Catholic Identity


Why Catholic at Clarke?

Just because a university is Catholic doesn’t mean you will find the same experience of community, celebration, and service at each one. At Clarke, we integrate our Catholic heritage into campus life in a way that helps create an atmosphere that is uniquely Clarke. 

Our expression of the Catholic faith goes back to the 1800s and the days of our foundress Mary Frances Clarke (notice a similarity in the name?). Together with a pioneering group of women, she traveled from Dublin, Ireland to the United States, ultimately forming the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs) and Clarke University. (Want the whole story? Click here.) Through teaching in schools, caring for the poor, and remarkable courage, the BVM sisters embodied the Catholic faith in a way that still defines Clarke today. This faith grounds who we are and what we do.
So, how does Clarke's Catholic heritage impact you?

Explore your beliefs. At Clarke, you’ll find a contemporary faith community that offers plenty of opportunities to explore your own beliefs. Of course, the Catholic faith is our foundation. At the same time, however, we emphasize living this faith in a way that is welcoming and open to persons of all religions. 

At Clarke, you will be able to explore and deepen your beliefs throughout our curriculum (even in your major) so you can see how your faith integrates with all that you do. You will have the chance to further your faith development in your general education religious studies courses as well. (Don’t worry – they aren’t designed to be preachy). Instead, they invite you to be an inquirer and to see how your beliefs and those of others shape the world we live in. 

Outside of the classroom, campus ministry’s semi-annual Antioch retreat is one of the most popular events on campus (whether you are Catholic or not)!  It’s a weekend away from the demands of life (and from campus) to relax, reflect and refresh – and it’s a ton of fun. Check out pictures here.

Pray and worship.  Looking to grow in your relationship with God?  Looking for worship opportunities? You’ll find those at Clarke, too. We hold regular liturgy throughout the year in our modern Sacred Heart Chapel and have our biggest gatherings on Sunday evenings at 5:30 p.m. Masses are often student organized and you can even get involved as a liturgical minister or musician (It’s a great time with great people!). Other prayer experiences like scripture study groups, adoration, and seasonal prayer celebrations and liturgies are also found on campus.

The campus ministry office also offers interested students the opportunity to complete the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program to become members of the Catholic Church (We even baptize students each year by immersion in a moving ceremony. Check out the photos).

Live in community. Clarke’s Catholic heritage shapes the ways we interact with each other on a daily basis. While we don’t always talk about these interactions as being Catholic, they are. At Clarke, you will find an environment that fosters respect and support. We strive each day in our relationships to live the values of justice and charity. These values create an environment that is uniquely Clarke – and it’s something you have to experience to understand. 

Living Christian faith in community also means being responsible stewards of the world we all share. That’s why as a campus, we are focused on increasing our sustainability efforts. We are taking steps to be more energy efficient, to use green materials whenever possible and we have placed recycling bins in every residence hall room on campus.

Lend a helping hand. At Clarke, we embrace Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We do this through events such as our semi-annual “Into the Streets” service day, which draws 200 participants from campus into the Dubuque community for a day of making a difference (while sporting their matching t-shirts).

But helping others goes beyond service days – it’s woven into everything we do (even your coursework!). In 2009, nursing students traveled to Ecuador to offer healthcare to some of the most needy at a BVM mission Clarke has supported since the 1960s. The year before education students brought new teaching methods and materials to teachers there.  In our physical therapy program students offer free services to Dubuque community members in need. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

So, why should you care?  We believe that the Catholic values and traditions that exist at Clarke will prepare you for more than just a successful career.  The Clarke experience will leave you with a greater understanding of your own beliefs and how they stand to impact the world. 

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