Monday, October 6, 2003

Some religious colleges try to keep roots



The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - While some of Ohio's religious colleges have turned into mostly secular institutions, others are attempting to maintain their traditions.

Cradles of Conscience, a new book on the history of the state's private colleges and universities, says schools such as Franciscan University in Steubenville in eastern Ohio and Cedarville University in Cedarville in southwest Ohio are succeeding by embracing their religious roots.

"Franciscan is an extraordinary example," said John William Oliver Jr., one of the book's editors. "It's succeeding by going in the other direction."

College enrollment has grown almost fourfold since the late 1970s as the college strengthened its ties to the Roman Catholic Church. Franciscan also has developed a social-reform movement protesting abortion.

The college sends busloads of students to Washington, D.C., each year to attend marches on the anniversary date of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. An eternal flame burns over the Tomb of the Unborn Child at the university.

At Cedarville, a major expansion program and increases in faculty and staff salaries allowed it to continue its conservative Christian mission and recruit stronger academic classes.

Other schools, such as Ursuline College in Pepper Pike and Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, in northeast Ohio, are dealing with ways to have a meaningful religious presence in an environment that also celebrates diversity.

" Unlike New England and the South, Ohio welcomed competing traditions and had greater ethnic and religious diversity, said Oliver and the book's other editors, James O'Donnell and James Hodges.

"Ohio's the West where you can do different things," said O'Donnell, a history professor at Marietta College.

Partly in response to often bitter anti-Catholic prejudice, Catholics founded 10 private colleges, the most in the state.

The Methodists founded five schools. Congregationalists created four schools, and Baptists, Presbyterians and the Disciples of Christ each founded three schools, said Oliver, emeritus professor of history at Malone College in Canton.

Baldwin-Wallace, a United Methodist-affiliated college, recognizes the connection between faith, knowledge and service.

"We think spiritual growth is an essential part of what it means to be human, and we try to nurture that," college President Mark Collier said. But the college is not trying to proselytize anyone, Collier said.




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