The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities: Principle #7

Principle #7: The effective administrator seeks dialogue among religious traditions and with contemporary culture to clarify beliefs and to foster mutual understanding in the midst of tensions and ambiguities.


“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32)

Student affairs professionals who work in the Catholic tradition and serve in institutions of higher learning have a twofold call: to articulate a compelling truth as we understand it and to search for an informed truth as we explore it. While the first is supported by the rich heritage and reflection of a faith community, the second entails openness to other traditions and experiences. Educational institutions thrive on dialogue respectful of differences of points of view, and the consequent uncertainties and tensions are vital to the learning mission of colleges and universities. Thus student affairs professionals serving in Catholic colleges and universities honor other faith traditions and experiences and invite them into dialogue for purposes of exploration and insight.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for the institution?

2. How do you apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

a. In what ways are students exposed to religious traditions through   curricular and co-curricular offerings, and through contact with faculty, staff, and fellow students?

b. How are students engaged in reaching mutual understanding between and           among religious traditions and between their own faith (Catholic or other) and contemporary culture?

c. How is dialogue respectful of different points of  view implemented?

d. To what extent are student affairs staff prepared to sponsor and encourage           dialogue and mutual understanding?

e. What interfaith space(s) are available for students on campus?

3. What evidence do you have to judge the effectiveness of your efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will you do with the information you have gathered about effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective

Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man’s fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness?

To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living. At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path.

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.

(Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI)


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