As the issues of cloning and abortion grow more controversial, making it even more difficult today for contemporary Catholic schools to define themselves, Fairfield University has decided to implement a religious program designed to provoke questions of faith and understanding in students.

The program is named the Ignatian Residential College and is a gift from Lilly Endowment Inc., which gave a $1.996 million grant to Fairfield, only one of the 28 colleges and universities in the country to receive a $1 million-plus grant from the endowment. Ultimately, the goal of the establishment is to enhance on-campus programs, such as special courses and lecture series, that allow students to consider how exactly their beliefs affect the choices they make.

“In the history of any institution, there are singular moments that ultimately reveal themselves as turning point,” said Reverend Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., university president. “I suspect that, through its impact, this generous grant from the Lilly Endowment will create just such a turning point at Fairfield University.”

And although the program will directly serve a specific number of sophomore students, junior Rebecca Hilliker, a religious studies minor, agrees that the Ignatian Residential College will be beneficial to the school’s community as a whole. “I would enjoy a more diverse class selection and I think it is very appropriate for a Jesuit school,” said Hilliker. “It would also be to the advantage of the people who come here specifically for the religious appeal of the school.”

Mike Brosnan, also a junior, disagreed. “I feel that using the money to step up campus ministry is a wonderful idea, but I’m not sure that the program will use it that way,” he said. “I think, more than anything, the Ignatian College will simply establish another sect on campus. The school should work on nurturing the community we all ready have.”

Schools that have received the funds have begun to plan activities such as student retreats, enhancing worship on campus, changing career-planning services, curricular changes and even semesters of study in seminaries and divinity schools. Internships will be offered in congregations and faith-based organizations, which will prove incredibly helpful to those who are interested in considering the ministry as a profession.

“It is clear that these schools thought through their missions and strengths and that they were very intentional in devising these proposals,” Craig Dykstra, the vice president for religion at the Lilly Endowment, said. “The caliber of proposals was outstanding, and it is obvious, and it is obvious that all these schools thought seriously and productively about how to encourage young people to consider questions of faith and commitment as they choose their careers.”

Founded in 1937, the endowment is an Indianapolis-based private family institution and, in total, it gave $55.3 million in grants. Fairfield’s proposal for the grant was coordinated by Noel Appel, director of foundation relations in the university’s Office of Development.

The decision, however, was made with input from all divisions of the school. Associate Professor Nancy Dallavalle of Fairfield’s Religious Studies Department believes the program will be very profitable. “By providing students with experiences such as living in a reflective community, taking courses that take seriously the integration of students’ minds, hearts and spirits, and actively participating in a variety of liturgical settings, the Ignatian Residential College will not be merely preaching a ‘portable vision’ but also, importantly, inculcating ‘portable skills.'”

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