Catholic University Walking the Walk
“You are not alone.” The midterm elections with their fury, scandals and histrionics, work to drown out this message we could all stand to hear.
“You are not alone” is the message that my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, is sending students, faculty and staff.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, outgoing university president John Garvey wrote:
At any university, a significant portion of the population (students and employees) are of childbearing age, and unplanned pregnancies are a part of life. How do we care for mothers and children here? How do we strengthen the fathers? How do we better support all families who are part of the Catholic University community?
These are the questions we need to be asking.
More Than Just Words
Catholic University’s new president, Peter Kilpatrick, is leading the way for how college campuses should be — giving increased parental leave to faculty and staff, as well as providing little things that say a lot — like designated parking spots for pregnant moms and more diaper-changing stations on campus. The already-existing food pantry on campus is adding baby and toddler essentials like diapers and wipes.
In the new pregnancy resource manual for students, the university chaplain is the first face you see. Father Aquinas Guilbeau writes to the pregnant student:
(The University) surrounds you with friends and family, with faculty and staff, with clergy and religious, all eager to help. You are not alone. ‘I am with you,’ says the Lord. And so are we. The University community is ready to accompany and assist you.
That’s the kind of message that needs to be heard. All too often, people only know the prohibitions that come with religious faith. People don’t believe they themselves are worthy of love, making it near impossible for them to truly love others.
At Catholic University, these efforts are part of the Guadalupe Project. Jennie Lichter, the deputy general counsel of the school, and also a mother of young children, helped spearhead the initiative. Named after five appearances of the Virgin Mary in Mexico, Lichter tells me they want to tap into the tenderness and historical resonance of that image of the mother of Jesus.
The Center for Law and the Human Person at Catholic University’s law school is key to the academic component of the response to Roe. A few weeks ago, I participated in a working group and moderated a panel convened by professor Elizabeth Kirk, which got into best practices and practicalities of the challenges of adoption and foster-care education and reform. Herself an adoptive mother, this is the kind of leadership that is needed.
A Culture of Radical Hospitality
Catholic University isn’t the only school stepping up to the plate in a new way. The University of Mary in North Dakota is imploring pregnant single moms to show up to continue their education if other schools aren’t welcoming. Lichter says there is a lot of learning happening between institutions in such matters.
“Our task is to build a culture of radical hospitality,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s for all of us, pro-life and pro-choice. Because we’re not going to have all our problems solved by politics … Whatever we can do to ease the pain and accompany people with love — that’s what actually matters. That’s what we will be judged on.”
This is all about so much more than politics. That’s easy to forget this time of year. Catholic University issues an important reminder — with more than just words.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary She can be contacted at [email protected].