and show the students where it’s grounded in scripture.”
During the Year of Faith, which runs from Oct. 11, 2012 through Nov. 24, 2013, Catholics are called to grow in their own faith, particularly by reading and studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
On Nov. 1, the Cardinal Newman Society – which works to promote faithful Catholic identity among institutions of higher learning – released a report on various efforts to observe the Year of Faith on college campuses throughout the country, including Bible and Catechism studies, special Masses and reflection nights on the lives of the saints.
Several colleges, including The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., are planning to host speakers on various faith topics.
Others, including Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., are planning to make copies of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith, “Porta Fidei,” available to students.
Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., is offering a free five-week study of the Second Vatican Council and its documents, along with a lecture series, religious movie nights and a Year of Faith Bible study.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., is holding a scholarship essay contest for incoming freshman to discuss a person or episode from Church history that taught them an important lesson. The college is also beginning a new tradition of holding seminars to consider how works of literature, art and historical events are connected to Christian civilization.
Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, is planning to host special retreats for both students and faculty, along with a Theology of the Body week. Students are invited to work with the director of liturgical music to write a musical accompaniment for the Creed at campus Masses.
At Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., a professional sports chaplain training day will be held, and speakers will discuss faith and sports.
Various saints will also be highlighted throughout the year, through initiatives such as distributing roses of the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and having a “Back-from-the-Dead Cemetery Walk” near Halloween, when saints “come back” to tell their stories.
The university is also offering five pilgrimage opportunities for students to witness faith and charity in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., will focus on the liturgy in a special way this year. Among other initiatives, it will hold liturgical music workshops for students.
“As we approach the start of the Year of Faith, it behooves us to consider how we might become better participants in the sacred liturgies we attend,” explained Jonathan Tonkowich, dean of student life.
“And one of the most important aspects of our participation is our singing.”
Campus ministry at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., is sponsoring a monthly “Bring a Friend to Mass Night” in response to Bishop John O. Barres’ appeal to practicing Catholics to invite former or non-practicing Catholics back to Mass.
The university is also showing films about saints and will host an artistic performance of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
At Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., students can participate in a “Jeopardy style” catechetical program called, “Why Do Catholics Do That?”
The informative program covers topics such as the Mass, scripture, devotions and marriage. Prizes include Bible study books and scapulars, and the top winners will receive dinner cooked by campus ministry director, Fr. Robert McTeigue.
“It’s meant to be a lighthearted, user-friendly approach to evangelization,” Fr. McTeigue explained.