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Why Catholic Education? Why UST?

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campusministry@stthom.edu  
The Chapel of St. BasilStudents of many faiths and denominations attend St. Thomas, and all are welcome as students. Although Catholic liberal arts has a special appeal to Catholics, students from other faith traditions often find much of value in their UST studies.

Drawing on examples of the Catholic tradition, students learn how to integrate their faith with reason and there is a campus culture that supports those committed to living an upright life. Through the Catholic liberal arts tradition, students of all faiths develop critical thinking, writing and communication skills. Learn more about how students of all faiths can benefit from a Catholic education.

As a Catholic, how will UST benefit me?

Catholic Students: Convinced and Confident

Some Catholic students considering the University of St. Thomas will have been blessed with a certain spiritual maturity, already understanding the importance of Christ in their lives and confidently embracing the Catholic faith as their own. For these students, a Catholic university such as UST is a perfect fit. 

  • UST has an academic program in the proud tradition of Catholic liberal arts. 
    • Good students come to a university hoping to grow in wisdom. Although UST has excellent pre-professional education, it also aspires to pass along to students the best answers the Catholic tradition has to offer in addressing the most important questions life poses. 
    • Courses in theology and philosophy especially serve to deepen students’ understanding of their Catholic faith and how that faith is compatible with what is known by reason. 
    • Students committed to living a good life can study both what the philosophical traditions and the gospels have to offer, developing well-formed consciences for personal and professional living. 
    • The Catholic tradition teaches that knowledge is not hopelessly separated into disciplinary silos; truth has a unity. A UST education is designed to teach students how disciplines cast light on each other and how reality can be understood comprehensively in the light of faith. 
  • Catholic students at UST can deepen their spiritual lives in many ways. 
    • The Eucharist is celebrated frequently on campus: three times on Sundays (including the Saturday vigil mass); three times daily Monday through Thursday; twice on Friday; once on Saturday. 
    • The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated every weekday at noon. 
    • Eucharistic adoration is available every Wednesday. 
    • Campus ministry provides retreats designed for students. 
    • A number of priests and sisters serve full time on campus and welcome opportunities to engage students, to offer guidance or to answer questions. 
  • Catholic students have opportunities for social development. 
    • Catholic students frequently form lifelong friendships and find other students on campus who share their deepest beliefs. 
    • Organizations on campus provide an opportunity to meet other students and to work together for good causes (e.g., Celts for Life, Augustine Hall Program, Knights of Columbus).

A good Catholic university is designed with the intellectual, spiritual and other needs of young Catholics in mind. UST consciously aims at providing such an education to our students in a way which is faithful to the Church’s understanding of what a Catholic university ought to be.

Although students may find some things mentioned above in a Catholic campus ministry at a secular university (e.g., retreats), most of the academic and a number of the spiritual opportunities will probably be unavailable there. Catholic students who attend secular universities ordinarily miss many opportunities — academic, spiritual and social — that would be readily available to them at a Catholic university such as UST.

I was raised Catholic but am not practicing now. Is UST the place for me?

Raised Catholic, but…

Some young Catholics approach university as searchers. Doubts about the faith may be troubling them, and they may be weighing the claims of their faith against certain other claims to truth.

A Catholic university is just the place for a young Catholic in such a position. Why?

  • Universities are places where people ask hard questions and search for the truth. Good professors will not dismiss a student’s struggles with faith, but will respect his or her honest search. 
  • Students at a Catholic university sometimes discover that the questions most troubling them about the faith are in fact answerable. UST’s theology and philosophy professors have spent years studying their disciplines and addressing difficult questions related to faith. Frequently, they can open students to perspectives on issues they have never considered before. 
  • Students really intent on answering questions about their faith will probably do themselves little good by attending a secular university, unless there is an unusually good chaplain or campus ministry. Most professors at secular universities will have no training in Catholic theology or philosophy and perhaps little sympathy. It would be a mistake to expect them to have the competency to provide adequate answers to questions related to faith. 
  • Over the years, people experiencing difficulties of faith have often sought divine assistance through prayer and participation in the sacraments. A Catholic university such as UST, which has a chapel and frequent opportunities for the sacraments, facilitates such an opening to grace.

Im not Catholic. Will I be welcome at UST?

Non-Catholic Students

UST has always welcomed students of faith traditions other than Catholic. This openness is completely in line with authentic Catholic belief: the Church urges Catholics to respect members of other faith traditions and to share with them the good things we have.

Catholic liberal arts is a time-honored approach to higher education with its roots at the very beginning of Western university education; its contemporary form was beautifully expressed by Pope John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae. Catholic liberal arts curriculum requires courses which include or even feature Catholic beliefs and values; otherwise, a student could not understand clearly the synthesis among disciplines and the unity of faith and reason which is at the heart of the Catholic approach to education.

Although Catholic liberal arts has a special appeal to Catholics, students from other faith traditions often find much of value in their UST studies: 

  • Students who learn how to integrate faith and reason in the Catholic tradition are better able to do so with their own faith tradition. 
  • There is an attitude on campus of respect for faith generally and for religious believers. 
  • Those committed to living a morally upright life will probably find the culture on campus more conducive to achieving this goal than the ethos at a secular university. 
  • A Catholic liberal arts education, which routinely asks students to confront difficult questions, helps them to develop some extremely useful competencies, such as critical thinking, writing and communication.

In addition to these more general benefits, UST has some particular benefits which would appeal to individual faith traditions. Please read below to find UST’s welcome to various churches, ecclesial communities and faiths.

Christians

We at UST offer a special welcome to those who profess the Orthodox faith. The Orthodox and Catholic churches are closely related in faith and sacramental life. The Second Vatican Council recalls that the Roman Catholic Church has drawn extensively from the treasury of the Eastern churches, including from liturgical practice, spiritual tradition and law. Pope John Paul II was fond of comparing the Eastern and Western Churches to two lungs; the Church will only breathe with both lungs again when she can draw her life-breath from both West and East.

What benefits would someone from the Orthodox tradition take in earning a degree at a Catholic University, especially one like UST that is serious about its Catholic identity? Here are some: 

  • The Catholic and Orthodox churches share so many beliefs and practices that Orthodox students will find in the Catholic theology they take at UST much that is consonant with their own church’s beliefs. 
  • Some UST faculty members are conversant in Eastern traditions. For example, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson and Dr. Andrew Hayes are knowledgeable about Eastern patristic theology and teach this tradition in some of their classes. 
  • The University’s Chapel should make Orthodox believers feel at home. Named after the revered Eastern Doctor of the Church, St. Basil the Great, the chapel architecture is inspired by Eastern style. An icon depicting St. Basil hangs in a place of honor over the tabernacle.

UST has welcomed Orthodox students in the past and gladly shares her resources with members of this venerable sister church.

Protestant Students

The University of St. Thomas welcomes students who belong to Western churches and ecclesial communities that separated from the Catholic Church from the time of the Reformation. The Catholic Church believes that “all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body” (Unitatis Redintegratio). Catholics and Reformed Christians are joined by many things, including a confession of Jesus Christ as Lord, a belief in the Holy Spirit, a deep love for Scripture and the goodness of the virtues of faith, hope and charity.

What benefits would a Protestant believer take in earning a degree a Catholic university, especially one like UST that is serious about its Catholic identity? Here are some: 

  • Although undeniable differences exist, Catholics and Protestants also share many beliefs in common. Protestant students who take Catholic theology courses will find many things taught in them consonant with and even inspiring for their own Christian faith. 
  • The University of St. Thomas offers many courses in Sacred Scripture, including Introduction to Sacred Scripture, Pentateuch, Prophets of Ancient Israel, Wisdom in Israel, Book of Psalms, Synoptic Gospels, Luke-Acts, Gospel and Letters of John, Paul: His Letters and Theology, and Book of Revelation. Although there are some differences in interpretation of Scripture, much of the study of the Bible at UST would be equally accepted and appreciated by Catholics and Protestants. 
  • The UST course, Teachings of the Protestant Tradition, presents the beliefs of Churches and Ecclesial Communities coming from the Reformation.

From its beginning, UST has welcomed many Protestant students. Our University’s motto is “let us grow together in Christ”; we believe that this happens when Catholic and Protestant students learn about Christian faith side-by-side.

What benefit would it be to a Jewish believer or someone from a non-Christian religion to attend a Catholic university, especially one that is committed to its Catholic identity as UST?

Non-Christian Religions

Jews

The University of St. Thomas welcomes members of the Jewish faith to our university. The Catholic Church calls on all her sons and daughters to promote mutual understanding and to foster respect for the Jewish people, remembering how greatly the Church treasures the Hebrew scriptures and how profound is the Jewish influence on Christian scriptures. Christians cannot help but recall that Jesus, Mary, the apostles and most of the early Christians were of Hebrew ancestry.

What benefit would it be to a Jewish believer to attend a Catholic University, especially one which is as committed to its Catholic identity as UST is? Here are some: 

  • The University of St. Thomas offers a number of courses in the Hebrew scripture. For example, undergraduate students can take Pentateuch, Prophets of Ancient Israel, Wisdom in Israel, and Book of Psalms. Although there are differences in the interpretation, much of the study of the Hebrew Bible at UST would be equally accepted and appreciated by Catholics and Jews. 
  • UST has courses that would be of special interest to students of Jewish heritage. For example, every spring semester, Rabbi Roy Walter, former Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El, comes to campus to teach either Introduction to Judaism, which presents major ideas, customs, ceremonies and traditions of Judaism, or Selected Questions in Judaism, which presents how Jews have read the Hebrew Scriptures through the ages. (Both courses are supported by the Jewish Chautauqua Society and the Herzstein Foundation.) 
  • An annual lecture series sponsored by the Herzstein Foundation addresses Jewish themes. Speakers have included Rabbi Roy Walter, Rabbi Samuel Karff, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, Dr. Jon Levenson and Dr. Alan Avery-Peck. (These lectures are available through UST’s website.) 
  • Biblical Hebrew is sometimes offered at UST’s graduate school of theology. 
  • A special collection of Jewish books and other resources is now available through the Doherty Library, courtesy of a grant from the Herzstein Foundation.

Many Jewish students have attended UST in the past and have found it a hospitable place to live and to study. Since Catholic and Jewish beliefs are both taught on campus, we hope that UST’s curriculum will bring about greater mutual understanding and appreciation between Catholics and Jews.

Muslims

The University of St. Thomas welcomes Muslim students to UST. Although Catholics and Muslims have significant differences in belief, both faiths adore an all-powerful and merciful God and creator who will one day judge all people according to their deeds. Both faiths value the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and a commitment to living a morally upright life.

What benefit would it be to a Muslim believer to attend a Catholic University, especially one committed to its Catholic identity as UST is? 

  • Arabic language is taught. 
  • A number of courses (e.g. Western World Religions, Intercultural Issues, Regional Study of North Africa and the Middle East, Seminar in Middle East Studies) address Islam and Islamic culture directly. 
  • Those knowledgeable about the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, the university’s patron, regularly show how his writings were favorably influenced by Arabic and Islamic thinkers, including al-Fārābī, Avicenna, and Averroes. 
  • Religious belief and practice is more respected on campus than it would be at most secular universities. 
  • Catholic theology and philosophy assists non-Catholic students to develop an understanding of Christianity valuable for those living in Western cultures.

Other religions

UST welcomes those who practice other non-Christian traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Religions found everywhere propose their own teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites, and the Catholic Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions” (Nostra Aetate, 2).

What benefit would it be for someone from a non-Christian religion to attend UST?

  • UST teaches a course called Eastern World Religions which covers Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. 
  • It is valuable for non-Christians who live in the West or who relate to Christians to gain a deeper understanding of Christian beliefs and traditions.

For students professing no religious faith, what will they gain at UST?

Secularist/Atheist

For students professing no religious faith, UST’s Catholic character is not usually a reason attracting them to attend. Admittedly, some such students merely tolerate the religious dimension in order to take advantage of something else, for example, one of our pre-professional programs. Some non-religious students, however, find their encounter with Catholic liberal arts more interesting than they anticipated. 

  • Catholic liberal arts requires the study of philosophy; UST gives this special emphasis. For some non-religious students, addressing great questions of life using reason opens up many interesting and important issues that these students would probably not have encountered at a secular school heavily focused on pre-professional education. 
  • Non-believers must live side-by-side in the world with believers. UST’s curriculum allows non-believers to understand more about Christians, their teachings and what motivates them. 
  • Non-religious students may discover that religious believers and their convictions are different than they imagined. Why? Religion is badly misrepresented by popular culture, and some religious believers are very poor representatives of their faith, “[concealing] rather than revealing the authentic face of God and religion” (GS 19). Some non-religious students discover that in rejecting religion, they have rejected a caricature bearing little resemblance to the reality. Such students may find themselves reassessing religious belief and acquiring a much more sympathetic appreciation. Even if they still reject God and religion in the end, at least they are dismissing something closer to what believers really hold.
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University of St. Thomas - Houston, TX - Educating Leaders of Faith and Character
University of St. Thomas
The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston’s only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947.

 

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