At his UK Telegraph blog Damian Thompson reports on the existence of a truly admirable Catholic university:
You probably haven’t heard of the Ukrainian Catholic University – but I suspect that is going to change. For this wonderful institution offers a philosophy of teaching in radical contrast to the moribund model of Catholic further education found in this country and much of the West.
“You must look into this place,” my (Anglican) friend Edward Lucas, author and Eastern Europe correspondent of The Economist, told me. “It’s quite amazing.” And it is. This university, run on a shoestring, teaches not only the liberal arts and trains Eastern-rite Catholic priests, but also places a community of mentally and physically handicapped people at the centre of its spiritual and social life.
Now that is what I call a Catholic ethos. The Centre for Spiritual Support of the Handicapped, run in conjunction with L’Arche, works on the premise that working with the disabled is part of a theological education. As Fr Boris Gudziak, Rector of UCU, told me when I interviewed him recently: “We recognise that the handicapped have gifts to bring us. Our university is a place where we drop facades, the images of ourselves that the world wants us to construct, and strive towards a powerful sacrificial love.” […]
The website of UCU will tell you what Fr Gudziak means when he talks about a “holistic” education – and it couldn’t be further from the wet nonsense dressed up as Catholicism in English colleges where the chapel is given over to a celebration of Mohammed’s birthday. That outrage happened at Newman University College, Birmingham; but if you want a glimpse of how Cardinal Newman’s “idea of a university” might have translated into 21st-century terms, then you should look to Lviv, not Birmingham.
The university’s website contains many details about the university; I think many crunchy conservatives would like the School of Ukrainian Language and Culture, where students can spend a summer program learning about the country, its language, customs, and way of life. And Damian Thompson mentions the school’s admirable Center of Spiritual Support of the Handicapped; if there’s ever been a better idea to foster the notions of community, humility, and service on a university campus, I’ve never heard it.
My fellow Catholics sometimes wonder how I can possibly remain optimistic about the future of the Church; certainly we hear a lot about the negatives, from dismal liturgical standards to people whose idea of community is racing each other out of the parking lot each Sunday to the darker signs of infidelity and even evil that have come not only from within the Church, but from those we look up to as leaders and spiritual guides. But there are positive signs of new life and hope–few, and small, they sometimes seem, but they are there. That a university along the lines of the Ukrainian Catholic University exists at all is amazing, and hopeful; it is a sign that the darkness has not yet overcome the Church, and that when her lamps are dimmed and darkened in the West, she’s perfectly capable, by the grace of God, to point to the light that is dawning in the East.