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v2.1 Reference

What We Hold in Trust

Rediscovering the Purpose of Catholic Higher Education

The specific concern in What We Hold in Trust comes to this: the Catholic university that sees its principal purpose in terms of the active life, of career, and of changing the world, undermines the contemplative and more deep-rooted purpose of the university. If a university adopts the language of technical and social change as its main and exclusive purpose, it will weaken the deeper roots of the university's liberal arts and Catholic mission. The language of the activist, of changing the world through social justice, equality and inclusion, or of the technician through market-oriented incentives, plays an important role in university life. We need to change the world for the better and universities play an important role, but both the activist and technician will be co-opted by our age of hyper-activity and technocratic organizations if there is not first a contemplative outlook on the world that receives reality rather than constructs it.

To address this need for roots What We Hold in Trust unfolds in four chapters that will demonstrate how essential it is for the faculty, administrators, and trustees of Catholic universities to think philosophically and theologically (Chapter One), historically (Chapter Two) and institutionally (Chapters Three and Four). What we desperately need today are leaders in Catholic universities who understand the roots of the institutions they serve, who can wisely order the goods of the university, who know what is primary and what is secondary, and who can distinguish fads and slogans from authentic reform. We need leaders who are in touch with their history and have a love for tradition, and in particular for the Catholic tradition. Without this vision, our universities may grow in size, but shrink in purpose. They may be richer but not wiser.

About the Authors

Don Briel (1947-2018) was the primary founder of the Catholic Studies program at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) and Blessed John Henry Newman Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Mary (N.D.). Kenneth Goodpaster is the Koch Professor of Business Ethics - Emeritus at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). Michael Naughton is the Koch Endowed Chair in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). Dennis Holtschneider, CM is the President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.


"Wise, practical, and solidly grounded in both theology and the best research on institutional development, the brief and timely reflection - inspired by the work of the late Don Briel - will benefit board members, administrators, faculty, and anyone else charged with preserving and advancing the Catholic identity of our colleges and universities. Read and then pass along."—Ryan Topping, author of Renewing the Mind: A Reader in the Philosophy of Catholic Education

"Never has there been a time when society stood in greater need of the cultural contribution Catholic universities can make. What We hold in Trust reminds the leaders of those universities that social justice, diversity, and sustainability are not the principal aims of a Catholic education; rather, those important ideas need to be rooted in a philosophical and theological vision that students cannot find elsewhere in higher education."—John Garvey, President, The Catholic University of America

"I applaud the work of these three authors for addressing the threat of secularization of Catholic institutions. Although primarily focused on Catholic higher education, their insights and offerings are applicable to all Catholic ministries. The authors begin by anchoring the purpose of Catholic universities in the tradition of the founding congregations, and upon that, build a framework for ensuring institutional integrity. They remind us that the Catholic intellectual tradition is not intended to preserve the past; rather it serves as the foundation that supports unity of knowledge and discourse of faith and science. As we prepare the next generation of leaders, it is imperative that they are rooted in the mission and identity of these Catholic works, and that they are equipped with the ability to 'pass on the fire' of the tradition to those who desire to create a just and humane world."—Sr. Mary Haddad, CEO & President, Catholic Health Association of the United States

"Congratulations to my former St. Thomas colleagues for writing the prescription for preserving the Catholic dimension of a Catholic university. Their lifelong love for Catholic higher education - amidst its many challenges - is inspiring to all those who treasure the enduring value of a Catholic university education."—Thomas Mengler, President, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX

"Both brief and broad, this primer will prove useful to trustees, administrators (including university chaplains or vice presidents for mission and ministry), faculty, and other stakeholders, such as donors, who are involved with advancing the distinctive identity of Catholic colleges and universities. While many of the wise ideas contained within this work have been voiced before, this succinct synthesis will assist existing and emerging leaders in Catholic higher education to steward well the precious mission that they hold in trust. It is indeed a lofty mission of shaping souls."—Homiletic and Pastoral Review

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