Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 17, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).
A new scholarship program aims to support future members of the workforce with an “authentically Catholic” education, thanks to a recent initiative started by three young men who are still in college themselves.
“We want to produce missionaries because we’re a missionary Church,” said Andres Donavan, vice president of outreach for The St. Robert Bellarmine Fund and a junior at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
“We want Catholic employees to go out and help work on the culture from the workforce,” he told the Register, and “an authentically Catholic university” can help them “see their work, see their education from the Church perspective.”
Applications are open for the new scholarship program established by the Bellarmine Fund, which was founded by three young men who met at a Jesuit high school in Tampa, Florida — Donavan, Justin Bailey, and Matthew Uzdavinis — as they recognized a need for scholarships for students committed to a Catholic education.
High-school seniors of the 2023 and 2024 graduating classes are eligible to apply for one of 10 available scholarships for each respective year, organizers told the Register.
Requirements to apply for the scholarships, for $8,000 per year and renewable for up to four years, include an essay speaking to a desire for Catholic formation, the family’s financial situation, and a GPA that demonstrates a commitment to education. Those interested should apply by Jan. 31, 2023.
Most of the schools accepted by the Bellarmine Fund scholarship fall under “The Newman Guide” of Catholic higher education institutions that have been assessed by the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization whose stated mission is “to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.”
“‘The Newman Guide’ is trusted to provide authentic analysis of Catholic universities to help parents and students figure out where the universities are authentically Catholic,” Donavan said.
Bailey, president of outreach for the Bellarmine Fund who is currently attending the University of Florida, told the Register, “We just thought that this is a great way to kind of combat the really bad education that has been happening with regard to philosophy and theology at most institutions.”
“We really wanted to reward the faithful Catholics who wanted to pursue the truth,” who “wanted to pursue Our Lord at these universities that are also faithful to tradition,” continued Bailey.
Bailey is a family member of the Bailey Family Foundation, an organization that provides university-level scholarships and through which the Bellarmine Fund has been made possible.
The other co-founder, Matthew Uzdavinis, is currently attending Ave Maria University.
Challenging Cultural Climate
In speaking to the benefit of a Catholic college degree, Kelly Salomon, director of family and parish programs for the Cardinal Newman Society, highlighted the challenges faced by young Catholics in today’s cultural climate.
“How does a young Catholic navigate today’s dangerous culture without a faithful Catholic education, without truly knowing the faith, understanding how it relates to every area of knowledge and life, and being able to defend it?” Salomon told the Register.
“We see most young adults not attending Mass, and most don’t believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist — they actually think the Church teaches it’s just a symbol,” she added. “But the renewal of faithful Catholic education will bring a renewal of faith and culture.”
“Catholic education is critical for the souls of young people and the future of the Church. At faithful Catholic colleges, students are formed for their careers and vocations,” Salomon said.
Donavan, a marketing major, stressed the importance of integrating Catholic formation and workplace education.
“Business and theology go hand in hand,” he said. “They cannot be separated.”
“I could go to any other university, and succeed and do well, and get my marketing degree, and learn how to make the best sales pitch ever, and have a sales record of 100%, and do anything to get the sale.” However, if one allows a client to walk away without “feeling the love of Christ,” Donavan said, “all of it would have been for nothing.”
A higher education institution not listed in “The Newman Guide,” which is still eligible for the scholarship, is a school named for St. Joseph the Worker in Steubenville, Ohio, expected to open in 2023.
“Christ belongs in the workplace,” Donavan said. “We want to make sure people know how to bring him into the workplace by going to Catholic universities that are authentically Catholic.”
The Register also recommends its own list of higher educational institutions that prioritize solid Church teaching in their curricula in its annual “Catholic Identity College Guide.” The list includes schools in “The Newman Guide” as well as others not included in the Bellarmine Fund scholarship, but the fund organizers recognize it “as a reliable means of attaining a competent and faithful Catholic education,” according to Uzdavinis.
“We basically take a look at the whole person,” Donavan said.
“While we are currently focusing directly on those schools accredited by the Cardinal Newman Society,” Uzdavinis told the Register, “our fund hopes to soon be able to provide financial assistance to every faithfully Catholic higher education institution in the country.”
In part, the aim of the fund is to help counter the “radical ideology and wokeism” that “have pervaded higher education, perhaps even in Catholic institutions,” Uzdavinis added.
“Attending a university in which students are exposed to divine truth and provided ample opportunities to receive divine grace is of grave importance. Our fund aims to make that possible for the many students throughout the country who thirst for such an experience.”
“The St. Robert Bellarmine Fund has the capacity to reach so many Catholic students in a way that we hope inspires them to pursue Catholic truth and helps them to attain that,” he continued.
“Our goal is to become a reliable means for countless families to allow students to concentrate more on the goodness they receive in their studies and less about how they’ll manage to pay for it.”
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