For Fr. David Couturier, executive director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University, Fratelli Tutti provides an opportunity to instill the lessons of the Good Samaritan into the business leadership training he provides, which is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the university’s School of Business. During this training, he stresses how students can navigate their future careers and the world of business by remembering that they should always conduct business with mission and the common good in mind, not just profit and career advancement.
“It sounds simplistic, but if you think about it, universities and colleges are really prime places for creating good neighbors, creating students who are going to be committed to being good neighbors in a global world and good neighbors to the planet,” he explains. “It’s not just being a responsible leader, it’s being an intentional leader based on a Catholic sense of mission and purpose.”
Opening Borders Through Recruitment
“A living and dynamic people, a people with a future, is one constantly open to a new synthesis through its ability to welcome differences.” (para. 160)
Outside the classroom, Kate Ward, assistant professor at Marquette University’s Department of Theology, says that Fratelli Tutti can help guide Catholic institutions in their approach to student recruitment and enrollment, as the encyclical stresses the importance of embracing differences. As Catholic colleges and universities continue their efforts to attract students from different cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds and give them opportunities to receive a high-quality education, the document can remind administrators how important it is to promote diversity on their campuses.
“I think the first thing that means is that Catholic colleges need to keep working to enroll a diverse student body, an economically diverse student body, and to be places where all types of differences among students can be owned and celebrated,” Ward says. “Instead of being seen as a charity model or place where one type of student is coming into a space controlled by others, it can really be a space where it’s clear that every type of student belongs here.”
Collaboration Among Catholic Colleges
“In the name of God and of everything stated thus far, [we] declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.” (para. 285)
Demographic shifts in certain parts of the country have resulted in fewer students applying to college, causing Catholic institutions to vie for a smaller pool of enrollees. Despite this seemingly competitive situation, Kevin Ahern, associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, believes that Fratelli Tutti can remind administrators that Catholic colleges should support and collaborate with one another.
“At its fundamental core, Fratelli Tutti is trying to challenge people to think beyond our narrow, myopic ways of looking at ourselves throughout the world. We live in a culture which is highly individualistic, and despite the best efforts, a lot of times higher education — Catholic higher education included — can fall victim to that same culture,” he says. “One of the challenges is for colleges to think not of each other as competitors, but to think beyond competition to cooperation. We live in the highly competitive marketplace of higher education, but I think the document is trying to emphasize cooperation, rather than competition, as the starting point for our relationship with others.”
Although there are ways that Catholic higher education can use Fratelli Tutti to improve campus operations, Carney stresses that in many ways, they already have been the embodiment of what Francis teaches in the document. What’s needed is for Catholic campuses to continue on the path of mission as they move forward through these difficult times.
“In point of fact, many of our ACCU members are doing the kind of work the encyclical calls for,” she explains. “It’s not like they’re not doing it and all of a sudden they have to get in gear. They have been developing along these lines and for some time.”
Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer who often writes about higher education.