Catholic colleges, universities make top 100 of Kiplinger’s best bang for the buck

Kiplinger announced its annual Top College Value ranking of U.S. colleges and universities where students get the best payoff for the investment they make in four years of tuition and other costs. Kiplinger bases the ranking on a combination of quality of education (55%) and financial measures (45%).

It should come as no surprise that schools with high academic standards and ability to put considerable money around students — thanks to healthy endowments and financial aid practices — should fare better than schools that aren’t that fortunate. In the financials, Kiplinger factors in such things as tuition, need-based financial aid and median starting salaries upon graduation.

University of Notre Dame graduates at a commencement ceremony. (CNS file photo)

University of Notre Dame graduates at a commencement ceremony. (CNS file photo)

After looking at a field of 1,200 schools, Princeton, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Rice, Yale and Duke top the list. No surprise there.

How did Catholic colleges and universities fare this year? Pretty well. One-quarter of the Top 100 list is populated by Catholic higher education institutions. Here is how they ranked:

16 – University of Notre Dame

17 – Georgetown University

19 – Boston College

30 – Santa Clara University

33 – Creighton University

35 – Villanova University

42 – Gonzaga University

45 – Franciscan University of Steubenville

51 – University of Portland

55 – University of Dayton

57 – Marist University

58 – St. Louis University

60 – Marquette University

66 – University of San Diego

69 – Providence College

70 – Rockhurst University

71 – Duquesne University

72 – Loyola Marymount University

75 – Loyola University Chicago

81 – Fairfield University

83 – Fordham University

86 – St. Michael’s College

87 – University of St. Thomas

89 – Loyola University Maryland

96 – St. Bonaventure University

100 – Xavier University, Cincinnati

So, as your high school junior is beginning to think of where to go to college, those are 25 that give you a good bang for the buck.



Voices from the creation debate

By Robert Duncan
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic News Service’s Junno Arocho Esteves posted a story today to our wire service explaining a new online course sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture that digs deep into the question of how scientific inquiry and faith in God are compatible. Here’s a sample:

A 1635 portrait of astronomer Galileo Galilei by Dutch painter Justus Sustermans. (CNS/Reuters)

A 1635 portrait of astronomer Galileo Galilei by Dutch painter Justus Sustermans. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Creationism vs. evolution, scientific method vs. ethics, science vs. faith, the church’s censure and rehabilitation of Galileo Galilei. For centuries, there have been countless confusion and arguments pitting science against faith as if they were two opposing forces.

In the hopes of dispelling lingering myths and misunderstandings, one ecclesiastical institute has launched a unique online course explaining the compatible roles religion and science play in seeking meaning and knowledge in today’s world.

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the “Science and Faith in Dialogue” program is run by the Theological Faculty of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, and it seeks to bridge the gap between science and faith through education.


To help our audiences get a taste of how the so-called science-vs.-faith debate is playing out in the public square, we recently interviewed experts who are associated with contrasting approaches to the subject.

We spoke to Janet Soskice, a Cambridge University scholar of religion and science who argues for a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis and God-guided evolution. We also spoke to Dominican Father Michael Chaberek who has recently published book on the history of the debate called “Catholicism and Evolution: A History from Darwin to Pope Francis.”

Also included in the video is young-earth creationist Hugh Owen, arguing for a strict literal interpretation of Genesis. Finally, we chose to include Gerald Schroeder, an MIT-trained Orthodox Jewish scientist who claims that the Bible and science recount the same truth in different languages.

We hope you enjoy diving into the debate!

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Dec. 13, 2015

"Shout for joy … the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear." -- Zephaniah 3:14-15

“Shout for joy … the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” — Zephaniah 3:14-15


Dec. 13, Third Sunday of Advent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Zephaniah 3:14-18a

      Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6

      2) Philippians 4:4-7

      Gospel: Luke 3:10-18


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Recently I was invited to lead a discussion on evangelization as part of a faith formation series hosted by a local group of Catholic young adults.

But as people arrived for that evening’s session, their informal conversations were all focused on a fatal shooting that had occurred in our small city earlier in the day. The entire community was shocked and in mourning, and this group felt particularly connected to the tragedy because the two victims were their peers: young people in their 20s, just starting out in promising careers, committed relationships and happily anticipating what lies ahead.

So the group began the gathering with an earnest prayer for these young adults and their families and friends. Later, as we talked about Christ’s call to all of us to go and make disciples, I prompted the group to consider what motivated them, personally, to evangelize. “Why do you want to share the Gospel and encourage others to live this life of Jesus?” I asked.

One participant, Joe, began his response simply, “To make the world a better place.”

Then he went deeper: “If everyone was caring and loving, if everyone lived the way of Jesus, with concern and compassion for everyone else, imagine how different humanity would be. Imagine what life would be like. There wouldn’t be such terrible things as what happened today.”

This third Sunday of Advent calls us to joyful expectation. It calls us to anticipate the coming of Christ to humanity. It calls us to imagine, as Joe does, life fully infused by the spirit of Jesus.

In Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist reminds us also to prepare the way for it. The crowd asks, “What should we do?” John exhorts them to treat everyone justly and with dignity. Additionally, today’s readings tell us to spread the life of Christ. “Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds,” the prophet Isaiah says, and Paul tells the Philippians, “Your kindness should be known to all.”

In effect, live and proclaim Jesus’s Gospel. Joe said it can transform humanity. Zephaniah said it will.

“Fear not,” he prophesied, “the Lord, your, God is in your midst, a mighty savior.” Live Jesus’ life. Spread his message. Expect joy.


How can you prepare the way for Jesus to live within and among the people you know and encounter every day?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Dec. 6, 2015

"Prepare the way of the Lord." -- Luke 3:4c

“Prepare the way of the Lord.” — Luke 3:4c

Dec. 6, Second Sunday of Advent

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Baruch 5:1-9

Psalm 126:1-6

2) Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Gospel: Luke 3:1-6


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

In the Gospel reading, John addresses the central theme of his preaching in quoting the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled. … The winding roads shall be made straight … and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

His words seem to echo those of the prophet Baruch in the Old Testament reading for this week. The prophets are saying, “Look out world, God is about to do something new, and it’s for you. In fact, it will be the very salvation of God!”

When we think of Jesus coming into the world, which is what we’re supposed to be doing during Advent, it can get to be pretty abstract. But my own family’s experience was that when Jesus came into my father’s world and my father, at age 16, accepted him as his savior, it all became very concrete.

My dad told stories of what his life was like as a child growing up in his home. It was very different from my own childhood experience.

His father would stay out all night, gambling and carousing, arriving home at dawn. One story had my grandmother chasing my grandfather around the kitchen with a butcher knife, intending to do him harm. Fortunately she didn’t, but not for lack of trying.

The church where my father came to know the Lord is also where he met my mother in a Sunday school class. The rest, as they say, is history. My father became an elder and a deacon in his Presbyterian church, and as a child I almost never missed a Sunday service.

My father would understand the words of Paul quoted in the reading from Philippians: “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception.”

But if Jesus had not come into our world, had he not brought the very salvation of God, the words never would have been written, and a degree of love the world never before had known would not have come to us to shape us in his person, the very substance of love and mercy.


How has the coming of Jesus into the world made a difference in your family’s history?

CNS keeps the peace

By Jim Lackey

Did you know we played a role in protecting Pope Francis on his recently concluded trip to Africa?

Pope Francis visits a refugee camp in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis visits a refugee camp in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

OK, so maybe that’s not the same CNS.

Still, it was surprising that on the pope’s last stop, in Bangui, Central African Republic, CNS was there policing some of the crowds. Just check out the helmets.

Police patrol at Barthelemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic,where Pope Francis celebrated Mass Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Police patrol at Barthelemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Turns out that in Bangui, CNS stands for “Compagnie Nationale de Sécurité,” a national police force.

Fortunately, we don’t need those guns to do our jobs. But one of those helmets sure would be nice the next time one of our reporters has to cover some world trouble spot.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Nov. 29, 2015

"Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." -- Luke 21:36

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” — Luke 21:36


Nov. 29, First Sunday of Advent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Jeremiah 33:14-16

      Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14

      2) 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

      Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

I was driving on an interstate highway one day with my daughter. We were chatting away when she interrupted the conversation to point out a highway patrol car parked among some trees in the median a good distance ahead. “You see the cop up there, don’t you?” she said, indicating I should probably slow down.

Indeed, I started to touch the brakes but then smiled and cut my eyes at her. “Seriously?” I asked with a slight tone of sarcasm. She looked at me and burst into laughter, “Oh, right.”

We both knew I’ve been driving “like a grandma” (slow) since I was 15. I’m not as attentive to watching for hidden patrol cars as she is. But I don’t have to be, because I so rarely drive over the speed limit.

The fact is I’ve never believed I was a very good driver, so I’ve always been overly cautious behind the wheel. It’s not so much that I’m conscientious about following the rules as it is that I’m extra-sensitive to risking the safety of everybody else on the road.

Too bad I’m not equally conscientious about how my attention to following the Father’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings affect everybody else around me. But that’s what God desires — of me and all of us.

The Scriptures for this first Sunday of Advent call us to constantly, faithfully follow God’s ways, because in this way we help open the world to God’s presence, both now and at the end of time.

Paul explained in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all … so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God.”

When we do stand before God, it will be our own failure to be faithful that will “catch you by surprise like a trap,” Jesus told his disciples.

God doesn’t hide among the trees in the median waiting to catch us for breaking his commandments. Instead, he wants us to “be vigilant” ourselves, so that our own lives always enhance the life of the world so it is worthy of God’s presence.


What kinds of daily distractions or inattention to faithfulness to Christ do you need to be more vigilant about? How do you believe God sees you standing before him right now?

Top 9 Must-Sees for Holy Year Pilgrims to Rome

By Nicole Pellicano*

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the past, a pilgrimage to Rome lasted weeks. It included visiting churches, touring the catacombs, following in the footsteps of saints and praying at historic sites in and outside the city. During the first Holy Year in 1300, the minimum requirement for a plenary indulgence was to pray at Rome’s patriarchal basilicas 15 times over the course of a number of weeks. Today, most visitors do not stay that long.

This extraordinary Year of Mercy is a way to stress the importance of forgiveness and renewing one’s relationship with God. The Holy Door, symbolizing the doorway of salvation (read more here), marks the “extraordinary” spiritual passage offered to the faithful during a jubilee year.  Of the seven major Holy Doors in the world, four are in Rome. In addition to the doors at the four major basilicas in Rome, there are a number of other important religious sites a pilgrim should visit.

To make things easier for pilgrims short on time, we drew up a list of the top nine sites in Rome using a traditional pilgrim journey as a guide. For those who can’t make a trip to the Eternal City, follow the links for a virtual pilgrimage through Rome.

Stop 1: Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls


Pope Francis leads ecumenical vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome last January. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Your first stop, a bit outside of the historic center of Rome, was built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Rebuilt after a fire in the 19th century, the basilica’s bronze holy door survived the fire. St. John XXIII had the doors restored completely; the 54 bronze panels represent characters of the Old and New Testaments, including an image of the crucifixion of St. Paul. The door will open Dec 13, 2015.

During the 4th century what are believed to be the remains of  the apostle Paul’s were place in a sarcophagus, which is now believed to be below a marble tombstone in the basilica’s crypt bearing the inscription “PAULO APOSTOLO MART.”

Read more about early Christian devotion to St. Paul and ancient pilgrimages to his tomb here.

Stop 2: Catacombs of St. Callixtus

Less than four miles up the road from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. Rome has more than 60 catacombs with hundreds of miles of tunnels carved into the tufo (soft volcanic rock) and tens of thousands of tombs. Roman law forbade burials within the city limits.

If you can’t make it to the St. Callixtus catacombs, there are a number of other ones worth your while. As recently as five years ago archaeologists discovered ancient artwork in the Catacombs of St. Thecla. You can read more about it here.

Stop 3: Basilica of St. John Lateran


Pope Francis celebrates Mass outside Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran on the feast of Corpus Christi. (CNS/Paul Haring)

While a far walk from the catacombs, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is a sight you definitely cannot miss. The basilica is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. The Holy Door here depicts Jesus on the Cross with Mary beneath him, holding and nurturing an infant Jesus. A piece of what tradition holds to be the Holy Sponge is preserved here. According to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, a sponge was dipped in vinegar and offered to Christ to drink as he was on the cross.

A newly elected pope — who is also Bishop of Rome — celebrates Mass here as he “takes possession” of the diocesan cathedral.

Stop 4: The Holy Stairs


People pray and climb the Holy Stairs on their knees. According to legend, Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, brought the stairs to Rome from Jerusalem in 326. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Walk across the street from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Holy Stairs. The “Scala Sancta” are a set of 28 white marble steps encased in a protective wooden framework. Tradition holds them to be the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the passion. The steps are believed to have been brought to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena. While the stairs are climbed in prayer on ones knees, there are also staircases on each side of the Holy Stairs for those who wish to walk.


People pray on the Holy Stairs at the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs in Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

While world-famous art housed in Rome’s churches and chapels have risked turning sacred spaces into tourist spots, the Holy Stairs has managed to hold onto its spiritual side. Read more, and watch CNS coverage of the resurrection of the Holy Stairs, here.

Stop 5: Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Head east from the Holy Stairs to your next destination. The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem houses several important relics that warrant a visit. In the Chapel of the Relics you can find parts of what is revered as the Elogium, the sign hung on Christ’s cross. You will also find two thorns from what legend holds is Jesus’ crown of thorns, pieces of wood, and a nail, which tradition says is from Jesus’ cross. A larger piece of what was revered as the true cross was taken from the basilica on the instructions of Pope Urban VII in 1629 and can now be found in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Read here about what role relics have in the Catholic Church.

Stop 6: Basilica of St. Mary Major

Pope Francis leads Benediction outside Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome

Pope Francis led Benediction outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major last June. (CNS/Paul Haring) June 19, 2014.

Heading back to the center of Rome, stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The site for the church was chosen in the 4th century after a miraculous August snowfall. The Holy Door here was blessed by St. John Paul II on Dec. 8, 2001, and was donated to the basilica by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Depicted on the panels is the resurrection of Christ. Relics found inside the basilica include a piece of the Holy Sponge and what is believed to be a piece of Jesus’ crib.

Read more about the significance of St. Mary Major in this CNS article.


Artificial snow falls outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome every Aug. 5, recalling the tradition that Mary caused snow to fall on the spot in 358 to indicate that she wanted a church built there in her honor. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Stop 7: The Pantheon

The Pantheon is a popular tourist stop for most people visiting the city, but what many may not know is that it originally was dedicated to “pan theos,” meaning “all the gods.” It wasn’t until after the year 609 that it was consecrated as a Christian church, making it the first pagan temple in Rome to be Christianized. When it became a church it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all of the martyrs. Inside you can find a number of monumental tombs set into the walls, including those of the artist Raphael and Kings Victor Emanuel II and Umberto I.

Stop 8: Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere


Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere in Rome in this 2010 file photo. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Across the river is the Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere. Tradition holds that on the day Christ was born a stream of pure oil flowed from the earth on the site of the church, signifying the coming of the grace of God. Inside the basilica you will find 22 granite columns, all taken from the ruins of ancient Roman buildings. One column marked with the inscriptions FONS OLEI marks the spot of the miraculous flow of oil. You will also find a relic of St. Apollonia and a portion of the Holy Sponge.

Stop 9: St. Peter’s Basilica


Pope Francis waves to the crowd during his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 5. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Our final destination is located in Vatican City, home to the primary Holy Door, as well as a long list of relics. The bronze Holy Door, also known as the “Door of the Great Pardon,” found at the entrance to the basilica was donated by Swiss Catholics and installed in 1949, replacing wooden doors that had been used the previous 200 years. Each panel portrays scenes of human sin and redemption through the mercy of God.


Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in this file photo from April. (CNS/Cristian Gennari)

Between the panels are the coats of arms of all the popes who have opened the door during the ordinary Holy Years; the last pope to do so was St. John Paul II. Pope Francis’ coat of arms will be etched into one of the empty shieldd after he opens and closes the door.

Due to the number of pilgrims expected to visit St. Peter’s during the Year of Mercy, Vatican officials have adopted a reservation system for pilgrims who want to cross the threshold of the Holy Door. Read more about the plan here, and be sure to book your spot here.

*Nicole Pellicano, a student at Villanova University, is an intern this semester in the Rome Bureau of Catholic News Service.



St. John Paul II opened the Holy Door and walked into St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve 1999, initiating the Holy Year 2000. (CNS/Arturo Mari, Vatican)



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