Surprisingly, one of the first questions I am often asked about Duquesne is whether or not I like that its a “Catholic school.” Whether incoming freshman have attended a Catholic high school or not, Catholic presence on a college campus is quite unique. Since I am a former intern with the Campus Ministry, I feel moderately qualified to speak on this subject.
Duquesne is the only Spiritan University in the world. The Spiritans are a special order within the Roman Catholic Church (like the Franciscans or Dominicans) that are known for their missionary work around the world, especially in marginalized communities. Thus, most priests and nuns seen around campus, whether they are visiting or living here permanently, are Spiritans.
Though the Spiritan presence is a very visible and central part of campus, they are not here to impose their beliefs on anyone. Rather, Spiritan Campus Ministry simply makes themselves available as often as they can through philanthropic, social, and church-related programs for anybody who is interested, regardless of his or her faith. Some examples include weekly Bible Study, Fair Trade Week, Founders Week, Spring Clean Up, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day parties, and of course, Mass (Weekend and Daily). Examples of faith-related clubs are St. Vincent De Paul, a group that feeds the homeless of Pittsburgh once a week, and Consistent Ethic of Life, a discussion/activist group that also meets weekly.
The Spiritans see the wisdom in NOT acting as a dictatorial theocracy. In other words, nobody is forced to attend church, sign morality contracts, or anything of the sort. The University encourages and teaches high moral standards in line with the Catholic tradition, which is given in large part through the required core-curriculum courses in Philosophy and Theology (two of my three favorites, believe it or not). Moreover, Spiritan Campus Ministry is here to “meet students where they’re at,” and are happy to interact with them, but also understand if students do not choose engage with them directly.
In short, there is nothing to fear, but much to learn!