Catholic students at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and Texas A&M University-Kingsville will soon have their very own religiously-themed dormitories. Starting next fall, both institutions will begin offering rooms, a chapel and faith-based services for religious pupils.
In December, FIT broke ground on its Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Student Residence and, in October, Texas A&M commenced construction on the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center. The FIT building will reportedly house 140 students, with the Texas A&M initiative accommodating 287 young people.
Until these structures were announced, only one secular college — the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — had a Catholic dorm. Like the two buildings currently being constructed, the Illinois residence hall has a chapel. The announcements of these buildings come at a time when young people are said to be increasingly losing their faith.
Last month, The National Catholic Reporter explained how these new residencies came to fruition:
In a historic collaboration, Bishop John G. Noonan of Orlando, Fla., Anthony J. Catanese, president of Florida Institute of Technology, Matt Zerrusen, president of the Newman Student Housing Fund, and Salvatorian Fr. Douglas Bailey, chaplain of Catholic campus ministry at the school, participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking for Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Student Residence on Dec. 7.
The ceremony was the second in as many months at a secular university in which housing specifically designated for Catholic students is being constructed. […]
A similar ceremony took place Oct. 3 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center, which includes a dormitory and chapel. […]
The creation of these dorms inside of secular campus serves two fascinating purposes: To help young people hold onto their faith during the often-times difficult college years and to expose non-believers to Catholic teaching. Zerrusen told the Reporter last month that the fact that 50 percent of American students lose their faith by the time they graduate is “unacceptable.”
“It is a huge, huge deal in campus ministry, and all the Newman Centers want to add dorms. These are the first, the pioneers,” he noted.
The Newman Student Housing Fund is a fascinating endeavor — one that works to provide on-campus faith communities that blend secular campus life with religious adherence. By allowing for faith-based dormitories (and by helping to fund these structures), the group contends that it can help prevent students from drifting away from the faith.
“We believe that student housing facilities built with the purpose of exposing college students to the teachings of the Catholic faith will enrich the world by increasing vocations and building future leaders of the Church,” the company explains on its web site.
Zerrusen claims that the effort to place these Catholic residencies on mainstream campuses allows for Catholic communities to exist “inside secular ones.”
“If we want a way to change the culture of campus life and affect the future of our country, this is a big way of doing that,” he explained. “We can’t sit back and watch these kids go uncatechized. We’ve got to do something, and we are.”
The FIT dorm will be open to non-Catholics, too, with organizers claiming that residents won’t be forced to “memorize the Catechism.” Instead, they will merely be surrounded by “positive Catholic influences.”
With Catholics going out en force to get around the drop-off in faith that is being observed among young people, one wonders when evangelicals and other religious groups will consider following suit. Perhaps other Christian denominations are considering taking similar routes.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: Huffington Post)