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New leader, change of address for Cardinal Newman Society center
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland to take charge of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education effective July 1.
A year and a half after the Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education got a name and leadership change, another transition is in the works for the Manassas-based operation.
First, effective July 1, Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland, currently serving at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., will take on the role of the center’s executive director. Second, the center will relocate from Manassas to Mount St. Mary’s to enable Msgr. Swetland to continue his roles as chair for Christian ethics and chair of the president’s committee on Catholic identity and mission at the university. He also hopes to continue hosting “Catholicism on Campus” on EWTN, as well as his radio show on Relevant Radio.
Msgr. Swetland, ordained a priest in 1991 for the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., served for more than 10 years as director of Newman Centers at Bradley University in Peoria and at the University of Illinois. He also served as pastor of two parishes before arriving at Mount St. Mary’s in 2006.
“I hope I bring a little bit of a different experience,” Msgr. Swetland said in a recent interview. “I’m a convert to the Catholic Faith and my own upbringing was in the public system.”
Msgr. Swetland said the center will continue its work of examining Catholic identity and culture in Catholic colleges and universities, as well as assisting non-Catholic institutions with developing the “intellectual apostolate” of the Faith at their Newman Centers.
“Our main focus is going to be on Catholic universities, but we are aware that more than 80 percent of Catholics go to non-Catholic universities,” he said.
The center will examine core curricula, student life and how to create a culture of chastity, sobriety and excellence on campus, he said.
“There have been a lot of reports out that college students aren’t growing in their basic knowledge,” Msgr. Swetland said. “We want to address that because we want our Catholic universities to be the kind of places where people who graduate from them know how to think, pray, write and communicate.”
Patrick Reilly, president and CEO of the Cardinal Newman Society, said the changes to the center will bring strong leadership and the opportunity to “better tap into the experience of Catholic colleges” by being located on the campus of one.
“Mount St. Mary’s University is an example of one of those institutions that has made great strides forward in the last decade in terms of strengthening its Catholic identity,” he said. “Their experience is going to have great bearing on the center’s work.”
One mission of the center is to share the knowledge of what works at one campus with others.
“There’s a lot of good stories out there and hopefully we’ll be able to highlight some of the positive things that are going on,” Msgr. Swetland said.
The watchdog aspect of the Cardinal Newman Society will remain part of the center’s mission to strengthen Catholic identity. But, Reilly said, now that there’s a “conventional wisdom” among leaders in Catholic higher education that problems exist, they’re hoping to do less of that.
“We’re hoping to do more and more in terms of moving things forward, which is what the center is all about,” Reilly said. “As long as the scandals continue, we’ll continue to (monitor them). It would be our hope that that becomes largely unnecessary.”
Reilly said Msgr. Swetland is “one of those unique individuals who clearly has a calling to have a major impact in the Church as he has already.”
“To have him directing the center is very exciting for us,” Reilly said. “We expect significant progress this year on the many activities of the center that have been begun over the past few years.”
The upcoming changes to the center also will bring an expansion, Reilly said. In addition to the “energy and experience” of Msgr. Swetland and the full support of Mount St. Mary’s, the center will add an administrative staff to “greatly enhance the work of the center.”
“We’re constantly moving toward a stronger emphasis on practicality,” Reilly said. “What can the center do to practically assist Catholic colleges and strengthen their Catholic identity? That’s really what it’s all about.”