December 5, 2018 (Cardinal Newman Society) — The Catholic Church in New England will soon have a new higher education option with the arrival of Thomas Aquinas College, a well-respected Great Books college in Santa Paula, California, that plans to begin classes next fall at its new branch campus in Northfield, Mass., pending approval from its accreditor.
It joins two other nearby colleges — Northeast Catholic College in Warner, New Hampshire, and The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire — providing authentic Catholic education and embracing faithful Catholic tradition, liturgy and culture in a region where Catholics have struggled with clergy scandals and increasing secularism. All three colleges are recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong Catholic identity.
“When Pope John Paul II made the case for the ‘new evangelization,’ he acknowledged that the faith has withered in many societies where it was once dominant, such as our own,” said Philip Lawler, a Catholic journalist and program director of the Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture at Thomas More College.
“New England is ripe for this ‘new evangelization,’” Lawler believes. “The pendulum has swung so very far in one direction — toward secular materialism — that a reaction is inevitable. In the long run, people will not accept an ideology that is so foreign to the intrinsic nature of man.”
For four decades, Thomas More College has provided a traditional Catholic liberal arts education and helped lead and inspire the renewal of Catholic life in New England.
Likewise, Northeast Catholic College students enjoy a strong Catholic, liberal arts education while serving the poor in the Boston area or sharing the cultural and musical traditions of the Church. The college’s president, Dr. George Harne, says the faculty and students “are seeking to build bridges through liberal education and to be faithful to our own calling.”
That, Harne says, is especially important in New England. He describes it as “one of the most secularized, post-Christian parts of the country,” where there is a “sense among those who live here that ‘we’ve tried Catholicism and it has failed.’”
Northeast Catholic and Thomas More invite Catholics to rediscover the richness of the faith and intellectual heritage that laid the foundation for New England values of religious freedom, individual rights and social responsibility. Now Thomas Aquinas College will join in the conversation, with its experience facing similar challenges of secularism in California.
“Having a strong Catholic identity has been key to the College’s success,” said Anne Forsythe, director of college relations. “That identity can be found not only in our campus life and in the vibrant spiritual life of our students and faculty, but also — and primarily — in our academic program, which is ordered to theology, in particular the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church’s Universal Doctor.”
The College was donated the Northfield campus by the National Christian Foundation, which considered more than 150 applicants. The campus formerly housed a preparatory school and consists of 100 acres of land and 20 buildings.
“We have heard from many alumni of the former Northfield school, who have been praying for years that a solid Christian — and in some cases, Catholic — school would rejuvenate their beloved campus,” Forsythe continued. “So it appears very much that God has great things in store, and Thomas Aquinas College is looking forward to becoming part of this thriving community and to doing our part to help revitalize Christian culture.”
Kelly Salomon is director of Newman Guide programs for The Cardinal Newman Society.