Friendship: Navigating Higher Education With Catholic Studies

We are made for friendship. Students discover in their time in Catholic Studies many opportunities for making and deepening friendships with each other and with the professors and staff of Catholic Studies.

The Catholic Studies Telos Living Learning Community (LLC) invites incoming freshmen to just such friendships. Students live together in Dowling Hall. They also study together, taking the core theology and philosophy courses together. Such is the fertile ground of friendship.

“Telos” is the Greek word for goal or purpose, and we call our Living Learning Community the Telos LLC because we encourage students to think about their goals and their purpose, and to think about them together.

We all need to eat, and meals are an important part of the life of Catholic Studies. Students in the LLC will gather for dinner and discussion at the beginning of the semester and at the end. Many an event is a lunch or dinner in which students and faculty can meet and talk both formally and informally.

Many friendships develop around prayer and the Mass. Students will gather informally in Dowling to pray the rosary. We have Mass at 5:05 p.m. in the Albertus Magnus Chapel in Sitzmann Hall and our students, undergraduate and graduate, regularly attend. It is not at all unusual to see our students together at the 7 a.m. or 12:10 p.m. Mass in the main chapel on campus. Such is the glue of deepening friendships.

Friends do things together and we work to provide such opportunities. Students in the LLC usually get a tour of the Cathedral of Saint Paul with the author of Stone and Glass: The Meaning of the Cathedral of Saint Paul who happens to be my wife, Dia. We have begun the year with paddle boats and mini golf. We have gone to Wild games. We will often attend a performance at Open Window Theatre and then have a question-and-answer session after the performance with the actors. We invite alumni to meet with the students to discuss careers and vocation. Each year provides new opportunities for social and cultural events.

The Rome Program produces particularly deep friendships. To live together in Rome, to explore the city and its rich culture together, naturally cements friendships. So too to live in the city that is central to our faith as Catholics and to deepen one’s faith with others. All of this makes for particularly good friends. As also does enduring the trials of living in another country with different customs which can delight and amuse as well as irritate and frustrate. Many a Catholic Studies wedding has a “Rome table” at the reception.

The friendships extend beyond the students to the faculty and staff. Doors in Sitzmann Hall are routinely open and students are welcome to drop in to say hello or sit down for a conversation. Ann Serdar, program coordinator and house mother, has a jar of dark chocolates by her door for students who will stop in and talk and share their lives. The culture and life of Sitzmann Hall is marked by friendship.

The simple truth is that good friends make us better and bad friends make us worse. Students in Catholic Studies have the opportunity to make good friends. It is so heartening to see the ways in which they help each other. Of course, they make mistakes. Confession is offered every day at St. Thomas for a reason. But good friends accompany each other up the incline plane. Such has always marked the life of Catholic Studies.

Dr. John Boyle is the chairman of the Department of Catholic Studies.

This story is featured in the fall-winter 2022 issue of Lumen.