‘Why I Chose a Catholic College’

Students who attend colleges featured in the Register's Catholic Identity College Guide discuss their choices.

Why do students chose a Catholic college or university? Here is what some students attending schools listed in our College Guide have to say.

Casey Balok, a senior majoring in theology at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., “really wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith. My catechesis was not good growing up. Our CCD classes were not what they should have been. I kept coming across these questions I knew I should know the answers to, but didn’t.

“I was raised in a very loving, generous family. My priority was always God first, then school. So I knew at an interfaith school I couldn’t grow and flourish. I wanted to go someplace that could help me grow in my faith.”

She finds her Catholic university an unbelievable blessing. “I was amazed how much everyone cared for each other. Professors care so much for students, are so willing to give up their time, and want to give you truth in the most clear way.”

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, an Ave Maria University senior, “wanted to go to college to get formed as a full human being, as a man and as a Christian. And a good Catholic school is a place where you’re going to get challenged in every way: physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. You have relationships that are meaningful.

“I grew up with an amazing Catholic upbringing. My dad was a theology professor at the University of Dallas. My parish has an awesome youth group. I had every advantage possible, and still I was thinking, Could I go to a school like Yale or a state school and keep my faith? I found a place I could grow in all these different ways.”

Nick Porretta, a senior at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., says he appreciates that at Benedictine “you don’t have to swim against the current. It’s good for young Catholics to defend their beliefs and values in the world, but nice to be in an environment where your choices aren’t looked down upon like in the world and buddies ask, ‘Want to come to Mass? Or go to adoration with friends? Or to Bible study?’ The Catholic environment is conducive to spiritual growth. That’s one of the big advantages of a Catholic school.”

Allie Crafton, a freshman at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., knew she definitely wanted to attend a Catholic college with a Catholic liberal arts program.

“I truly believe liberal arts liberates man’s spirit and elevates it from the normal material standards to a higher understanding. I thought all my education up to now would be perfected through the liberal arts.

“Catholics know that God is truth. Through education here at Christendom, I believe I will be learning the truth and I will be better understanding God. It was an eye-opening experience when I visited, sitting in on the classes. It was evident they were striving to tell me the truth and that the truth corresponded to what the Church teaches and what Christ taught.”

Dan Devine, a senior at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, says, “My parents advised me to go to a Catholic university first, for at least a couple of years — to a place where the faith was alive in a lot of different kinds of people trying to follow God’s call.

“I wanted in a school a place where I could go deeper in my relationship with God. I visited Franciscan University and knew in my heart when I went into Christ the King Chapel I was in the right place.

“I want to give all the glory to God. Because everything is all for him, and I honored my parents to come here first, I’m currently in the TORs’ affiliate program, which is for men discerning the TORs. It’s been a great blessing for me.”

Mollie O’Hare graduated in December from John Paul the Great University in San Diego, Calif., and is continuing in the university’s master’s program. She was “born and raised in Colorado. There are all very liberal universities there. I’ve seen the fruits of those schools. Too many people came out scared and not into faith anymore. I wanted to go to a Catholic college.

“I was drawn towards the media. I was doing a lot of political work and seeing how powerful the media are in shaping the country and the negative impact they had on people I know. I heard John Paul was focused on media. I came here because it was a Catholic university in a vocational setting. I’m putting my degree to work already, doing what I want to do. It’s great to have incredible mentors in the field as well as day-to-day personal spiritual growth.”

Matthew Salisbury also graduated in December from John Paul the Great and has continued in the master’s program. He “had a good basis in humanities from the Legionaries (in the novitiate) and my Regnum Christi school. I was looking for a school that was faithfully Catholic.

“Here, the concept of the school intrigued me because of the seriousness with which they took the Catholic identity and the seriousness preparing the students to be professionals, in this case in the entertainment industry. I do believe all your education is going to benefit if it’s based on a Catholic worldview.”

Emily Barry, a senior at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., was interested in a Catholic-informed Great Books program “that promised the kind of intellectual life that begins in wonder, ends in wisdom, and is guided by the Catholic faith, tradition and fidelity to the magisterium.

“To live the Catholic intellectual life is to be fully delighted and in wonder in everything you study. Any time you encounter what truth, good and beauty are, you are coming to understand more about God. All ultimately leads to him who is truth incarnate.”

She found at Thomas Aquinas “the authentic commitment to the Catholic intellectual life and a beautiful way the intellectual life is lived here in conjunction with the faith. We are challenged to use our studies to love God and grow in holiness. We’re faithful to the Church, love Our Lady, and are dedicated to Eucharistic adoration.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.