By Emmett McGroarty
Many recognize Newman as the Oxford theologian, high-profile convert, and recently canonized saint. Saint John Henry was also a legendary pastor of undergraduate souls, packing chapels for his sermons and leading many men to conversion through his writing, speaking, and – most of all – friendship.
In January 2019, a few weeks before the pandemic changed the world, the Institute for Human Ecology launched its Saint John Henry Newman Undergraduate Program – a timely program in uncertain times.
The program, which is open to undergraduates of all majors and levels of study, has proven a haven of community where students can weather and now, begin to process, the radical destabilization of community life that hit the world two years ago.
At the core of any academic pursuit is the community in which it is undertaken. In The Idea of the University, Newman argued that a university should bring together an “assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other” who learn to respect, consult, and aid each other in pursuit of the truth.
Through that community process, students “adjust their claims and relations of their respective subjects” and in this way achieve intellectual peace and a “pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes.” The student thus practices the pursuit of truth and forms a life-long habit of mind “of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom.”
Inspired by its patron saint, the IHE’s Saint John Henry Newman undergraduate program integrates various facets of a student’s life — social, intellectual, and spiritual — into a community of persons engaged in the life-long pursuit of truth.
The Holy Trinity might strike us as an abstract concept, but down to the core of his being, man is made for community. There is not a more practical approach to life than setting one’s heart on union with the Triune God and seeking communities – earthly and heavenly – to support that noble pursuit.
Amidst man’s dark proclivity to fracture humanity with war, civil alienation, and confusion, the Saint John Henry Newman Undergraduate Program works to build a community of scholars who develop a life-long habit of pursuing the truth and striving to contemplate, through friendship and discussion, the unity of knowledge created by the Trinity.
For more information on the Saint John Henry Newman Undergraduate Program, including our full roster of Fall 2021 events, reading groups, and opportunities, please visit our website.