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Newman's Second Spring Returns to Ireland

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Daniel Blackman - published on 09/30/14

Nick Healy, president of Newman College Ireland, on making Newman's idea of a university a reality

The last few decades have witnessed a new springtime for Catholic higher education, particularly in the United States. New liberal arts colleges have sprung up, offering a new generation of Catholic students a formation which had been left by the wayside. Perhaps you’ve heard of Christendom, Ave Maria, More, Aquinas, and Campion? In the UK, there is Maryvale, and we’ve witnessed the first beginnings of Benedictus College and the School of the Annunciation.

Now, there is a new and exciting addition to the family: Newman College Ireland (NCI), begun by Nick Healy, CEO and President of Newman College Ireland. Healy is also President Emeritus of Ave Maria University, and a former Vice President of Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is strongly supported by former Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott. Healy spoke to Aleteia about the college, and the hopes for a restoration of Catholic faith and culture in the emerald isle.

What’s Newman College Ireland (NCI) all about?

Newman College Ireland (NCI) is a new third level Catholic liberal arts college. It was founded by lay people and clergy in Ireland. Kathy Sinnott has been the main Irish promoter. She has been motivated largely by the experience of several of her children, and also that of several nieces and nephews, who have faithfully attended Catholic colleges and universities in America.

But how do you even measure what “faithfully Catholic” is?

These can best be described as "Newman Guide" schools; i.e. schools that meet the standards of the Cardinal Newman Society in complying with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution on Catholic education promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II. These institutions are noted for leading students to a joyful practice of the faith, orthodoxy in the theology taught, and a cherishing of the classic art, music, and literature of Western Civilization.

Can you give some examples?

Some of the better known institutions are Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University, Christendom College, University of Dallas, and Ave Maria University. Kathy Sinnott yearned for such a school in Ireland, but believed that the nominally Catholic third level schools in Ireland fell short.  

Where do you fit in with all this?

I became involved as a consultant because of my experience in helping start several new Catholic institutions of higher learning. In reviewing the nature of higher education in Ireland, I became convinced that to establish a really first rate institution, without State aid (which would not be prudent to rely on, even in the very unlikely event it were offered), private donations were needed, especially for scholarships, and that the huge Irish diaspora in America could be a source of support. Hence, I established and am now managing Friends of Catholic Education in Ireland Inc., a qualified nonprofit U.S. corporation, gifts to which are tax-deductible for American taxpayers.

You’ve explained the Catholic part, but what is your definition of​a liberal arts college?

A liberal arts college is one that stresses classical learning rather than career preparation. Thus, NCI will have a “core” curriculum that includes theology, philosophy, history, literature, mathematics, natural science, Latin, and exposure to fine art and music.

Okay, but why an approach that would be seen as old-fashioned to some?

It is our conviction that such an education actually better prepares students for any vocation or line of work, and is indispensable for preparing students to meet the powerful challenges to their faith that everyone in Western countries will have to endure in the coming decades.

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