This story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Instaurare. Subscribe today!
The Second Generation of a Christendom Family Enjoys Four Siblings Simultaneously Enrolled.
Finding an authentically Catholic college is not easy. But if one thinks it is a difficult task today, imagine what it was like for parents in the 1970s — an era defined by the rejection of Humanae Vitae and subsequent embracing of contraception along with the infamous Land O’ Lakes manifesto, which divorced the Catholic university from the life of faith and set in motion a deplorable decline in the Catholic identity of American institutions of higher education. The thirst for an education true to the Magisterium brought the Lucas family of Naples, Fla., to an unlikely place at that time: a small college in the Shenandoah Valley. Thirty years later, the next generation of that family — the Cooks — are following that same legacy, providing reasons for hope by enabling bright young minds to encounter the Truth.
In the late 1960s, the swath of Catholic colleges across the nation were still reeling from the effects of the infamous Land O’ Lakes conference, which pushed many colleges in an increasingly secular direction. As authentically Catholic colleges quickly became fewer, Margaret Seidl of Green Bay, Wis., made a life changing discovery when she attended a conference where well-known historian Dr. Warren H. Carroll was speaking. During his talk, Carroll mentioned his desire to start a Catholic college true to the Magisterium — a vision that inspired Seidl and caused her to call her daughter, Marilyn Lucas, and tell her to keep her eyes open for this place, should it ever come to fruition.
Nearly a decade later, the Lucas family opened up an issue of the Catholic newspaper The Wanderer, and discovered an advertisement for the school Carroll had spoken so hopefully of — Christendom College, now located in the Shenandoah Valley.
“The Catholic Church in South Florida in the 1970s was in a state of change and confusion,” said Lucas. “Although our children were enrolled in the local Catholic elementary school, we could see a more secular trend in the Catholic Faith being taught to our children. At that same time, having established The Right to Life Council in Naples after Roe v. Wade, I was traveling all over to meet with many pro-life leaders. There already were many discussing the loss of faith of many college graduates at that time. Because my husband and I felt very strongly that our most important obligation to our children in life was to help them get to heaven, we knew instinctively that they would attend Christendom College.”
In 1988, it was finally the Lucases’ youngest daughter’s chance to attend Christendom, following in the footsteps of her two older siblings, and Jill could not have been more excited.
“I had attended a very large public high school, and when I visited Christendom, I was completely overjoyed to meet so many people with the same values, where the Catholic faith was not merely accepted, but encouraged and nourished on a daily basis. It was a way of life,” said Jill (Lucas) Cook ’92.
Fast-forward to the 2000s, and Tim and Jill Cook found themselves with the same thoughts as Jill’s mother had in the 1980s. Their desire for a proper, Catholic education for their seven children led them to send each of their children initially to Seton School in Manassas, Va. — a high school founded by Anne Carroll, wife of Christendom founder Dr. Warren Carroll. With college on the horizon, the Cook family had to pray and hope as they encouraged all of their children to attend Jill’s alma mater.
“As parents, when the idea of paying for a college education was staring us in the face, we knew that this would be one of the biggest and most important investments we would ever make for our children,” said Jill. “I knew, from my experience at Christendom, that this was the one college where the tuition is exponentially fruitful, most especially with regard to a well-rounded formation to prepare students for all aspects of life, and the most important being that of the faith.”
Today, the Cooks have achieved a first for Christendom. Not only do they have four children currently enrolled at the college, they have a child in each class — freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. The belief of the Cooks in Christendom and its positive effect on their children and the culture at large permeates every class at the college as a result, making their legacy that much more potent. For their part, the four Cook children are loving the experience so far, and are grateful to their parents for their direction, advice, and support, all of which have enabled them to attend Christendom.
“I’ve been blessed with an amazing family and a rock-solid Catholic education. I know that I have a strong foundation with good principles that I can take with me into whatever field I enter after I graduate,” says Timothy Cook, who is set to become the first Cook to graduate from Christendom this coming spring. “With the tools Christendom has given me, I will be able to swim against the choppy waters of the world, with the mission ‘to restore all things in Christ.’”
“As parents, when the idea of paying for a college education was staring us in the face, we knew that this would be one of the biggest and most important investments we would ever make for our children. I knew, from my experience at Christendom, that this was the one college where the tuition is exponentially fruitful.”
Timothy’s sister, Anna, currently a sophomore, seconds Timothy’s thoughts on Christendom. With the tools she has been given, she hopes to become a certified physical therapist and join a medical mission in a Third World country after graduation.
“I’ve always had a passion for working with and helping people, particularly physically and mentally disabled people,” says Anna. “Christendom has helped me to recognize the beauty of helping others and putting others before myself. The education here gives the grounding in knowledge necessary to fight for my beliefs and to be a witness of Faith to others. By joining a medical mission, I can live out my passion while also having the opportunity to bring Christ to others who don’t have the Faith.”
For John Paul Cook, the education has proven to be a natural extension of the education he previously received at Seton School, deepening his knowledge and the truth and giving him the confidence to defend the Faith in the public square.
“Before coming to Christendom,” says John Paul, “I knew for the most part what was true and what was not, but when confronted by someone who wanted to argue, I could not defend my position at all, because I didn’t really know the reasons for the things I believed. Christendom taught me how to reason quickly, simply through participation in classes. Now I have found—especially in this past election—that I can quickly come up with and convey reasons why I stand for what I do.”
The fourth Cook, Theresa, is only just finishing her first semester at Christendom, and yet she is experiencing the same things as her three siblings, growing deeper in her knowledge and drawing that much closer to realizing her passion: working in the pro-life movement.
“Every class that I am taking this semester teaches me more about the faith in many different aspects that I would never have discovered anywhere else,” says Theresa. “The professors not only present to us the faith as it is, but they help us to prepare for defending it in our future lives. My one wish has always been to be a significant part of the pro-life movement. The culture of abortion that has taken over our country is the ultimate form of disrespect for the human person, and joining the fight against this would not only help restore Christ in others, but also in myself.”
The Cooks have invested in the vision of founder Warren Carroll, who believed that one man can make a difference. The Lucas family prayed that such a day might come when they began their search for a place like Christendom College, and, 40 years later, they could not be happier with the fruits that have been produced by their family’s participation in Carroll’s vision.