Patrick J. Reilly is president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. He also teaches at Aquinas Learning, a classical Catholic homeschool program led by his wife Rosario. They have five children.
As the new academic year begins for students around the country, a video on Twitter caught my eye: tutors at the new East Coast campus of Thomas Aquinas College recited the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity at Convocation in front of the College’s students.
“In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of the faith in its entirety,” the tutors proclaimed before Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of the Diocese of Springfield on Aug. 24. “I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.”
What a hopeful and profound way to begin the year!
Thomas Aquinas College, known for its academic rigor and orthodox Catholicism, is now educating students in Northfield, Massachusetts, as well as Santa Paula, California. It joins other faithful New England colleges, including Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, in bringing a renewal of Catholic faith and culture to an area of the country that is sorely in need of it.
At Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, on Aug. 25, professors also made their annual Profession of Faith, and new professors made the Oath of Fidelity. The College has told The Cardinal Newman Society: “While we know that this is not strictly required, we wish to go beyond the minimum and demonstrate that all our Catholic faculty are committed to teaching all disciplines ad mentem ecclesiae.”
The profession and oath were made at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Steven Biegler of the Diocese of Cheyenne. He told faculty and students, “The formation of the whole person that Catholic education seeks—body and mind, heart and soul, faith and reason, seeks to form disciples who think and speak and act like Christ.”
Later that afternoon, freshman students also signaled their commitment to faithful Catholic education by signing their names in the official Student Register. “In signing this book,” Acting Dean Kyle Washut told the students, “you are making a public act of trust. You are announcing your intention to trust the Wyoming Catholic College community with your formation over the next four years. We are aware of the solemn duty imposed on us when you give us that trust, and we will honor it.”
The same day, the entire faculty of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, made the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity at a Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington.
“I want to begin by thanking you and your gifted and talented administration and faculty for providing our students with such a sacred place to continue their education, to deepen their relationship with the Lord, and to grow in Truth and be prepared to articulate that Truth wherever the Lord sends them,” Bishop Burbidge said.
Catholic college presidents, too, are expected to recite the Oath of Fidelity according to canon law. Dr. Timothy Collins, the new president of Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, recited the oath during the University’s Mass of the Holy Spirit on Aug. 28. Impressively, he was surrounded by members of Walsh’s founding order, the Brothers of Christian Instruction, and University Chaplain Father Thomas Cebula.
“When you think about the Oath of Fidelity, we think about it in terms of a covenant,” said Monsignor John Zuraw, the Mass celebrant and chancellor of the Diocese of Youngstown. “God has established a covenant with each and every one of us. And with any covenant, there are responsibilities. There are values that we hold deep within our very being.”
“As President Collins takes this Oath of Fidelity,” Msgr. Zuraw continued, “he takes it first and foremost to be faithful to God and all that he does and all that he will be. But this Oath of Fidelity also implies a relationship with each and every one of you… that he will do his best to lead this University with values and principles based on the Gospel.”
A public profession of our Catholic faith is an important witness to students and a comforting assurance about the type of education students will be receiving. While the Church does not require it of every professor at a Catholic college, canon law does require that every Catholic theology professor receive the mandatum from the local bishop, by which theologians promise that they will teach in accord with the Church. Often this is accomplished by a Profession of Faith or other similar measure.
Among the faithful colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, all theology professors have the required mandatum, and most take the Oath of Fidelity. Sadly we don’t see this everywhere, but there is an exciting renewal today at a growing number of Catholic colleges. Families seeking assurance of a faithful education have many good options.
Starting out this new academic year on the right foot is a very hopeful sign. Please keep Catholic educators in your prayers, that they will faithfully teach and witness to our students, preparing them to walk with Christ throughout their adult lives.