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Religiously Focused Schools

By Debra Holtz
Media Relations Officer, Saint Mary's College

Religiously focused schools are guided by the understanding that the intellectual and spiritual journeys of the human person are inextricably connected. They strive to build a community of learners with a strong code of ethics and a commitment to justice. Higher education is viewed not only as a means to achieve success, but to prepare students to make the ethical and moral decisions they will encounter in their lives. The goal of the professor at religiously affiliated colleges is not just for his or her students to master the material, but to help them become more reflective.

Traditionally, non-secular schools encourage an understanding of the whole person so that the educational experience is truly transformative. The spiritual dimension of religiously focused schools enriches the liberal arts tradition of fostering critical thinking and a desire for lifelong learning. Faculty and students seek not merely facts but fundamental principles, strive for an integration of all knowledge, and express themselves precisely and eloquently. In strong educational programs focusing on the classics, students learn the wisdom gained through history, wisdom that they can later use to benefit society. Retreats also give students the opportunity to explore the connection between faith and everyday life.

The schools promote the dialogue of faith and reason by building community among their members, defending the goodness, dignity and freedom of each person, and fostering sensitivity to social and ethical concerns. Toward the goal of creating a student-centered educational community, these schools welcome members from other religious faiths, inviting them to collaborate in fulfilling the spiritual mission of the college.

A commitment to the poor is at the heart of many religiously focused schools. Students, faculty and administrators often come from diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. A distinctive mark of most religiously focused schools is their awareness of the consequences of economic and social injustice. Community service opportunities help to promote that awareness. A commitment to improving the lives of others who are less fortunate often continues long after graduation for many students.

About the School

Saint Mary's College of California, founded in 1863, is a residential learning community based in the Catholic, Lasallian and liberal arts traditions. An outstanding faculty brings these traditions to life. The College enrolls 2,494 traditional undergraduates and more than 2,000 students in adult education and graduate programs. The Christian Brothers, the largest teaching order of the Roman Catholic Church, guides the academic growth and spiritual character of the school. Saint Mary’s is located in Moraga, 20 miles east of San Francisco.