Religious schools - Fairfield University, Stonehill College, and Merrimack College?

A few schools that come up as fits for my son are listed as Catholic schools in some of the guide books, including Fairfield University, Stonehill College, and Merrimack College. What does that mean…are there required courses in religion? Are the students primarily from Catholic backgrounds? Would someone who is not religious feel comfortable at these schools? Thank you.

Yes, those are Catholic colleges: it means students have religion and philosophy classes and there may be crucifixes or crosses in the classrooms.
The religion classes are not “dogma” classes but rather about religious history and big questions.
There is however no required chapel or mass, no code of conduct, no “Christ centered” content (whereby anything that isn’t in the Christian Bible is considered wrong).

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Hi! I believe this article sums up the intention of the pope regarding Catholic universities. This aligns pretty well to the best of other Christian universities’ culture and inquiry.

What you may find at Catholic universities over other Christian academic homes, is that less students choose them intentionally for the Christian heritage/mission. (However they may be partly choosing the college culture that is a result of being a Christian LAC - e.g., generally kind).

I doubt there are many who feel uncomfortable at the Catholic universities, but spending some time on campus and interacting online would be helpful in determining overall cultural fit.

On specific course requirements, I’d visit the course descriptions for each university online and ask questions during virtual meetings. Good luck to your son.

If you are not catholic or doesn’t want religion you can many many many similar private universities without a religious mission…but still faith groups such as Hillel. For example a Quinnipiac, Hofstra, Elon, Drew, Ithaca, etc.

Fairfield is Jesuit which is more about service and community than traditional Catholic. I work for a Jesuit and I’m not Catholic, actually never been baptized into any religion.

Fair distinction. Perhaps they will become more closely aligned, according to the Pope’s intention (above), because he was a Jesuit priest. (That’s a unique route to the papacy).

My S went to a Jesuit college. He had friends of different religious as well as atheists/agnostics who were happy there. The Jesuits are educators first and foremost and do not force religion on anyone. We also looked at Stonehill (same order as Notre Dame) and we all felt comfortable on the visit but don’t have any information about what it is like to attend the school.

That said, to be comfortable at any Catholic university I think one should; 1) be respectful of religion; 2) have no issue with seeing some religious symbols on campus (ex. crucifix); and 3) look at the core curriculum (should be available online for each college) and be fine with the idea of taking any required philosophy/theology courses.

If Catholic schools are OK Siena, St. Joes, and UScranton might be other nice options. If you want non-Catholic schools Quinnippiac (mentioned above), SUNY New Paltz, and Marist (formerly Catholic) could be worth considering.

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I know people who attend and work at Merrimack. Yes it is a Catholic School it isn’t Jesuit I think it is just one of 2 Augustian schools in the US. We visited there a few years ago There is a living learning program with a dorm that requires Sunday church attendance but that is optional. Otherwise students need to take 1 religion class to graduate which includes the option of World Religion. I think there is a philosophy requirement but it didn’t sound religious. We toured the school and I asked students what they felt it was like there if you were not Catholic/Christian. They were like we probably shouldn’t say this but we don’t do anything religious nor do any of our friends. The school has a rabbi who teaches there though social justice not religion. There are no crucifixes in classrooms and it is a pretty liberal school.
They are trying to become a university and increase the diversity. Someone really conservative Christian may not enjoy it.

One person I personally know who works there teaches a class called Christ and Christianity. She told me that even that class doesn’t assume you are Christian. The school is a division one sports school with hockey and lacross as big sports. There is a church on campus. There was another church but it is becoming a bowling alley.

Edited to add it is a small suburban campus - it may say it is near Boston but it really isn’t close nor does it have good public transportaton to Boston. If you are looking for weekend fun in the city it is possible but it isn’t super easy.

Thank you to all for your replies, you’ve been very helpful.