The University of John Paul the Great in California Seeks to Fuse Newman’s Core Philosophy With the Creative Arts to Form Christian Disciples

By Derry Connolly
President, John Paul the Great Catholic University, San Diego, California

Saint John Henry Newman arrived in Dublin in 1851 shortly after two very significant historical events for Irish Catholics. Emancipation in 1829 allowed them, after two centuries, to vote, own property and hold public office, and a terrible potato famine from 1845-49 caused 1 million to die and another million to emigrate. Such was the historical context of Newman’s time in Ireland and his book The Idea of a University.

Our university, JPCatholic, is a new, 21st-century Catholic university inspired by St. Pope John Paul’s urging to use contemporary media to evangelize, but it follows many of Newman’s “ideas of a university,” despite a very different cultural context and strong professional focus.

Following Newman’s core educational philosophy, Jesus is at the heart of JPCatholic. 

We foster a deep love for learning and knowledge as an important good in itself. We require many courses in theology, philosophy and the great works of Western Civilization to help students to deeply understand God, the human person, good and evil, truth and beauty. Aligned with Newman, JPCatholic is forming Christian disciples to witness to Jesus in our contemporary culture and to spread the Good News. We pursue the harmony of faith and reason, the Catholic truths, and growth in virtue within our Catholic culture. 

Catholics have always engaged their culture and have used the Creative Arts as a powerful tool to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our contemporary culture, in its state of rapid moral and ethical decline, uses culture-impacting industries such as entertainment, design and fashion to advance even greater depravity; secular higher education trains armies of students in the task. JPCatholic forms graduates to be salt and light – to impact culture for Christ in these influential industries.

JPCatholic overlays a contemporary and innovative academic program over Newman’s ideal for the Catholic University, focused on educating students in the rapidly evolving and interdisciplinary Creative Arts academic disciplines that underpin the field of entertainment media. As JPCatholic grows, it will develop new academic programs to prepare graduates for other culture-impacting creative industries such as fashion and design.

JPCatholic is forming an army of talented Catholic creators and innovators, who know and love Jesus and are ready to shine the light of the Gospel into today’s dark and culture impacting industries. Like the very best secular colleges, public and private, we import industry-best practices into our curriculum, classrooms, and labs and use cutting edge hardware and software to train workplace-ready graduates.

Our Creative Arts and Business Innovation faculty bring both their sincere love for Jesus and deep real-world experience to our classrooms. Our Catholic theologians and philosophers, many artists at heart, are fulfilled in teaching creative and innovative students, who have an important purpose.

Faculty create a truly interdisciplinary academic environment to fuse the Catholic intellectual tradition and the applied creative arts into a culture of learning by doing, and in dialog with the moral, ethical and social implications of contemporary art.

JPCatholic is an answer to prayer for many Catholic families whom God has blessed with creative children, and who value the opportunity for them to grow in their faith in college. They consider secular art colleges as very dark places where it is difficult to see the light of Christ in the students’ artwork. 

In Newman’s time, college access was very limited, while today access is readily available. However, today’s economic realities for both Catholic and secular higher education are complex and uncertain.

Many Catholic institutions have drifted away from Catholic truths, and attempts at restoring their Catholic identity face very tough internal opposition. Graduates experience a significant loss of their Catholic faith. Escalating student debt and the questioning of the value of a college degree challenge the economics of higher education, and colleges are closing. 

The future of authentic Catholic higher education is uncertain. Top schools will thrive while many smaller schools will close. 

God has shepherded John Paul the Great Catholic University through the complexity and uncertainties of our time. We move forward, confident that we are doing God’s work and with the hope that He will continue to shower us with His grace and blessings.

Derry Connolly, Ph.D., has served as the Founding President of John Paul the Great Catholic University since its founding in 2003. 

Dr. Connolly holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics from Cal-Tech in Pasadena, California, and both a Masters in Science and a Bachelor’s in Science in Mathematical Science from University College, Cork, Ireland. Dr. Connolly holds eight US patents and has authored numerous technical publications. 

At JPCatholic he teaches Business Model Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking. Prior to JPCatholic, he worked at the University of California, San Diego, as well as for 15 years in Industrial Research and Development with IBM and Kodak. 

Dr. Connolly and his wife Lidy have five children and 10 grandchildren.



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