Catholic education over the millennia is remarkably innovative. The Lord Jesus’ teachings speak for themselves. Saint Paul used letters to teach and inspire in what may be considered an early example of distance education. The writings of the early Church Fathers further establish the continuity of Catholic thought. The monasteries of the Dark Ages have been credited with keeping learning alive during a period of societal disruption. Universities themselves were products of the Catholic Church. Almost all early advancers in science (Copernicus, Kepler, etc.) were Catholic. Moving to more recent times, the United States saw significant proliferation of Catholic colleges and universities in the 19th and 20th centuries in particular, many led by religious women. In the current age, Catholic universities are found on every continent (except Antarctica) and in cyberspace. This litany of educational advances over time always compels and gives new energy to Catholic higher education.
Inspired by that beautiful legacy of innovation over the millennia, we now seek to emulate it. With the Holy Spirit, we can craft compelling modes for higher education. We have for our use tools never before conceived to educate students from all communities. Augmented reality, virtual labs and cyber classrooms with students from around the globe are just a few of the assets at our disposal. The challenges of cost, disability, distance, language and culture can be overcome.
The aim of Catholic higher education, regardless of modality, is truth. The means matters much less than the human connection in the pursuit of truth. As Saint Pope John Paul II writes in Fides et Ratio, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” It is that understanding and connection with the divine that distinguishes Catholic higher education from all others.
It is a great blessing that our pursuit of truth at the University of St. Thomas is happening right in the heart of Houston. On our campus, the intersection of Faith and Reason resides at the intersection of the Texas Medical Center, the Innovation Corridor, and the Arts District, places where great innovations are made daily, often by our own graduates. It is our privilege to continually address the importance of the role of the human person and pursuit of truth through innovation, medicine, technology and the arts. Groundbreaking innovations are at their most powerful when achieved in the name of the greater good.
As the author of the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, the great Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in 1991 about science and technology and a Catholic university’s role vis-a-vis the individual and society: “…Catholic universities are called to a continuous renewal, both as ‘universities’ and as ‘Catholic.’ “What is at stake is the very meaning of scientific and technological research, of social life and of culture, but, on an even more profound level, what is at stake is the very meaning of the human person.” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae 134)
An expanded version of Dr. Ludwick’s comments were originally featured in the Vatican Insider article titled: “A Bold Vision: Catholic Higher Education – Truth, Innovation and Evangelization.”