Catholic colleges and universities have gone through three distinct stages that have paralleled the history of the Catholic community in the United States.
As an “immigrant church,” the value placed on education, particularly Catholic higher education, enabled many Catholic immigrants to secure a place in the American community;
As Catholic higher education expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, many Catholics were able to improve their social and economic status. As a result, a large segment of American Catholics became upwardly mobile and the American Catholic community became affluent;
As Catholic colleges and universities grew in the twentieth century to some 228 institutions, a “prosperous uncertainty” developed wherein they began to seek a sense of purpose and mission in a world characterized as diverse, pluralistic, individualistic and full of ambiguity concerning the role of the Christian disciple in the world. This third stage was greatly influenced by the Church renewal of Vatican II with its emphasis on the pursuit of social justice and world peace as core constituents of the Catholic mission.
According to Philip Gleason, as American Catholic colleges and universities became independent of ecclesiastical authorities in their governance over the past fifty years, they also lost a commitment to a unifying ethos provided by scholastic and neo-scholastic philosophy and theology which were so prominent in their ethos before Vatican II. As the colleges and universities began to face internal crises such as rising costs, declining enrollments, lack of members of religious orders to staff institutions and competition with public institutions for funding and faculty, many Catholic colleges and universities also faced a loss of a sense of distinctiveness and mission through these years.
Aware of the challenge to reclaim its distinctiveness, Villanova University has re-examined the core values of its tradition as articulated in the distinctive Augustinian themes of the Seal of the University: Veritas, Unitas, Caritas.
The Pursuit of Truth: This has been an essential component in Catholic education for centuries. First, the pursuit of truth involves participating in the ongoing growth and awareness of God’s incarnate presence throughout the changes of time and history. The Catholic university ought to be the place wherein the theological and philosophical community continues to pursue the study of doctrinal issues and provide a forum for ongoing respectful loving dialogue on questions central to the life of the Church and the world communities. Second, it is in the pursuit of truth that the intellectual horizons of students and teachers are mutually enhanced. It is the integration of all knowledge with the truth of the gospel that constitutes the distinctive raison d’etre of the intellectual ministry of Catholic colleges and universities.
Academic Freedom: In a Catholic university there is the challenge to promote the unfettered inquiry necessary for the pursuit of truth. In the intellectual life of the university, differences will be ever present. As a Catholic, Augustinian university we aspire not to uniformity in thinking but for the creation of new knowledge based on the wisdom of the past and ever greater moral conversion into a community of mutuality, equality, justice, and respect for the sacredness of all creation. The challenge for Catholic higher education is to provide students, staff, and faculty with a distinctive Catholic intellectual vision. Pluralism is an important value with regard to academic freedom because diverse people bring with them the wealth of different ideas, cultures, and epistemologies. Pluralism is also a principle of Catholic Social Thought. We are committed to creating an environment that celebrates pluralism and difference which enables all members of the academic community to grow in understanding the complex nature of the communities of the world.
Integration of the Intellectual and Moral Development of Our Students: The tradition of Catholic higher education has always placed a priority on the integration of the pursuit of intellectual excellence and the ethical conversions essential for the integration of knowledge and faith. In addition, the sacredness of individual conscience must find a secure place in the discourse within a Catholic, Augustinian university.
Each of us is a product of the communities that have formed us. As a Catholic community we anticipate the fullness of communion when the holiness of creation will be restored in peace and justice. The religious mystery of the Incarnation provides the paradigm for understanding the pursuit of truth in the Catholic tradition. This pursuit necessitates a commitment to the building of a community that enables the flourishing of all peoples and all creation. At Villanova University, we celebrate the unity between the Creator and creation existing in each person. We value the building of community within the University and the wider circle of the world community.
The Catholic, Augustinian university must be the place where a prophetic voice is raised for the voiceless in God’s creation. It is the value of an Incarnational community that challenges the destructive tendencies in our economic, political, and social environments.
The Catholic, Augustinian university fulfills its mission by its commitment to peace and justice through its academic curricula and the co-curricular activities that work for the common good. The common good represents a commitment to the well-being of others – a solidarity that is essential to all persons in the community.
The experiences of the religious community as provided by activities of Campus Ministry play a vital educative role in the formation of the Villanova community’s core values through its rituals, narratives, symbols, and activities. The religious community of a Catholic, Augustinian university reinforces people’s commitment to certain values by clarifying the connections between belief and knowledge. It is through this connection that the public theology of our students is enriched and expanded to include a commitment to the betterment of the world community. As a Catholic, Augustinian community we are committed to shaping a living community among ourselves and in our world that witnesses to the healing, liberating, and empowering truth of the Creator.
Love is essential to the life of the community and it must inform the very life of faith that Catholic colleges and universities espouse. The principle of personalism has been central to Catholic Social Thought for the last century and is the conviction that the human person possesses a dignity which cannot be violated or denied in the name of any collective good. At a Catholic, Augustinian university, we value the ability of our students to be reflective about personal dignity and competent in integrating the ethical dimensions of life in all sectors of their life and study.
In addition, Catholic Social Thought places a high priority on the principle of subsidiarity which establishes a criterion that intervention by a larger social unit must be justified and can be so only by the inability or unwillingness of the smaller unit to accomplish a social task. A Catholic, Augustinian university operating under the principle of subsidiarity will critically evaluate its management of all constituencies, modeling a vision of leadership that is respectful of all people and segments of the university community and empower those segments to be self-determining contributors to the life of the community.
As a Catholic, Augustinian university, Villanova values the sacredness of all creation. Villanova must create ways of enriching the lives of our community of scholars and the peoples of the world that they may grow in knowledge, love, and commitment for the creation of a sustainable world wherein all creation will flourish.
"Set love as the criterion for all that you say, and whatever you teach, teach in such a way that the person to whom you speak, by hearing may believe, by believing, hope and by hoping, love."
The Instruction of Beginners 8