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Seventh sibling graduates this spring from Christendom College in Front Royal

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"How will I keep my faith in college?" This question has troubled teenagers and parents alike as institutions of higher education move further into the grip of secularism. A faithful Catholic education drew Florida native Caroline Lancaster to Christendom College in Front Royal — the seventh member of her family to attend the college.

Caroline, like her six alumni siblings, hails from Seminole, Fla., just outside of Tampa Bay. For most of her life, she heard about Christendom while watching sibling after sibling attend and graduate from the school. When it came time for her to decide if she wanted to attend, she discovered why they all chose it. "The primary reason all seven of us chose to attend Christendom is undoubtedly the college’s devotion to a deeply Catholic education," said Caroline. "Something that stood out to me when I visited was how integrated the classes are. Whether it was theology or history, it was fascinating to see connections being drawn back to the faith in every subject. In addition to the education itself, I saw Christendom as a chance to challenge myself."

Caroline is a philosophy major, wrapping up her final classes before graduation in May. While she got her first taste of Christendom in 2006 at her brother’s graduation, she first fell in love with the college during the Best Week Ever high school summer program. There, she was convinced that Christendom would provide opportunities no secular college could.

"As opposed to other larger colleges or universities I looked into, I knew Christendom provided many unique opportunities. For instance, the frequent availability of the sacraments, the ability to play collegiate sports, a chance to engage with great thinkers and great literature, and the authentic Catholic culture at Christendom were all opportunities I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else," she said.

Being the seventh member of her family to graduate from the same college is remarkable — not just for Caroline, but for her parents Robert and Patricia as well. They both attended a large, secular university growing up, where finding faithful Catholics was difficult at best and participating in college clubs, sports teams or social events could be a "danger to one’s faith." They prayed for something better for their own children and saw those prayers answered not once or twice but with all seven of their children.

"After spending most of our married life home-schooling our seven children, we hoped that each one of them would choose to continue their education at a place where their faith could also be nourished," said Robert and Patricia. "Our prayers were answered when our oldest son chose to attend Christendom. Each son and daughter after that made the same decision after visiting the campus and attending the awesome summer program. The formation and education at Christendom more than prepared them for all their successes in life. Thankfully, all are faithful, practicing Catholics involved in a variety of ministries."

With Caroline’s graduation imminent, the family now looks back with gratitude at everything they have experienced since first becoming a part of the Christendom family in 2002. Two have become attorneys, one entered the technology field, another become a music director and one attended graduate school in Rome. Four have married fellow Christendom alumni. Most importantly for them, all are faithful practicing Catholics to this day.

"Despite the financial obligations and distance from home, it has been all worthwhile," said the Lancasters. "We see our sacrifices paying off in the good Catholic adults we have raised."

Caroline is considering graduate school for philosophy in 2022 and is applying for jobs involving marketing and communications. As she looks back at her time at Christendom, it’s what drew her to the college in the first place that she remains most grateful for.

"Being the last of seven children to graduate from Christendom College is such a surreal feeling," said Caroline. "Ever since I can remember, Christendom has been such a massive part of my family. I think all my siblings would agree that attending Christendom has been crucial in shaping who we are. The Christocentric education and campus life have given us the chance to solidify the faith which our parents taught us. I am extraordinarily blessed to have attended such a special place and will miss it very much."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021