My name is Bill O. and I’m a junior history major. As a tour guide at The Catholic University of America, my fellow Cardinal Ambassadors and I commonly get asked questions from prospective students and their parents about various aspects of life at Catholic University. Here are some of the common misconceptions about campus life that I’ve come across as a tour guide:
Do you have to be Catholic to go to The Catholic University of America?
The short answer is no. While a majority of our students self-identify as Catholic, it is not a requirement. In fact, there are many opportunities here for people of different faiths. Between student clubs, open mic nights, intramural sports, dorm activities, service opportunities, and various lectures or student performances from one of our twelve academic schools here, there are plenty of ways for the non-Catholic student population to get involved here at Catholic. But, if you are Catholic, there are also many different opportunities to grow in your faith. Between Wednesday Night Adoration, Catholic organizations like Esto Vir, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, and the Knights of Columbus, there are many opportunities for both Catholic and non-Catholic students to be involved in whatever interests them.
Is there a requirement to go to church every Sunday for Catholic students?
There is no requirement to go to church every Sunday. If you are interested in practicing your faith and attending church, there are plenty of opportunities to do so between the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and at one of five chapels on campus. But, there is no requirement to attend mass.
What are the opportunities for students who aren’t Catholic to keep practicing their faith?
If you are not a member of the Catholic Church and would like to find a place to practice your religion, our Campus Ministry office will help you find either the closest or the easiest accessible house of worship here in the DC-Metro area to ensure you are able to continue practicing in your faith.
Since Catholic is a college campus in a city, is it less safe than a more rural college campus?
Many parents express safety concerns about sending their child to a college whose campus is in a city. Here at Catholic, we have a 176-acre campus bordered by seminaries on two sides, the Saint John Paul II Center on another, and the metro on the fourth side. Aside from just those natural measures, we have 115 Blue Lights here as well as our police force, the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Also, you must use your Cardinal Card (Student ID Card) to enter your residence hall and only those who live in the building can access it. At night, we also have someone sitting in the front of each of the residence halls to sign in guests of the dorm as well as provide an extra layer of security. The layout of the campus and our safety measures has enabled us to become the safest campus in the DC-Metro area.
Is there a service requirement at Catholic?
While service is encouraged here at Catholic, there is no requirement either through a course or mandatory hours. There are countless opportunities to get involved and do service. Homeless food runs and tutoring at Beacon House are just two of our service opportunities that are super popular. Monday through Friday and even on the weekends, Catholic holds opportunities to get involved in the community. In all, the average Catholic University student per academic year commits 50 hours of community service. Aside from just regular service opportunities, some of the most popular trips involve service. During spring break, the Office of Campus Ministry organizes service trips through Habitat for Humanity so a student may travel somewhere in the country and help to build homes for the less fortunate. One location this past year was Sacramento, California. Also, Campus Ministry organizes service opportunities outside of the country to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic during spring break. We also hold a special six-week service trip to Belize and El Paso, Texas, during the Summer as well. So while service is not required, there are some amazing opportunities to serve both in the District of Columbia and beyond.
Are all of the professors in a religious order?
Many of the professors here at Catholic are lay people, meaning they do not belong to a religious order. There are some professors who belong to a religious order, and they will teach a course just like a regular lay professor. In my time here at Catholic, I have had very positive experiences with my professors both lay and clerical.
How close is the city to Catholic?
Catholic is about a ten minute metro ride to the heart of Washington, D.C. With a metro station literally right on campus and on the most popular line of the metro system (the red line), all of the main sites in DC are located very closely to the red line. Whether it be the Capitol, Union Station, Metro Center, the White House, or the National Mall, all are located very close to the red line’s metro stations. This enables our students who intern to be able to navigate to their internship in an easy and timely manner, plus it makes for easy access to activities and events throughout the city.
Do you have to be a politics major to fit in at Catholic?
Catholic offers seventy-five different academic majors across nine undergraduate academic schools. While politics is one of the most popular majors here at Catholic, there are many different opportunities you can explore outside of that major. Also, with over 100 student clubs here on campus there are a plethora of opportunities to get involved in.