Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Praying that our new college students ‘pack their faith’

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published May 15, 2014  | En Español

A local dad whom I have come to know exceedingly well told me that he just took his youngest child on a recent college visit trip. He’s performed this exercise before, but he acknowledged it has always been slightly different with every offspring.

I am sure that parents everywhere are in the process of making such trips as they support their children in reaching perhaps their first real and quite serious adult decision. This father told me that he noticed how his children and their college plans have proven to be pretty individual and unique.

While our youngsters are carefully guided by their parents, school counselors and peers in selecting a college program, they still need to consider many options and many important variable factors. Obviously, they should think about the programs that best fit their academic potential, the size of the school in which they would feel comfortable, the distance from home, the tuition costs, the scholarship opportunities and many other concerns. But in addition to all of these considerations, there is also the issue of choosing a college that continues to form them in the values that they have discovered in their homes and seen witnessed in the lives of their parents.

There are many dangers that they will face in college, and increasingly parents unfortunately must worry about the physical safety of their children as they drop them off to begin their college careers. But there are still other dangers that lurk in their college years. Will they be able to withstand the pressures that they will predictably encounter to abandon the life principles that their parents have striven to impart? Will they find a welcoming place for them to practice their Catholic faith? Will they discover other young men and women like themselves who will become lifelong friends and colleagues who will round out their growing up journeys into adulthood? These are some of the challenges that our youngsters face as they select a college to attend.

All of us have heard about and many more of us have personally experienced that passage from home to college that included an interim abandonment of the values of home and family. Growing up in our nation often includes a rediscovery of the moral and spiritual values that seemed peripheral and old-fashioned when Mom and Dad may have presented them, but became more important with age and experience. Most of us eventually found our way back to the life values that we learned at home in time, sometimes after a lengthy period of trial and error.

Yet our youngsters today face a future where such eventual “rediscovery” of faith and traditional values may well be more precarious and often unmanageable. Every parent must shudder to think of the challenges that their departing college freshman will encounter.

In the next couple of weeks, hundreds of our kids will graduate from our wonderful high schools and then stand on the threshold of making a serious life decision. We should all pray for these young men and women whom we love with all our hearts. Parents and grandparents should assure them of their unconditional love and support and listen carefully to the questions that their kids raise—not just in reference to which college they will attend, but how they feel about leaving home, and also about taking the important things of home with them when they go. May they pack their faith along with their other prized possessions as values that they will bring with them into their future. Even if they do not open that life box immediately, may they keep it around for a future rediscovery and renewal.