So Far, So Catholic
John Paul the Great Catholic University: A Progress Report
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
January 14-20, 2007 Issue | Posted 1/10/07 at 10:00 AM
With a name like John Paul the
And authentically Catholic.
Derry Connolly, the new school’s president and co-founder, knew that when he began planning an institution of higher education that would prepare business and media professionals to advance the “New Evangelization” called for by the late Holy Father.
Classes opened at the
“I’m an optimist, and I say it’s going wonderfully,” says Connolly. “The best part is the students, in terms of their commitment to the Lord. We were hoping for students who are true to their faith. God has been very good to us, sending lots students for whom faith is first and foremost.”
Connolly points out the numbers who attend daily
“All the religious activity is optional,” notes Connolly, so it’s “a good measure of their commitment to the Lord.”
Freshman Mollie O’Hare from
“I love to be able to talk to my peers about the Catholic faith,” O’Hare explains.
She points in particular to theology classes led by professor Michael Barber, who has written two books for Emmaus Road Publishing and who blogs at singinginthereign.blogspot.com.
O’Hre says she’s also edified by the way the school links spirituality with academics. Her delight is apparent as she describes the school’s vision of using the media for God’s greater glory and applying and living the teachings of John Paul.
According to its website, the school offers degree programs in “communications media, media-enabling technology and business, forming students and preparing them for a participation in the world of media.”
“John Paul the Great told us to reach beyond what we are,” says O’Hare. “We need to strive to be more holy, take back the media and reach people with it.”
A happy Matt Salisbury from
Salisbury says he was attracted to the way Catholic life is blended with studying entertainment media and business, forming savvy and creative pros who can change the world by shaping mass-media messages.
Of course, the vibrant spiritual life of “JPCatholic,” as the university is already familiarly
called, adds several pluses for him and others, from the nightly Rosary to the
daily Mass at nearby
“There’s a sense of closeness and fellowship really
amazing for me to see in college,”
“The ability to bring Jesus Christ in the workplace is something I tried to do in my own business career,” Lane says. “Now to be able to bring real life examples from my business career into the classroom and to pray in class shows there are always opportunities to bring Christ into the workplace — and vice versa.”
The fairly smooth early sailing doesn’t mean the new university hasn’t already come through a few squalls.
“Everything we do has been a challenge,” says Connolly, “particularly things to do with government agencies.” Approval from the state took twice as long as it normally should, and every legal hurdle seemed unnecessarily elevated.
For example, it took nine months to obtain a permit from the city to operate a school. In fact, classes had been in session six weeks before the permit was granted.
He’s also grateful to San Diego Bishop Robert Brom, who has been supportive and has celebrated Mass at the school.
Another challenge came in recruiting faculty. The school sought people well-versed both in business and new media — especially those who’d built new-media companies. At the same time, instructors needed to demonstrate a desire to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Persistence paid off. “All of the faculty we’ve got now are totally committed” to the Catholic faith, says Connolly. “They’re here because of their love for Christ.”
The lesson he and the other founders learned in the three years it took to bring their vision to fruition was the importance of “sitting back and trusting in the Lord.”
“He absolutely delivers,” says Connolly. “He will send you what you need when you need it.”
Or, as Pope John Paul might have paraphrased that sentiment: “Be not afraid. Put out into the deep of the ’Net.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen writes from
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