When SMC’s two communities of Christian Brothers agreed to craft a treatise on Catholic intellectual tradition, they had no idea how much fun they would have.

A year later, the 1,000-word discourse — published in the Journal of Lasallian Higher Education — is seen as an important document for Catholic colleges, nationwide, as they balance church teachings and tradition with higher education.

“It was a delightful process,” says Brother Charles Hilken, one of the Brothers of the Joseph Alemany Community. “It was something we wanted to do that was important to us.”

The project, which began when directors of both groups met to assess issues facing the Brothers, made for lively Sunday dinner conversation. It encompassed not only the history of Catholic scholars, but their importance in Catholic education today.

The document details ties between Christian faith and intellectual pursuit going back to St. Paul and St. Augustine and the advent of monastic and cathedral schools, which led to the 12th century rise of European universities.

The Brothers consider the longstanding issues of poverty and war, as well as more recent questions about sexuality, abortion and stem-cell research — examined in light of Christian doctrine, as well as science.

“A Catholic college is where the Church does its thinking,” the doctrine explains. “This ecclesial gift cannot be given without a substantial number of Catholic scholars.”

Brothers at DinnerThe Brothers concluded that the time is ripe “to renew our efforts at hiring for the Catholic intellectual tradition. By taking this action now,” they state,“we can continue to create an environment in which Christianity is not only studied but lived; celebrated in the liturgy, served by mission and ministry and the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action, and sustained by faith-filled witness.”

What does this document mean for the future of Catholic education at Saint Mary’s and other schools? “It is one expression among many currently emerging on Catholic campuses,” says Brother Charles. For the 24 Brothers at Saint Mary’s College, it’s also food for thought as they embark on their next series of mealtime discussions, on what it means to be Lasallian. To read the Brothers’ document, visit axis.smumn.edu.

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