Tag Archive | "Catholic identity"

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Catholicism at Marquette: Where do students stand?

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Thomas Klind

With the election over and the semester coming to a close, The Warrior thought it might be a good idea to shift focus and briefly survey the state of Catholicism on campus. As a Catholic institution of higher learning, fostering an environment that provides students the tools and knowledge necessary to deepen their faith should be a priority. Marquette’s mission statement attests to this responsibility when it notes that its “Catholic identity is expressed in our choices of curricula, our sponsorship of programs and activities devoted to the cultivation of our religious character, our ecumenical outlook, and our support of Catholic beliefs and values.”

The university’s Catholicity is at the core of its identity, and many of the standards and rules in place are rooted in Catholic values. On the surface, it would seem that the University is overwhelmingly Catholic.

However, despite the rhetoric promulgated by the University, what does one actually find when they look beyond the crucifix in every classroom? How active and informed is the Catholic majority at Marquette? Do the programs the University initiates have a positive impact on the faith of students on campus? How effective is Marquette at fostering and promoting its Catholic identity? On the other hand, are students doing their part to advance their faith? Certainly most students are aware that the University has an Office of Campus Ministry, which works closely with Christian and non-Christian student organizations alike. However, how many students, especially those that consider themselves Catholic, actively seek to take advantage of what Campus Ministry has to offer? Are students actively seeking to deepen their understanding of their faith?

These questions are complex and can be very subjective; indeed finding comprehensive answers to these inquiries may not even be possible. However, seeking to encourage thought and discussion on this topic, The Warrior interviewed a handful of students, faculty and staff who are involved with various aspects of spirituality at Marquette. These people are all in positions that allow them to observe and comment on the state of Catholicism on campus. They were asked to answer a series of questions evaluating Catholic activity amongst students and then grade the campus’ Catholicity in several categories. The findings of this brief survey of selected individuals highlight many of the things that Marquette and its student body are doing correctly to further the University’s Catholic identity. It also reveals some areas of deficiency that could use some improvement and attention. Hopefully, the following exposé will shed light on some of these shortcomings and serve as a call to action, urging students, faculty and staff alike to work towards a University that is unashamedly, and passionately Catholic.

The questions that were asked can be divided into five categories dealing with participation in religious activity, knowledge of Catholic teaching, involvement of non-Catholics, emphasis among students on prayer and emphasis on social justice and service. The interviewees were then asked to provide suggestions for bettering those categories that they feel need improvement. The following will provide five different perspectives on these questions from active students and staff.

Student A

Catholic Outreach is one of the larger, regularly meeting, Catholic student organizations on campus. As such, active participants of Outreach are an ideal source for opinions on campus Catholicism.

One regular female attendee of Catholic Outreach, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that, “for a Catholic school, there are definitely not a lot of Catholics participating in religious activities on campus…if Catholics really wanted to grow in their faith, they would be more active and look for ways to build on their relationship with Christ.”
She expressed their concern with the low attendance at Campus ministry sponsored retreats and activities, as well as the low participation in Catholic student groups, expressing the desire to see new faces at these events.

On the topic of catechized students, Student A sees a sharp division between those who are informed on the teachings of the Church and those who are not, saying that the University and Catholic organizations should “focus more on catechesis and discovering church doctrine…it would be awesome if there was more discussion on Catholic topics such as how to pray the Rosary, Eucharistic adoration and John Paul II’s theology of the body.”

Despite these shortcomings, she feels that the University does an excellent job of getting students of other faiths involved, noting that ecumenism is important and that Marquette performs its duty to people of other faiths superbly. However, she warns that, “Marquette, especially Campus Ministry, focuses so much on trying to include everyone that they sometimes forget that they are really Catholic at heart and must uphold Catholic values above all others.”

In addition to ecumenism, Student A sees Social Justice as one of the University’s strengths, and iterates that she’s “really proud” of Marquette’s dedication to service. Although, she cautions that students must be careful not to over-emphasize the service aspect of the faith and forget about other elements like the Eucharist and prayer, saying, “the root of service is Christ, and we must grow in a relationship with Him before any real service can be done.”

As a means of improving the Catholic environment on campus, Student A suggests hosting panels on Catholic topics like Sacraments, marriage and on controversial topics like homosexuality to provide more ways that students can further explore their faith.

Manresa Intern

Manresa intern Emily Schumacher, who works in the Office of Campus Ministry, also provided some of her thoughts on these questions. In answering the first inquiry about participation, Schumacher poignantly highlighted that it is very difficult to define a faith-based activity, as many students –she believes – pursue their faith in their own way. She also pointed out that although it appears that students lack information on what the Church teaches, this is a universal problem that is not specific to Marquette. Schumacher also believes that the University definitely tries to involve people from other faiths in its faith-based activities, saying that Marquette needs to “remain true to our Catholic core, but not be exclusive.”

On the topic of prayer, Schumacher believes that students on campus are spiritual and overwhelmingly engage in some sort of prayer, whether it’s in the Catholic tradition or not. Social Justice is something she says is very important to certain students, and something that Campus Ministry does an excellent job of. On this subject, she would like to see the Catholics who are heavily involved in liturgical circles engage in more service, and vice-versa, as these are both essential aspects of the faith.

Beyond this, Schumacher views the impending Campus Renew program as a positive addition to Marquette’s arsenal of faith programs. Campus Renew is a program that consists of small faith communities that allow people to connect with their faith alongside of others. Currently, the core team for this initiative is training and preparing for the program’s official launch next semester.

Student B

Another student respondent, who is active in Campus Ministry activities, also wishes to remain anonymous. This student offered a different angle regarding the level of participation among Catholic students. He surmises that if Mass attendance is included, 80 percent of students are involved in some type of religious activity, saying that “there is an overwhelmingly strong base of participation.”

This student also sees an adequate amount of catechesis amongst Catholic students, asserting that “many people know the basics of their Catholic faith and have their own way of living it.” Adding, however, that “there is a lot of misunderstanding on the Church’s teachings regarding human sexuality, particularly contraception, and I think it would be beneficial to have a program about that…without any bias against the Church.”

On the subject of ecumenism, Student B feels that the University does a good job of this, and that many retreats and activities sponsored by Campus Ministry do an excellent job of involving those of other faith backgrounds. He adds that Marquette has especially excellent opportunities for service, but cautions as Student A did, that a “very small number of people often forget that the service, justice and peace which we promote is centered on our faith and need to re-realize that no difference in the world can be made without the grace of God.” For suggestions on how to improve the shortcomings he perceives, Student B notes that Campus Ministry is doing a great job of making improvements, citing the addition of Catholicism 101 programs. In addition, he proposes tapping into other aspects of Ignatian spirituality in order to “help develop the spirituality of our campus and help keep our service faith-oriented.”

Actively involved alumnus

To obtain an entirely different perspective on these questions a Marquette alumnus who is still heavily involved in campus activities was chosen. This gentleman wished to remain anonymous, but was able to contribute several interesting thoughts to this conversation.

Like Schumacher, this alumnus noted the complexity of having to pinpoint who qualifies as a Catholic, but believes that among those who identify themselves as such there is a high level of involvement with various faith-based activities on campus.

Addressing the level of catechesis among students, the alumnus said that from his perspective the level of knowledge of Catholic teaching varies greatly by subject area and that it is rare to find students that will know everything about everything.

He indicated that he believes the level of prayerful experiences at Marquette is relatively high, saying “I think it’s a gift” that so many students engage in formal and informal prayer.
He also mentioned that the level of service at Marquette is very positive, although noted that it may be advantageous to “renew the emphasis on the inherent connection between community service and faith.”

On top of this he added that it is essential for the University to continue strengthening and maintaining the overall culture of faith so that it permeates the culture on campus.

Liturgical Director

To provide yet a different angle on the state of Catholicism on campus, The Warrior turned to Gretchen Baumgardt, the Director of Liturgy in Campus Ministry. From her position she sees a lot of students, “who are very committed to participating in Campus Ministry-sponsored activities,” but admits that the there is a struggle “with getting beyond the choir of folks that tend to participate in everything, and finding ways to encourage new people to get involved as well.”

On the subject of catechesis, Baumgardt believes that there is always room for improvement, noting that, “there is so much to learn and discover about the Catholic faith that isn’t elaborated upon fully in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in one’s experience of a theology course.”

However, despite this, Catholics at Marquette still place a big emphasis on liturgical prayer but, Baumgardt adds that during her time as a hospital chaplain she was reminded that prayer is a “very intimate experience for people and is something that is difficult to evaluate.”

She concludes by pointing out that Campus Ministry is currently working on addressing the catechetical needs of students through new faith formation opportunities and reflection groups.

The GPA of Catholicism on campus

In addition to interviewing a select group of involved people, The Warrior also surveyed twenty Catholic students, faculty and staff to obtain a grade for Marquette’s Catholic culture. The categories stipulated were Sunday Mass attendance, attendance of weekly faith activities, knowledge of Catholic doctrine, involvement in social justice and service work, orthodoxy of student body and participation at liturgy. The grades gathered average out to:

Sunday Mass attendance: B
Participation at Liturgy: AB
Attendance of weekly faith activities, including weekly Mass: B
Knowledge of Catholic doctrine: C
Involvement in social justice and service: AB
Orthodoxy: BC

From these few interviews and surveys it can be seen that opinions on the state of Catholicism are diverse, and depending on one’s perspective, the way the University improves the culture of faith on campus changes. As mentioned before, the questions we asked are very complex and intricate questions. In no way was this exposition of perspectives intended to be a scientific analysis of Catholic students. Its sole purpose is to provoke thought and dialogue on the issues and questions addressed. The people interviewed and surveyed, including those whose names have been withheld, are all involved in areas of spirituality on campus that give them the ability to observe the state of Catholicism at Marquette. Their views are valuable, and varied.

Hopefully, the perspectives offered here cause readers to pause and reflect on what it means to be a Catholic and Jesuit university, what form that identity should take and where each individual fits within that bigger picture.

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Without prayer, your vote is useless

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Thomas Klind

I read somewhere that the average time spent in line at the polls is over an hour for the presidential election. Perhaps this explains the astonishingly low national voter turnout. In 2004, for example, less than 65% of eligible voters in the country voted (yet it seems as though almost 100% feel like they have the right to complain about current policies…).

In an email from EWTN Catholic Television this week, I was encouraged to pray a Novena for the election and the results, and I was inspired to write this article. 65% of Americans waited for over an hour in line to vote, but how many of us will spend an hour in prayer that our country might be moved in the right direction? There is no better way to affect national security, economic policies, social justice issues, etc. than to pray about them. Yet we will spend more time standing in line to cause change than in a chapel.

Senator Obama talks about change, and turnout at his campaign rallies sometimes exceeds 20,000 people. Not that his message isn’t interesting, but it’s far from unique. In fact, if I were Jesus I’d think about suing him for plagiarism. He’s late on this message by about 2,000 years. Jesus Christ talks about an even more radical and impressive change, and yet our churches are lucky if 400 people attend on a Sunday. Talk about mixed up priorities when it comes to positively affecting change. The last time I checked, neither candidates turned water to wine or raised the dead, though I sometimes think waking Senator John McCain in the morning might be similar. The call from the Church is simply this, pray about the direction of your country AT LEAST as long as you spent in line on voting day. As off base as this sounds, your vote is useless without prayer. No one person, no group, no country can succeed on its own.

There is no good action that isn’t given, and no good talent or idea that isn’t inspired. So pray! Pray for the poor, the soldiers, the economy, national security, the unborn, the elderly and for the Democratic and Republican parties. Just know that this country is moved by God if we ask for it to be. As cliché as this may sound, and with the addition of one word, God, please bless America.

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Spirituality abounds on campus

Posted on 21 August 2008 by Thomas Klind

If you took a tour as a prospective first year student at Marquette, you were probably made aware of our great reputation as a school of higher learning. You most likely experienced a brief overview of what goes on at University Ministry, now Campus Ministry, from your tour guide as you walked through the union, and maybe heard something about a MAP trip or Mass at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on Tuesday nights.

During orientation week you will be bombarded with phrases like “magis” and “ad majoren dei gloriam” until you cannot take it anymore. These are all typical religious talking points for most of campus, but to be honest, while these things are great, they do not even scratch the surface of the different faith based initiatives at Marquette.

In association with its Jesuit identity, Marquette offers 12 Catholic Masses per week. The popular Tuesday night Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel is led by the Rev. John Naus, S.J., who is a great guy. But there are other great Jesuits who lead different Masses throughout the week such as the Rev. Thomas Anderson, S.J., the Rev. Frank Majka, S.J., the Rev. Michael Zeps, S.J., the Rev. Joseph Mueller, S.J., and a “host” of others. These Masses are held Monday through Friday at 12 p.m. and Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. at St. Joan of Arc Chapel. There are also five Masses during the day at Gesu Parish. And that doesn’t even cover the weekends, where Marquette has a special Mass at 4 p.m. on Sundays at which the Liturgical Choir sings.
During the year you will find Taize services, reconciliation services and weekly meetings by groups such as Catholic Outreach, who meet on Thursdays at 8 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Family. The Eucharistic Chapel outside of Campus Ministry is also open at the same times as the Alumni Memorial Union for silent prayer opportunities.

With regards to non-Catholic Christian groups and services on campus, check out Lutheran Campus Ministry and Pastor Brad Brown at his Lutheran service at 6 p.m. Sundays at the Chapel of the Holy Family. If you sing or play an instrument, they are always looking for extra participants.
Campus Crusade, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and “The Ave,” a non-denominational Christian group, are also non-Catholic alternatives on campus. Campus Ministry also runs an Islamic prayer room in the Alumni Memorial Union. You can find out more about Catholic and non-Catholic services in Campus Ministry, which is located on the first floor of the Union.

Although the main services on campus are great, there are many lesser-publicized, but still prevalent religious outlets. College is about learning and growing. If you are struggling in class, go talk to your teacher. If you are curious about your faith, go talk to your hall minister; every residence hall has at least one. You don’t need to have any questions; you don’t need to go to church with him or her. Just knock on their door.

College is a chance to grow and change. So many people who came to college without any faith in a higher power have either developed a better appreciation for those that do have faith, or have developed a faith of their own. There are also many who were strong believers freshman year and are now agnostic or atheist. At this institution of higher learning, do not let the opportunity to learn about what else is out there slip through your fingers.

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Contrasting theology professors

Posted on 02 April 2008 by Daniel Suhr

Marquette professors are often quoted in major media outlets across the nation as commentators, and these citations are generally a source of pride for our university community.

Of course, a Marquette professor might say something embarrassing. For example, take the contrast evident last month between two members of the Theology faculty.

Susan K. Wood, a member of the Sisters of Charity, was quoted by the National Catholic Register and the Catholic News Service regarding an announcement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation reminded priests that the formula for baptism must be “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and that other formulations used, such as “Creator, Liberator and Sustainer,” are invalid.

Wood offered an eloquent defense of the Congregation’s decision in the CNS story. She said that “avoid[ing] male language for God ends up creating serious problems for Trinitarian theology” because it depersonalizes the members of the Trinity. Conceding to such “political correctness” could, in her words, “seriously affect the faith life of the church” by fundamentally altering our conception of the Godhead away from the correct understanding.

Standing in stark contrast to Wood are comments by Professor of Theology Dan Maguire in the New York Sun. Pope Benedict XVI is set to speak later this month at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. on the importance of Catholic education in America. Our own Rev. Robert J. Wild, S.J., is attending.

The Sun’s story previewed expectations for the Holy Father’s speech. In it, Maguire said that the Pope’s goal “is to control theology.”

This is not true; rather, I expect him to sound the same themes with the educators as he did last month with the Jesuit fathers, namely, a gentle reminder of the importance of not confusing the faithful and unintentionally aiding the dictatorship of relativism.

Another quote of Maguire’s closed the story: “People will listen to him, and he’ll go back home, and it won’t make much difference.”

This is not the case. A recent nationwide poll by Marist College found that 64 percent of Americans were interested in hearing the Pope address how Americans can have a society where spiritual values play an important role. Three quarters of Americans want to hear him discuss how God can be a part of their daily life.

It is unfortunate that just as the American people are looking forward to the visit, it is a Marquette professor who is pooh-poohing the endeavor. It is more unfortunate that he is doing so on the national stage and using his position as Marquette as his identifying and qualifying credential.

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How Catholic is Marquette? Not enough

Posted on 07 November 2007 by Robert Christensen

There were many reasons why I chose to attend Marquette. I thought the campus was beautiful; I liked the city atmosphere and I was looking for a decent sized school with smaller classes. But the most important reason was Marquette’s Catholic identity. Having attended Catholic school throughout grade school, junior high and high school, I wanted to continue my education at a Catholic University.

I know many people come to school here because of this Catholic identity and that is why it is so unfortunate to see Marquette losing it. The Jesuits were created to be the Pope’s “Army,” defenders of the Pope. But rather than defend the Catholic Church’s teachings, the administration seems to be more focused on creating a more diverse student base or moving up in the rankings made by “U.S. News and World Report.”

Marquette’s Catholic identity should be the focus of the administration with the other two concerns being secondary. As of right now, this is not the case. Students can graduate without taking a single Catholic Theology class. Many students here do not even know what the Catholic Church’s teachings are, let alone why they are in place. This lack of understanding is why many people consider the Church to be intolerant, harsh or irrational. By teaching every student here the truth, everyone, Catholics and Non-Catholics alike, will benefit because they will no longer be confused or believe some rumor.

This understanding of the Church will help further the “free market” of ideas at Marquette because they will understand what is really taught by the Church versus what they thought was taught. Students will, at the very least, understand where the Church comes from — even if they do not agree with it. In order to reach this goal of full understanding of the Theology of the Catholic Church, some changes have to be made.

The first thing Marquette should do to achieve this goal is to require every student to take a theology class on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Right now students can fulfill their Theo 001 requirement by taking a wide assortment of theology classes, and while these classes are beneficial, they should only be taken after they have received a class on Catholic Church teaching. This would go a long way in helping students understand what the Church teaches and why. Catholics and non-Catholics alike would benefit from this education because many people do not understand the Church, even its own members.

Marquette should then remove or correct professors who actively teach in direct contradiction to the Catholic Church. For example, Dr. Dan Maguire teaches an extremely liberal theology class in which he claims that the Church actually says that same-sex marriage, abortion and pre-marital sex are not sins at all. It would be one thing if this was what Dr. Maguire personally believed, but it is quite another to pass this idea on as the stance of the Catholic Church. This open contradiction to the Church’s teachings can cause confusion amongst Catholic and non-Catholics and could lead someone in the completely wrong direction. The goal of the “free market” of ideas is to find the truth so anything that is inherently false can be removed.

Finally, the University should make an effort to incorporate the Church’s teachings into more of its classes. Theology is not a field all by itself but one that is intertwined with biology, chemistry, political science and even economics. It would be refreshing to pull a lot of these classes together, to make them relate to one another while allowing students to see this relationship.

All of these things would both make Marquette more loyal to the Catholic Church and better the university’s education as a whole. These suggestions will not destroy the free market of ideas but enlarge them, put them into a larger perspective. Classes on Islam, Buddhism or other Christian faiths should remain but be looked at in relation to Catholicism. Marquette has not become what it is today in spite of its Catholic identity but because of it. First and foremost, Marquette is a Catholic institution.

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How Catholic is Marquette? Too much

Posted on 07 November 2007 by Lindsey Huster

I am Catholic. My entire life I was part of the private school, plaid jumper education. Attending Marquette, I was under the impression in such a collegiate, academic setting students would be allowed to “Be the Difference.” Being the difference: not using our religion as a crutch or a blindfold, but rather, the backbone to our beliefs and value system.

There is a time and place for everything. Religion should be latticed throughout the moral fibers of our life- it should not, however, conflict with what should be taught in the school curriculum and should not be hindered by a person’s belief system.

I know students who believe that we should be instilled with our Catholic value system not only in our morals, but in our school curriculum. Although this is a Catholic school, is there room for acceptance amidst diversity? Marquette says it believes in diversity, but in reality, it believes so long as it does not impede or trample any ideals of the Catholic identity.

We need more classes that beg students to look beyond the blinders of a typical homogenous religiously inspired education system. This is not the 1960s where classrooms are forbidden to teach evolutionary theory. In the same way, Marquette should feel free to teach beyond the narrow focus of theology curriculum that is often force-fed to students. Theology, as the term is defined means “theos,” which is God and “logos,” meaning word. Combined, theology is not just the study of a Christian God; it encompasses all aspects of what religion, whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, or even Atheism.

Take for instance the masses offered on Marquette’s University homepage. The only masses advertised fall under the broad umbrella of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.) Aside from these resources, there is no additional information listed of other faith opportunities that are in Milwaukee such as mosques, temples or Zen Centers (all within blocks of Marquette’s campus).

An obvious indicator of Marquette’s overbearing Catholic attitude is firmly evident in student health services. Health educators are not allowed to address relevant issues of women’s health, such as birth control. Although Marquette is a Catholic school, it’s safe to say that most students are not strict Catholics, who prefer to read the Catechism by night, rather than checking in their significant other minutes before 2:00 a.m. A bigger issue to address here is that women who use birth control many times are on birth control for other reasons outside of being sexual active. Some women go on birth control to regulate their periods, alleviate cramps or ovarian cysts or even to help clear up acne. Instead of recognizing the fact that birth control is not a black and white issue, Marquette’s Catholic identity is thrust upon half of the student body who are coerced into believing that if they are on some form of birth control, they are a slut.

I am not here to tell students that being Catholic is not bad- at Marquette, however, our Catholic identity is many times, used as a blindfold to what is really going on in Milwaukee and with students at Marquette. We need students to look at their faith system and use it as a means to reinforce their beliefs, not be the only point of reference in making decisions. Marquette needs to look beyond their Catholic identity to enhance their diversity and acceptance, realizing that once and for all- being Catholic means being inclusive and not judgmental.

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Hypocrisy and the whole of Catholic social teaching

Posted on 02 November 2007 by Daniel Suhr

Every year, the Office of Student Development sponsors a Leadership Summit that brings Marquette students together to discuss a pressing issue or theme. I have attended several in the past and found them a mixture of generating productive ideas and kumbaya handholding.

This year’s theme is built around “civic engagement and how leadership makes a difference in modern day issues of civil rights, social justice, and equality.” Breakout sessions will focus on race relations, housing, education and poverty. That’s all fine, good and frankly to be expected at Marquette, but the list is incomplete. Where is building a Culture of Life where every child is welcomed in life and protected in law? Where is fighting for marriage and families against an onslaught of hostile societal forces?

Often times we hear liberal Catholics, good, well-meaning, faithful people, who say that we must represent “the whole of Catholic Social Teaching.”

Liberal Catholics level this phrase against conservative Catholics, both lay leaders and bishops, who they accuse of focusing so substantially on fighting abortion and same-sex marriage that they ignore issues like poverty and access to health care. Conservative Catholics respond, rightly I think, that certain policy issues are more morally pressing than others, and certain policy questions are less open to prudential judgment than others (i.e. faithful Catholics can disagree about whether the Iraq War met just war criteria; they cannot disagree about whether abortion is moral).

It is also fair to argue, though, that liberal Catholics “ignore the whole of Catholic Social Teaching” when they get to set the agenda. This conference is a perfect example of that reality: contending for the sanctity of life and for one man-one woman marriage are absent from the program, which focuses instead on big-government solutions to other social issues.

Several years ago, the United States Jesuit Conference promulgated “Standing for the Unborn,” a social statement that tied the fight against abortion into the larger Jesuit message of contending for justice.

The Jesuit Provincial Fathers wrote, “[O]ur common calling is to stand in solidarity with the unborn, the ‘least of our brothers and sisters’ (Matthew 25:40), through prayer and political activism.” A summit on civic engagement should take that calling seriously.

In response to my column last week, a helpful staff member of the Haggerty Art Museum points out that the Museum will be sponsoring an exhibition of photographs by awardwinning photojournalist Reverend Don Doll, S.J., incumbent of the Wade Chair next semester. The exhibition, “The Grandeur of God,” will feature images from Fr. Doll’s missions around the world. I encourage you to visit the Haggerty between January 31 and April 13 to see this exhibit and to show your support for Catholic art on campus.

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Freshmen summer reading: Manresa’s Missed Mission

Posted on 02 November 2007 by Abbi Ott

The First Year Reading Program aims to encourage students to see life from different perspectives but how is this mission being perceived by students?

Arriving in the mailboxes of incoming freshmen everywhere, book assignments for the First Year Reading Program have become an unsavory summer homework project.

Each year, the Manresa Project has chosen a book for freshmen to read during the summer, books that many students have chosen to ignore. According to Manresa, the books freshmen read help them explore their gifts and reflect upon how they can use those gifts to help others. The book aims to challenge student perspectives, showing them new ways of viewing the world.

“The purpose [of the First Year Reading Program] is to help students know who they are and how to be active citizens,” described Mary Ferwerda, assistant director of the Manresa Project. Many Marquette students, however, saw the summer reading as busywork and not a life changing experience.

“[I read it] because it was something that I had to read, I wasn’t expecting it to do much in my life,” said Alisa Leoni a sophomore in the college of Health Sciences.

Along with their book, every incoming freshman received study questions with a due date and was told to finish the text before arriving on campus for Orientation. But how many students followed through?

“I never read the book. The [discussion] classes were a joke. No one else read the book or even took it seriously,” said Mark Kane, a senior in the College of Communication. “It had no impact on my life whatsoever.”

Faculty members lead discussions on the readings at Freshmen Orientation, hypothetically holding students accountable for the reading material. Eric Greenwald, a freshman in the College of Engineering, admitted he had never read the book assigned to his class, “Bombingham” by Anthony Grooms, and there were no repercussions

Kane along with the rest of the class of 2008 read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott which detailed the struggles and triumphs of a writer. According to the First Year Reading Program website, “Writing is also a kind of metaphor for life: it helps you to observe and appreciate and listen to the world around you.” And for students with a background in the topic, this holds true.

“It did impact me because I really like to write and [Lamott] had interesting things to say about writing processes,” said Margaret Smith, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Some members of the class of 2009 had similar reactions when they read “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines. In this novel, Grant Wiggins, an African American teacher who had been educated in the North, returns to his Southern community. While there, he is persuaded to help educate a man on death row so he could die with dignity.

“In the short-term, the book impacted me, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression,” said Carrie Burklund, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“It just seemed similar to all the other books about Southern conflict like in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’,” said Meaghan Minihan, a junior in the college of Arts and Sciences. Discouraged by this, Minihan only finished the first quarter of the novel.

“It did make me think about things that I wouldn’t normally consider, but once I put the book down it didn’t really last,” said Brady Jadin, a sophomore in the College of Business.

Lauren Miller, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, on the other hand, enjoyed her book, “Hunger” by Lan Samantha Chang. Chang wrote about a Chinese woman who faced competing pressures from her family and her struggle to make decisions in the midst of this struggle.

“It was really neat to learn about different cultures and the way that someone from these cultures looks at situations,” said Miller of her experience.

A reaction similar to that of Miller was the hope for the Class of 2011’s book, “Bombingham” by Anthony Grooms. Manresa stated that they chose “Bombingham” to “honor the 40th anniversary of the open housing marches of 1967 and 1968, a notable era in Milwaukee’s own civil rights history.”

In Grooms’ book, an African American soldier recalls his conflict between his family and his desire to participate in the Civil Rights movement.

“ ‘Bombingham’ opened my eyes to how life isn’t easy for everyone,” said Thomas Kavanagh, a freshman in the college of Business. For those students who did read the book, Manresa achieved its goal to encourage them to see things from a different perspective. However, the question still remains as to whose perspective the new freshmen were seeing.

The assigned books were chosen by a handful of faculty and administrators. These administrators were named to a board that is written in the grant Manresa received from the Lilly Endowment Inc. It included the Assistant Dean for New Student Programs, the Assistant Director of Manresa, the Director of Manresa, the Senior Associate Dean of the Office of Student Development, a representative from the English Department, and another faculty representative. Absent from this board were representatives from University Ministry, the Business School, the Chemistry Department and other social and natural science departments. Anyone in the Marquette community can nominate books for consideration but the final decision will be up to this board.

“We try to bring in cultural context such as race or geography to lift the program and have students glean something from it,” said Ferwerda.

In the last four years, two books have been about African American identity, one about Chinese Americans and one about a female writer.

However, despite Manresa’s attempts to widen student worldviews, many freshmen appeared to be left with only a vague impression of Marquette and its mission.

“The book didn’t impact me, but it did give me an idea as to who Marquette is and what it stands for,” said Jessica Strobel, a junior in the College of Health Sciences.

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Go Roman, go strong

Posted on 12 September 2007 by Katelyn Ferral

Catholic. Jesuit. Those are often the first two words admissions officers use to describe Marquette University to prospective students.

But Marquette’s religious identity spans beyond theology classes and weekly Mass; a handful of vibrant Catholic student organizations dedicate themselves to nurturing the university’s Catholic, Jesuit identity in their own way. Continue Reading

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Administration must be more strict with Maguire

Posted on 25 April 2007 by Daniel Suhr

He went looking for a fight and he found one.

Daniel Maguire, a member of Marquette’s Theology Department, sent a pair of pamphlets to all 270 American Catholic bishops – one arguing abortion is moral, the other arguing for gay marriage.

In a rare move, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, composed of eight bishops and two cardinals, issued a “public correction of the erroneous views proposed in these pamphlets.”

Because a public rebuke by the bishops is both rare and serious, Marquette and Maguire have received significant recent national attention. In a statement responding to the New York Times, Marquette reiterated its defense of Maguire’s right to teach whatever he wants as a tenured professor.

Conservative critics like the Rev. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, have called for Marquette to dismiss Maguire straight away.

Other conservatives have offered suggestions that would not require Marquette to buy out Maguire’s tenure, but would still constitute strong disciplinary action.

Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society has suggested Marquette transfer Maguire from Theology to another department to comply with canon law. In a letter to Fr. Wild, he wrote,

“Marquette University can find ways to end or at least diminish the scandals without violating Maguire’s contractual rights. Consider, for instance, the decision of Duquesne University in 2001 to transfer a dissenting tenured professor from the theology department to a university center for social and public policy. A lesser action might be to assign Maguire a faculty title that clearly identifies him as a non-Catholic theologian…”

Brian Olszewski, the executive editor of the Catholic Herald, Milwaukee’s official archdiocesan newspaper, has argued Marquette should at least stop Maguire from teaching classes.

And I have said on my blog that Marquette should not allow Maguire to use his affiliation with MU as a credential when making public statements (a move I believe is allowed by the AAUP’s Statement of Principles).

The point is that Marquette’s fervent protestations that “Our hands are tied by tenure” is not a defense in the face of the University’s other options.

The more subtle point is disproving the standard rhetoric that often labels conservative and pro-life commentators as “hard-line,” “ultra-orthodox,” “authoritarian,” or “uncompromising.”

Yet in this instance, as I think in other cases, the administration is the one that refuses to budge.

Conservative critics have given their ideal, firing Maguire, but have also offered several alternative options to spark dialogue. Yet the University declines the opportunity to compromise, fails to take any action and remains hard-line.

At a Catholic institution, Maguire’s pro-abortion advocacy should make him a Ward Churchill or Kevin Barrett. Instead, Marquette gives him its students, its money, and its good name to facilitate his crusade for a Planned Parenthood abortion mill on every street corner.

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