Today’s world offers limited solutions to the age-old question: “What am I called to do with my life?” The solutions it does offer are shallow at best, and devastating at worst. Every young person asks this question of themselves at some point, which makes finding a good answer imperative.
Since 1977, thousands have come to Christendom College with that question, hoping for answers, and they found them. With nearly 500 alumnus-to-alumna marriages and 94 priests, 55 sisters, 7 brothers, 1 permanent deacon, 5 transitional deacons, and 17 more men currently studying for the priesthood, the vocational harvest is ripe at Christendom.
When Christendom was founded by Dr. Warren H. Carroll in 1977, its express purpose was to help form young people so that they would have an impact in every aspect of society. The vision was grand: a restoration of “Christendom,” of truly “restoring all things in Christ” through a rigorous educational formation that would allow them to enter every field possible and bring the light of Christ to the world. This vision is what continues to bring new students to campus year after year, all searching for how they can accomplish that vision in their own lives.
In fact, while other colleges are struggling to meet admissions goals, enrollment at Christendom continues to be on the rise. This makes one wonder: what is it that makes Christendom not only a popular choice for students, but also a prime place for helping people discover their vocations?
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“Christendom equipped my friends and me with all we needed to begin to imitate the great saints of the Church: solemn worship offered at the center of campus, a vibrant and truly festive social life, and the quiet needed for hours of study and prayer in both the dorm and the chapel,” says Fr. John Mark Solitario, OP, one of Christendom’s more recently ordained alumni priests. “This made Christendom a very important preparation for my friends and me to accept the vocations we have now begun to live—my own being that of a Dominican friar, priest, and theologian.”
Christendom’s entire campus life is designed to help students be formed in such a way that they leave as confident, well-informed Catholics, ready to stand as beacons of truth in a world that seems to despise truth. Through liturgical offerings, the classroom experience, the mentorship of the faculty and staff , to the vibrantly Catholic social activities, students are able to learn the Truth, live the Faith, and then go out into the world and embrace their God-given vocations.
Alumni Greg and Anna (Wright) Polley met while students in the late 1990s, ultimately getting married in 2002. After nearly 20 years of marriage, they see their growth and vocational discernment at Christendom as ultimately life changing.
“Christendom fostered our vocation in several ways,” explain the Polleys. “In class, we learned about the actual vocation of married life and God’s plan for man and woman, which gave us the foundation for our future marriage. In student life, we got to know some truly amazing fellow students who were all actively pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful in a fun and authentically Catholic way. Together, we all laughed, prayed, played, and discussed the beautiful things we were learning in class and how they resonated with us personally. Out of these conversations and this time well spent emerged vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and married life. It has been a true gift to see where Christ has led us and each of our friends.”
While at Christendom, the Polleys saw many examples of faithful Catholic marriages to emulate, especially in philosophy professor John Cuddeback and his wife, Sofia. They provided “wise counsel” while also giving witness to how they lived the Catholic faith with each other and their children.
“Christendom gave us the foundational principles to live out our life as a married couple. The education and entire experience gave us the tools to learn for a lifetime and to restore all things in Christ,” conclude the Polleys.
Alumni Zac and Sadie (Bratt) Inman concur with the Polleys. This year, the couple is celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, and they see their time at Christendom as integral to them fostering their vocation.
“Christendom is one of those rare colleges that, while immersing students in some of the greatest works of our Western tradition, also cares for the whole person and provides an environment where students can grow closer to God,” they say.
“In growing closer to Him, students become more attuned to His voice and what their calling in life is. Christendom provided us with the opportunity to truly focus on our relationship with God and what He was asking of us, excellent friends who assisted us in our discernment, and, most directly, provided the place where we met each other and where no fewer than four of Sadie’s siblings met their spouses.”
When it comes to the religious vocations, alumni have similar feelings toward how Christendom helped them find their vocation. Whether it was praying in the chapel, being formed intellectually in the classroom, or the encouragement of friends, time spent at Christendom led alumni to choose to serve as priests or religious.
“It was at Christendom that I discovered the beautiful Extraordinary Form of the Mass, which really was the biggest influence on my vocation,” says Fr. Zachary Akers, FSSP. “I did not know that this older form of the Mass existed until I came to Christendom, and I fell in love with this Mass, and everything that I had learned about our wonderful Catholic Faith ‘made sense’ to me through observing these ancient liturgical traditions.”
Since 1977, Christendom has had 18 alumni become priests in the college’s home Diocese of Arlington. Fr. Michael Isenberg, current vocations director for the diocese, sees the college’s alumni as uniquely suited for the priesthood, and is thrilled to see so many currently in seminary for the diocese (five) and preparing to be ordained to the priesthood next year (three).
Over the past 42 years, the vocational harvest has proven to be ripe at Christendom. The college will soon see its 500th alumnus-to-alumna marriage—a momentous milestone, and further evidence that the college’s formation is shaping alumni lives for the better. Next year, there will be five priestly ordinations, bringing the total number of alumni priests to 99—three to the Diocese of Arlington, one to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and one to the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek Abbey.
Christendom was founded to help students answer the question “What am I supposed to do with my life?” in a manner that helps to restore the culture. Whether it be an ever-growing domestic Church with strong Catholic families sprouting up all over the United States and beyond, or zealous priests and religious ready to serve Christ and His Church, these alumni have discovered the answer to that age-old question — and these alumni are just the beginning.