An online Catholic theology college serving more than 2,000 students
Ten years ago Taylor Marshall resigned from his ministry as an Episcopalian priest. He was a young married man with no idea what God wanted him to do next, except that his reading and prayer had brought him to the point where he knew he was being called to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Since then he has completed his PhD on Thomas Aquinas and natural law, written six books on Catholic theology, penned a riveting historical novel about St. George called Sword and Serpent, founded a Catholic outdoors ministry for fathers and sons called The Troops of St. George, welcomed eight children into his family and started an international online Catholic theology college called the New St. Thomas Institute. If that weren’t enough Marshall maintains a daily blog, circulates solid Catholic materials to a mailing list of more than 30,000 and broadcasts a weekly podcast that has garnered more than 600,000 downloads.
Dr. Taylor Marshall has not waited to be asked and not waited to be thanked. Not relying on episcopal approval or the imprimatur of an old-school establishment, he shows what can be done with brains, a decent education, bright ideas and a huge amount of hard work. He exhibits one of the best examples I know of what I call “entrepreneurial Catholicism” and shows the huge potential of “the new evangelization.”
As a convert Dr. Marshall is what might be called a “magisterial Catholic.” Eschewing the easy labels of “traditionalist” or “progressive,” he simply presents the timeless Catholic truths. Faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic faith, his teaching is deeply scriptural, deeply historical, deeply theological and deeply Catholic. In an age when too many Catholics make up their own version of the faith, Dr. Marshall presents the faith, the whole faith and nothing but the faith.
In the midst of a busy family life and his various ministries, Taylor’s main occupation is his work as founder and president of the New St. Thomas Institute. The institute is an online community with forums and groups made up of priests and laypeople, men, women, religion teachers, professors and tutors. The institute operates a bit like Facebook, with shared communications and common interests among members.
The online environment means the institute’s reach is global.With more than 2,000 students from 49 nations and six continents, the institute boasts a larger student body than most conservative Catholic colleges. Furthermore, with minimal overheads and faculty salaries, the New St. Thomas Institute is 98 percent less expensive than traditional colleges.
Catholics in isolated areas and students overseas are able to access the theology courses. Seminarians and deacons in training receive an extra boost to their studies, while deacons and priests use the courses for sermon preparation. The institute’s classes have also been a stepping stone for students to progress to seminary and the religious life.
With waiting lists for all courses, the huge success of Taylor Marshall’s start-up indicates the amazing potential of online education and fellowship, for a global church the new global technologies are a godsend. With instant communication to every nation and community, evangelization and education becomes possible as never before imagined.
Not everything is done on a screen and with a keyboard. Dr. Marshall’s institute gets students together for real face time on pilgrimages to Guadalupe, Rome and the holy sites of Italy. The institute also has a charitable arm called “Oxcart,” through which members of the institute help feed more than 2,000 people per month and help support an orphanage in China for “throwaway babies.”
The motto of the New St. Thomas Institute is Non alligabis ox bovis—“Don’t muzzle the mouth of an ox.” The reference is to St. Albert the Great’s observation that his thickset student Thomas Aquinas appeared to be a dumb ox. The “dumb ox” soubriquet was picked up by G. K. Chesterton as the title for his famous biography of Thomas Aquinas, and Marshall has picked the muskox as the institute’s mascot.
Far from muzzling the ox, Dr. Taylor Marshall’s work has given St. Thomas Aquinas a global megaphone so that the good news of the Catholic faith can be shared with a new generation with vigor, joy and creativity.