Faithful Presence: A Conceptual Model for Catholic Higher Education

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This paper proposes a new model for Catholic educational institutions in secular culture. This model is premised on the reality that secular cultures place considerable challenges before religiously-affi liated colleges and universities. Following Hunter’s concept of cultural change, this paper proposes that the best way for religious institutions to both fl ourish and to positively influence culture is by offering a strong, coherent alternative, described here as a model of faithful presence. This approach recognizes that the key to cultural change is usually not a well-supported grassroots or popular movement, but rather the development of strategic social structures which are able to articulate and carry forward a distinctive program in a diverse ideological marketplace. This strategy is especially appropriate in dominant secular cultures that place great pressure on religiously-affi liated colleges and universities to assimilate at a time when many, due to the debilitating impact of secular contagions, have weak religious identity. By stressing “faithful presence” rather than relevance, Catholic colleges and universities have the potential to be transformative cultural agents.

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