KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., is set to become the home of Christ College, a new Catholic liberal arts school inspired by the thought of Blessed John Henry Newman.
“He’s really the guiding intellectual light of what we’re trying to do,” Brinton Smith, president of the Walsingham Society of Christian Culture and Western Civilization, told EWTN News on April 17.
“His work has been an inspiration, and we look to his The Idea of a University as one of our primary texts, in how we see things and what we’d like to accomplish as a Catholic liberal arts college.”
Christ College is a project of the Walsingham Society, which is based in Dallas. The college plans to lease space at the diocesan chancery in Kansas City, Mo., and begin with a pilot program this fall.
The pilot program would include a few courses, starting with Latin and theology, Smith said, and would be followed with the full curriculum being introduced to the freshman class in the fall of 2014.
Smith met the diocesan chancellor, Jude Huntz, at a conference on Anglicans who had converted to Catholicism. Huntz was enthusiastic about the prospect of a liberal arts college and introduced Smith to Bishop Robert Finn.
Smith has been meeting with Bishop Finn since January, and the diocese has come to an agreement with the Walsingham Society on a location for the school. The organization is now in the process of fundraising to support their plan.
The Walsingham Society already operates a School of Liberal Studies, offering classes in the liberal arts in both Dallas and Arlington, Texas. This school is to continue after Christ College opens.
Christ College will offer a single curriculum and a single degree in liberal arts. Students will take classes in grammar, rhetoric, logic, history, math and sciences, music, Latin, Greek, philosophy and theology.
“It’s a traditional Great Books and classical education. ... Professors would be teaching the Great Books within their individual disciplines,” Smith said.
In addition to seminars in which students discuss texts under the direction of a professor, “the most interesting thing we have is tutorials.”
“All the professors will have a few students they’ll look after personally and meet with at least once a week … to tutor them through the curriculum, in addition to their own courses, all the other courses, and to work with them on their papers and help preparing them for their tests … to give them the personal benefit of that one-on-one instruction,” Smith said.
This tutorial model will help ensure that all of Christ College’s students thrive in the curriculum. Smith said that while the Walsingham Society has found that many parents and Catholic preparatory schools have discovered the riches of the classical model of education, tutors will help ensure that all students can do well in the curriculum.
The tutorial model is based on the experience of Blessed John Henry Newman at Oxford University. As a student, his relationship with his tutors “helped him through his conversion process; and also, when he himself was a tutor, several young men eventually followed him into the Church.”
The connection with Blessed Newman may make it appropriate to consider Christ College a fruit of the patrimony of the Anglican tradition of which Newman had been a part.
The Walsingham Society’s name comes from Our Lady of Walsingham, a Marian apparition in 11th-century England. Many of the society’s members are Catholic converts from Episcopalianism and attend Masses of Anglican use or through the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
In addition to Blessed Cardinal Newman, Christ College is inspired by the John Senior’s Integrated Humanities Program which was at the University of Kansas in nearby Lawrence.
“We’d like to reach out to all the priests and bishops who had a relationship to the Pearson Program at Kansas University. … And the ones I’ve met are very pleased with the idea of having a Catholic liberal arts program that is similar to John Senior’s Pearson Program back in the Midwest, around the Kansas City area,” Smith said.
The vision of the Walsingham Society in pursuing the establishment of Christ College is based on the assumption that “the highest natural ability of the human person is to lift up the eye of the heart to things true, good and beautiful and that it is the development of this capacity through the education of intellect and imagination that is the true purpose of learning,” according to the college’s prospectus.
Authors used in Christ College’s curriculum will include Aristotle, Dante, Etienne Gilson, Kant, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, Romano Guardini, John Paul II and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
The diverse authors demonstrate the rich tradition of learning in Western civilization, even without the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church.
“All things that are true belong to us Christians,” Smith observed. “It’s a great tradition in the West that should be preserved and loved and carried forth to the benefit of the Church in the future, and we want to be a small part in that great tradition and in moving it forward.”