GREENVILLE—Cristina Ortiz frequently nodded her head in agreement as she listened to a recent talk on the current state of higher education in the U.S., and how Catholic parents can prepare their children for college.
“This has been very confirming,” Ortiz told Leonard J. DeLorenzo following his hour-long presentation Jan. 8 at Our Lady of the Rosary School. It was titled, “What Really Matters: Preparing the next Generation of College Students.”
Ortiz and her husband Chris, who teaches theology at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, were among approximately 30 parents of college-age students and younger children closing in on college. They came to the talk seeking reassurance and prayerful guidance.
A professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, DeLorenzo said Catholic parents need to be mindful of the admissions “game” currently being played at many colleges and university.
DeLorenzo characterized the college admissions process as a template or game that for parents often begins with their child in preschool and ends years later with a college admissions committee reviewing that same child’s academic and social record while charged with “giving an answer of admit or not admit.”
He said parents are under pressure to “manicure their child to prepare them for this point in the future,” while at the same time fearing that they might be harming their child by not playing by the rules.
“What is the end that we hope for young people?” he asked. “We haven’t focused on that question enough,” in the Church, as well as in schools and the family.
Citing a testimonial from a college junior, DeLorenzo said many of today’s students have become career driven to where they have consciously distanced themselves from friends, from religion and from other relationships that take time and effort, because they fear that the only thing that will matter at the end of college is “my grade point average and whatever graduate program I’m accepted to.”
In a society that is becoming increasingly impatient, DeLorenzo said young people need to slow down.
“There was a time not so long ago when you had to wait for things,” he said. “Our entire way of living is being inundated with expediency. We need to recover the practice of patience, of learning how to give our attention generously to what’s in front of us, whether it be a book, a person or a moment.
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, and it’s what we have been stripped of,” he said.
To regain that kindness, Catholic parents and their young children need to simply focus on the word of God.
“What we’re talking about is being rooted and integrated in our formation, setting up the right kinds of formation that roots our young people and leads them towards the kind of flourishing that’s integrated in the Gospel,” he said, and to accomplish that means reading Scripture.
“To hear the word of God you actually have to pay attention to the word of God as it is; to be immersed in it,” he said. “Scripture forms us in how to see the world. Hearing the word of God means practicing what He teaches.”
Ortiz and her husband have a daughter who is a student at Neuman University in Wichita, Kansas. Both shared their experiences with DeLorenzo following his talk.
“It’s been really helpful in being able to put into words all the frustrations (her daughter) was experiencing,” Cristina Ortiz said, experiences that mirror what DeLorenzo said he has observed in his 17 years as a college professor.