Towards a Catholic Resurgence in the Media

John Paul Catholic University

Escondido, California

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Panel_13On November 2nd, 2000, while visiting Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, Derry Connolly experienced something that would change his life.

“I saw a campus full of young Catholic students on fire for the Lord. I had never seen that level of excitement about Jesus Christ by so many students on a college campus. Late on that evening, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Portiuncula chapel, I felt the Lord placing on my heart the request to build a university, like Franciscan, in San Diego.  My immediate answer to the Lord was ‘NO – Impossible, a university is too big and too expensive. And I don’t know how to do it!’

“During the summer of 2003, three key thoughts came together in my mind. First, I had just finished teaching a class on the start-up process for entrepreneurial high-tech companies to graduate and under-graduate students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), I was strongly impressed by the passion the UCSD students had to go out and change the world by building successful technology based businesses. Next, I reflected with deep concern on the fact that the Catholic influence on the media was near rock bottom. The New Media industry was rapidly evolving and maturing daily, and was poised to radically change the landscape of the media industry.

“Finally, contemplating the role of Stanford University in the growth of Silicon Valley, I was convinced that a Catholic university, centered on Jesus Christ, in the model of Franciscan University, must be a critical centerpiece to the Catholic resurgence in the field of media. San Diego, long a hub for innovation in new media enabling technology and geographically very close to the creative center of the industry in Los Angeles, was a great place to start.”

John Paul Catholic University was born on September 2nd, 2003. Connolly’s vision for the University was a ‘niche’ Catholic university focused on the culturally influential field of media, with the dynamic spirituality of Franciscan University, and the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of UCSD.

SF-Walk_for_LifeQ. What kind of young person is attracted to your school?

Students tend to have a strong desire for a deep relationship with Jesus. Faith matters. They are entrepreneurial – not afraid of someplace new and small. They come from all across the US – from Vermont to Guam, from Florida to Alaska. They seek an education the fields of Entertainment Media, Entrepreneurial Business and Biblical Theology.

Q. How do students rate their experience of your school?

Most students love their JP Catholic experience – they can’t find an experience like it anywhere. Some don’t fit – small, niche and non-traditional is not everyone’s cup-of-tea. We don’t try to please everyone – we can’t.

Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your school doing in this regard?

We have many students responding to God’s call. As we begin Summer quarter, we will have seven Chaldean rite Catholic seminarians, four doing a Masters in Biblical Theology and three doing undergraduate degrees alongside their pre-theology studies. Two graduates will be starting their graduate Theology studies at St John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA. We also have a pre-theology seminarian from the Eudist religious order. Two of our graduates are in the convent of the Workers in the Vineyard. Many more students continue to discern.

Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debts for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?

We give generous institutional aid. We are proactive in assessing student success and are quick to recommend alternate career options for students that are likely not to benefit from an expensive college education. College is a great investment for many. However, it can be a terrible investment for some.

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Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?

Great reasons for hope. The Lord is blessing us with increasingly fine young men and women. That said, formation is very tough – the force of Satan infused through the secular culture is very confusing even to young Catholics from strong families. Formation is a battle, which often times is very tiring to fight. A very high percentage of our graduates tend to become strong Catholic men and women. Christ is truly is hope.

How can I help? Make a decision to help. Fund a scholarship for a student with a great need. Endow a professor. Fund a new program. Create a program resource. Seed fund the process to build a permanent campus.

If you feel called to connect your legacy with that of the University, please contact Derry Connolly, President at 858-653-6740 or email DConnolly@jpcatholic.com

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