Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.Jesus via Matthew 6:19-21
My oldest son turns 30 next week and when I was writing my under the fedora piece for today (that is going up tomorrow instead) I touched on a story that brought this to mind.
Back in 2009 he had been offered a big scholarship to Anna Maria college and we went to visit the place. What I saw at the “catholic” college was less that overwhelming:
My problem with the place is one of my pet peeves. The college is a Catholic College There are old crosses on buildings and portraits of older bishops in one or two places, but I saw nothing affirming their Catholic identity. No portrait of the pope, no schedule of Masses (although they do offer daily Mass).
There were pictures celebrating the new president all over the place, banners celebrating diversity, announcements of the woman’s study courses but nothing on the March for Life later this month in Washington. The concert was a “holiday” concert. In the Anna Maria in the news bulletin board at the admissions office there was an article talking about protesting the pope in the US. That was the extent of any recent mention of religion.
Of course that was written in the days when “Is the Pope Catholic” was a one liner rather than a legit question but I digress…
When he was offered a full boat at the local Fitchburg State college (before it became Fitchburg University) which never pretended it wasn’t a secular organization he jumped at it allowing him to live at home and continue in our parish where his faith was well formed. I was going to let it go at that until we got a letter from the Bishop congratulating us on being accepted at Anna Maria and the Scholarship and the importance of a Catholic education.
At that point I wrote a letter to the Bishop that said in part:
We were excited when Sam was accepted at Anna Maria; even more so when they offered the largest (in dollars) scholarship of any of the nine colleges that have accepted and attempted to recruit him. We looked forward to the visit to the college and liked the prospect of a college that would expand both his faith and his educational horizons.
Then we actually visited the college.
Comparing your description of the college as a “great example of a Catholic institution…” and my experience I thought of George Weigel’s line commenting on the differing press releases concerning Speaker Pelosi visit to the Holy See: “Were Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi in the same meeting, or even in the same city?”
When I talked to the gentleman from admissions after the tour he informed me that this was not unusual at Catholic colleges and seemed to stress diversity rather than the Catholic identity, in fact seemed happy to reassure the next visiting student that he would not have to take any courses having to do with religion. Continuing my quote from the blog:
…It would be nicer if Catholic identity actually meant something. I’ve spent much more than I can afford over the last 10 years giving my sons a Catholic education. If I’m going to spend a whole lot more for a Catholic College then I expect a Catholic College.
I can’t reconcile your description of Anna Maria with what I saw and I can’t believe you would make that description after visiting the college yourself. While academically I believe it would be strong I don’t believe attending would foster his faith, in fact I suspect if he choose to wear his faith proudly it would go hard on him there.
The Bishop forward my letter to the president of the college who wrote me to dispute my impression and I posted both letters on the blog trusting readers to make their own decision.
Because I was referencing this story in the post I took the liberty of visiting the Anna Maria Web site curious if things had changed in twelve years and under a different president.
The front page like many sites has a rotating gallery highlighting many different things none of them involving the faith and while on other tabs you could find a reference particularly on the Campus Ministry page you will be hard pressed to find a sign of it. For the fun of it I did a search for the phrase: “Jesus Christ” on the site here were the results:
two of those are blog posts from 2020 and the other two are programs offered.
Now if you search for “diversity” however…
You’d have to go to additional pages to see all the results you can find but I figured the 1st page was enough to make my point. If you search for LGBT…
Well at least Jesus does equally as well as LGBT in the search results. I’ll wager there are plenty of Catholic Colleges where he doesn’t.
Well that’s Anna Maria College 12 years later. As for my son twelve years later last week I had a rare Sunday off and so I had the pleasure of my wife and sons all with me at the 6 PM mass at our parish. Neither of my sons received communion but both went up to the priest arms crossed for a blessing. When the mass was over they asked him for confession. When they had both received the sacrament the pastor took them to the tabernacle and they received Holy Communion after mass. I can imagine my mother & father punching the air in heaven at this and as their dad I can’t adequately state how proud I was to see this.
The best non-decision my wife and I ever made still remains not moving to the Portland Oregon area after our Honeymoon there 33 years ago but I’m thinking giving Anna Maria a miss twelve years ago comes in as a pretty solid second.