Catholic Education is Alive at Catholic Pacific College

The human being’s vocation, which begins in this life and finds its ultimate fulfillment in the next, is a vocation to beatitude - the fullest measure of love and happiness - and to participation in divine life (CCC). Thus, it stands to reason that education has as its definitive object or end the purpose of helping each person achieve his or her true good and beatitude. 

In an address to bishops, Pope Benedict XVI said that “providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community…The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church.” There is a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities, said the pope, “to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to…the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel,” because young people “have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.” (“Ad Limina Apostolorum,” 5/5/2012).

However, in the present historical and cultural context, the achievement of this end is beset with a number of challenges. It is no exaggeration to say that for a number of years now there has been something of a crisis in higher education, not just in secular institutions, but in Catholic institutions of higher learning as well.  There seems to be increasing uncertainty concerning what, in fact, a university education is for. 

This is a novel situation, and a demanding new challenge, because until recently there was a good deal of consensus — in religious and secular educational environments alike — on the question concerning the goal of education. Education was seen to be concerned with helping and guiding the person toward fulfilling his or her own human capacities. Christian educators subscribed to this view, as did the liberal humanist inheritors of the Enlightenment (even while they increasingly detached their humanism from the Christian sources that had informed it). Now, humanism itself has come to be defined along very divergent lines, and, in terms of its range of possibilities, has even endorsed positions that can be characterized as radically anti-humanist and nihilist. Since education presupposes a philosophy of the person, and a stance concerning the person’s destiny, this state of affairs has led to a crisis that is evident to all but the most benighted of observers. 

In such a climate, the task of the Catholic educator and of Catholic institutions of learning is, first and foremost, to defend all that is authentically human. Indeed, in a recent address to bishops, Pope Benedict XVI said that “providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community…The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church.” There is a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities, says Benedict, that they need “to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to…the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel,” because young people “have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.” (“Ad Limina Apostolorum,” 5/5/2012).

Catholic Pacific is precisely a place were the Christian vision as outlined by the pope is presented in all its breadth and integrity. All Catholic Pacific College courses are taught by exceptional teachers, people who love the Church wholeheartedly, and who are filled with a passion to communicate the very best of what the Church has to offer. Students are taught how to engage with the Church’s tradition, in order to evaluate what human beings in preceding generations have counted as wisdom, and in an endeavour to “sift all things and hold fast to what is good” (St. Paul).

But memory is not enough in defending what is human. It is not enough, for example, to have memory of the fact that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago. That memory has to become a consciousness of His presence in the here and now. If faith doesn’t become meaningfully linked to all of life as it is lived in the present, then it can hardly withstand the challenges of a culture which has forgotten Christ. To this end, our students are helped to learn to see how all that their tradition proposes can be verified in relation to their own vitally lived experience in the present. They attempt to examine everything they have received from tradition in such a way as to make that inheritance their own; moreover, the truth that the Church proposes, and that the great thinkers of the past have engaged with, can be compared to the deepest longings of their hearts and seen to be true and supremely important for their lives. 

Catholic Pacific College is a place where witnesses to this truth abound. Students who see such witnesses, in each other, and in their teachers, are drawn by the attractiveness of Jesus, by the goodness, beauty, and truth that He intends for their lives, and by the beatitude that only He can give them.

By Dr. Christine Jones, President