In Warner: small school, big mission

[Update, 2015: the school is now called Northeast Catholic College. Same location, same faculty.]

Recently, I attended a commencement at a small college in Warner, New Hampshire. I mean small. Why make the trip, when I had no child in the class? Because those graduates are shifting the culture. I came to cheer them on. A more joyful morning would have been tough to arrange.

Posing for the class portrait: College of Saint Mary Magdalen class of 2014, with Bishop Peter Libasci.
Posing for the class portrait: College of Saint Mary Magdalen class of 2014, with Bishop Peter Libasci.

For my day job as well as from personal inclination, I spend a lot of time looking at state legislation. It’s easy to get tied up in that. Every little success is magnified, as is every little failure. A committee votes the “wrong” way … a bad bill goes to interim study … a long-awaited floor vote gets postponed: the highs and lows could get completely out of hand. Balance comes from faith, family, and anything in the community that doesn’t have a direct line to the State House.

CSMM banner at the national March for Life
CSMM banner at the national March for Life

Hence, my admiration and respect for the people who have built up the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner. They’re working with a long view. The founders and faculty members are neither content with the current culture nor defeated by it. The College is Catholic. “Pro-life” ought to go without saying. Times being what they are, though, it bears stressing that this is a pro-life community. The students who come and who choose to stay through graduation are thoroughly steeped in the richness of faith and the best of the liberal arts tradition. The students’ commitment to respect for life flourishes naturally.

My husband and I are graduates of a state university. More than thirty years ago, we could see that while our state institution was in no danger of going under, some of the Catholic colleges whose work we admired were definitely struggling. We made the decision at that time that to the best of our ability, in good and lean times alike, we’d do what we could to support the schools that were standing up for the right to life. The College of Saint Mary Magdalen has been one of them.

Forgive me for one State House digression: I’ve seen some CSMM students in action at legislative hearings on life-issue bills, where they’ve signed in and testified. Few other schools encourage this. The students make much more of an impact than they realize. People are forced to stop and think when they hear college-age women and men urging legislators to affirm life. It doesn’t fit the normal young-activist template. I know; I hear the conversations in the hallways after the students leave.

This is a long way of explaining why I made the drive to Warner in early May. I’m grateful to those students, most of whom don’t know me personally. I’m grateful to their professors, some of whom I’m known for many years. The culture of life doesn’t sustain itself; it has to be nurtured and preserved and then handed down to the rising generation. That’s what’s happening in Warner.


2 thoughts on “In Warner: small school, big mission

  1. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH is also strong on pro-life issues…they’ve been a consistently visible presence at the PP clinic in Manchester during 40 DFL and sent quite a few students to the last NHRTL banquet last fall. We are so lucky to have these two shining examples of Catholic higher education in our great state… Thanks for writing this piece!

    1. Great point, Charlotte. I hadn’t realized TMC students were among the pro-life witnesses in Manchester. That’s another one of the colleges my husband & I have tried to support. There’s some great work going on in those schools!

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