- My faith is too important to me to go to a Public School
- I’m going to a Catholic School because I value my faith
- Being able to live out my Catholic faith is worth the extra money
In short: No.
Before I address this, let’s be clear that I’m not going to spend time (except for this sentence) on the fact that many Catholic universities today are Catholic in name only, and are a cause of great scandal for the Church. Somebody else can write a blog on that. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that Public Universities can and are in several circumstances fantastic places to live out one’s Catholic faith.
A couple of years ago I was interviewed by a Catholic news agency for a story on (as I was told) practicing Catholicism in a secular school setting. I was asked the questions you might expect, covering the who, what, where, why, and how bases. I was also asked if I ever experienced people or settings which were against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. As a human being living on Earth, of course I had – I named a few times that professors or even members of other Christian groups on campus were not quiet about their negative opinions of the Church. I also mentioned the unique evangelization opportunities these gave me. If the apostles and saints could spread the Gospel message to nations who had never heard of Christ or were explicitly against him, surely I could do this too (perhaps not with the same zeal or success rate) – especially since martyrdom at the hands of these people was not likely (although sometimes you wonder).
I was disappointed when the article was published the following month under the pretense that Catholic schools are so much better than secular colleges, and proceeded to use the rest of the article to state why Catholics should go to Catholic universities.
This problem is not unique to Catholicism – several Protestant groups also take this sort of approach to target the college audience. Separating pieces from something that was never meant to be separated results in destruction, dysfunction, and disunity. This is as true in the spiritual sense as it is in the physical sense.
What happens is often a significant or total redirection away from the notion of Parish Life.
If you came from a practicing Catholic family, you were probably a part of a parish before you came to college. After college, you’ll move somewhere, settle down, and find a parish that will then be your home parish.
The fact of the matter is, your school’s religious affiliation does not determine whether or not you live out your Catholic faith. You do. This post is titled “Good Catholics go to Public Colleges” – and this is true. But good Catholics go to Catholic colleges too. As Catholics, college should be a time for growth, community (both in and outside of the campus walls), evangelization, and an overall deeper entering into the life of Christ, wherever you go.
Pray and discern about which college is best for you - but don't let the fact that a college is "secular" scare you away.