A Catholic Education - A Treasure Worth Digging For!

Having benefited from a Traditional Catholic education, I echo the call for support of Fisher More College.

Attached below is a copy of Mr. Vernnari's interview with Dr. King, President of Fish More College. (I hope he doesn't mind ...)

Dig deep and help them monetarily if you can, spiritually regardless of your financial resources.



A Visit to Fisher More College
Interview with College President, Dr. Michael King

“We operate on the motto that the parents' 18 years of sacrifice and commitment raising their children Catholic at home should not be undone in 3 months of college.” - Dr. Michael King, President, Fisher More College

Please also see important CFN appeal for Fisher More

Editor’s note: From November 4-7, I was privileged to visit Fisher More College in Fort Worth Texas. It is s a thoroughly traditional Catholic institution that is faithful to Catholic doctrine “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as the Church taught throughout the centuries. It also offers a home-school program for grades 4-7. What follows is an interview I conducted with Dr. Michael King. Fisher More is an enterprise that will be of great interest to Catholic parents and a project worthy of our support.

J Vennari: Tell us about Fisher More College

Dr. Michael King: Fisher More College is a small, 4-year college committed to restoring an authentic, traditional Catholic education according to the eternal teachings of the Church. We occupy three acres in a working-class neighborhood about five minutes from downtown Fort Worth, Texas.

At this time, the entire college is housed in a five-story former monastery built in 1909 by the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur and dedicated to Our Lady of Victory. Eight years ago, the interior of the building was completely renovated, meaning it operates like a new structure while retaining its historical beauty, charm, and tradition (in authentic Catholic formation).

We currently have 40 residential college students and plan on expanding enrollment over the next three years in order to reach full capacity of 120 students. This building suits us perfectly at this time for it contains two wings for student housing, a library, a beautiful chapel, and sufficient space of office, classrooms, recreational rooms, and all the features needed for our college. However, we have the opportunity to expand the campus in the future should Providence lead us in that direction.
Fisher More College is also home to Fisher More Academy, which delivers online programs for grades 4 thru 12 in serving Catholic homeschooling families and what we call “hybrid” schools.

This makes us unique, not only among Catholic college, but likely among all colleges and universities. In our response to the crisis created by the collapse of Catholic education, Fisher More College is attempting to provide excellence and affordability for students from the 4th grade all the way through an undergraduate college degree. And all of this is grounded on principles that are simple, pure, and clear: that the purpose of education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming true and perfect Christians; that is to form Christ Himself.

Many of your readers will recognize that as a statement from the great papal encyclical on education written by Pope Pius the XI in 1909 (Divini Illuis Magistri). I often make the comment that most things (such as programs for Catholic education and formation) are not very complicated because we need only follow the eternal teachings of the Church. We live in a time when these simple truths are either forgotten or ignored. This motivates us to help turn that situation around.

JV: What are some of the main characteristics that make Fisher More different from other contemporary Catholic colleges?

MK: There are many, and I think one can fairly identify both major and minor differences. Among the major differences is our simple approach.

As is made clear in our mission statement, we understand our duty is to assist families and the Church in guiding souls committed to our care toward the purpose for which they were created: to know, love, and serve God. In other words, we do not consider a college or university as a divinely ordained institution like the family and the Church.

Following from this, our first priority is to provide for the continued formation of our students in the traditional Catholic Faith, centered on the Traditional Mass. We consider it our duty to provide students with an environment and a culture in which they can grow in their faith, one that is safe for them spiritually so they can have a fruitful sacramental and prayer life during this critical period of their lives. We operate on the motto that 18 years of sacrifice and commitment at home should not be undone in 3 months of college.
We are certain that this can only be accomplished by remaining faithful to the timeless, sacred traditions that have been passed down to us through the ages and have always been true source of faith, piety, and culture.

Next we are committed to a proper continued formation of the intellect and character, but one that is experienced in a completely traditional Catholic community. We call these our three areas of formation: spiritual, intellectual, and character, and we describe this as “the foundation for an excellent life.”

You might notice that we use the term “continued formation” quite often. This is intentional. We believe our role is to continue what has already begun and was nurtured in the home and parish. So we understand this is a tremendous responsibility for which we will be held accountable to God. And while I am sure other accredted Catholic colleges profess similar goals and objectives, I can assure you that none of them profess with certainty that fidelity to the traditional Mass and the associated rich traditions of the Faith are essential to achieving their mission.

Most of the “better” Catholic colleges today operate like a typical diocese, where the traditional Mass and traditional piety is granted (sometimes reluctantly at best) a small niche in some corner of an otherwise modern, contemporary Catholicism. At Fisher More College, the culture is occupied in its entirety by the traditional Catholic Faith (Mass, spirituality, prayer, piety, etc.).

Among the other differences would include our academic program, particularly the core curriculum. Our course sequence leads students through the classical liberal arts and the humanities as a preparation for the scholastic disciplines of philosophy and theology. It is a rigorous study plan rooted in the Catholic scholastic and Thomistic tradition.

Thus, just as the College is uniquely committed to the traditional Catholic Faith in its spiritual life, it is equally and uniquely committed to the traditional Catholic intellectual formation (i.e., go to Thomas!).

In addition, our students serve in the overall operations of the College, much like the seminaries of old. Honoring the great patron of prayer and work (ora et labora), we name this our Saint Benedict Service Program. It offers multiple benefits by keeping costs (and thus tuition) low, by engaging our students in overall internal operations to the mutual benefit of both them and the College, and by producing good habits from which they will build excellent lives for themselves.

Finally, you may notice our statement that we make no attempt to rival the entertainments, trappings, and distractions of typical schools and colleges. Our manifesto is The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard which is a masterpiece on how to build a true Catholic apostolate through prayer and piety, simplicity and sacrifice, joy and charity.

So, while our campus does not glitter and pulsate, we hope the faces of our students and staff shine with the genuine joy of a Catholic spirit.

JV: Are you accredited? What degrees do you offer?

MK: Yes, we are accredited by the Commission on Colleges (COC) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

We are authorized to award a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in the Liberal Arts with concentrations (i.e., majors) in Theology, Philosophy, Literature, History, Classics, and Economics & Finance. We will soon assess the addition of more concentrations in such disciplines as Politics, Mathematics, and Communications.

We are also authorized to award an Associate Degree (A.A.) in the Liberal Arts for those who wish to complete the requirements of the freshman and sophomore curriculums and move on to a vocation or another field of study not offered by Fisher More College.

JV: Your literature says your goal is to offer College education at a low cost, and that you accept no federal funds. How is this possible?
MK: Yes, for reasons I assume are self-evident to your readers, we voluntarily decline to participate in the federal program for loans and grants even though our accreditation makes us eligible. In fact, we do not participate in any government programs and we do not facilitate any loans for our students from private lenders, which I believe is a position that makes us unique among 4-year Catholic colleges.

Another one of our principles is that we are not here to “build a better mousetrap” but rather to restore a proper, authentic Catholic education that is affordable to the families in desperate need of an escape from a disordered system that is hungry to devour their children.

z-nn_ck How is it possible to operate as an affordable college without federal funds and without enticing our students into debt? It will not be easy. We have a good business plan that involves spreading the cost of education across multiple programs through shared administration. We combine high-cost, low-capacity programs (like a residential college) with low-cost, high-capacity programs (like an online academy), seek to use technology in reducing the cost of instruction, and pray for the grace of good stewardship. I am confident in both the soundness of our plan and its chances of success.

However, we need time for our programs to mature. Our online academy is actually ahead of projections, thanks be to God. But it still needs a few more years of growth, as does the residential college which just moved to our new campus this past summer.

Until the programs mature we need the support of generous people who support our mission and see us as an important response to the spiritual, educational, and cultural crisis of our times.

JV: Please describe the sacramental life of the college.

MK: We do not pretend to be anything but a residential college, but the best way to describe the sacramental life of the college is that of a typical traditional seminary. Our daily, weekly, and semester schedules revolve around the Mass, communal prayer, and the liturgical calendar. Not including daily Mass, we pray together as a community four times during the typical weekday: Terce before morning Mass to begin the day, Rosary and Angelus at midday, Vespers to end the workday, and Compline to end the day itself. The chaplain is available for frequent confession, both regularly scheduled and by appointment, and the chapel is open for private prayer and visitation all day, every day. We end the week each Friday afternoon with Adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

We honor and celebrate the feast days, frequently pray litanies and novenas, and see the tabernacle as the true center of the College. The spiritual life of the college is difficult to adequately describe, but it is easily understood after visiting our campus and spending a few days inside this routine. Obviously, we believe a good life and a sacramental life are one and the same thing.

It is not only a wonderful environment for young people to study and learn and advance through that critical transition from adolescence to adulthood, it is also a rare work environment for faculty and staff.

JV: Please describe the curriculum

MK: We describe our core curriculum as the classical liberal arts, the humanities, and the scholastic tradition. Required texts include Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and many other great works of the Western and Catholic intellectual tradition. This curriculum is designed to enable students to deepen their knowledge of God by rightly ordering their thoughts, helping them to discern order in the created world, cultivating their imagination, and preparing them to receive supernatural truths communicated by divine revelation.

The core curriculum is supported by what we call the “concentrations” (or majors). As I mentioned earlier, students choose a major from among the disciplines of Theology, Philosophy, History, Literature, Classics, and Economics & Finance. The core curriculum makes up the entire freshman and sophomore years and most of the junior year, while the more specialized concentrations make up the bulk of the senior year.

On a practical level, this curriculum is designed to help students acquire a quality of mind and character that enables them to pursue any vocation or career of their choice. In other words, we recognize the importance of preparing for work and career, or what a parent might refer to as the “employability” of the graduate.

However, the goal is not to produce graduates who are specifically qualified to follow a narrow profession - that level of specialization comes later either through work training or graduate school - but graduates who are highly employable in any profession precisely because of their quality of mind and character.

Yes, we want them to be holy. But we are also concerned for the temporal welfare of our students. I think it can be stated that the economic advantage of our academic program is that it produces a graduate who is skilled in the difficult arts of reading, writing, and thinking, who understands the purpose of life and the meaning of a vocation, and who possesses the will and character to live an excellent life. And all of this without going into debt! If we succeed with our academic program and goal of a proper overall formation, I am certain that employers will be knocking down the doors trying to hire our graduates.

JV: Are the parents of the students happy?

MK: One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is hearing from parents wanting us to know how happy they are with Fisher More College and how grateful they are for our labors in this apostolate. We receive comments like this all the time, but they never get old and they never fail to inspire us onward. Some of the parents have become our most dedicated and articulate promoters. I joke that they make up the development office of the college, but it is not entirely in jest. It creates this beautiful order where the College and our families both benefit in a mutual giving and receiving of gifts afforded us by God in His unlimited generosity.

JV: How do the students participate in the College’s Mission?

MK: As in all parts of our mission, we first look to the Church for guidance on the proper role for students. There was a beautiful letter written by Pope Pius XII in 1952 to university students in Rome in which he tells them they have reached the age where they must themselves choose and decide whether to make the Faith their conscious possession, that they must begin to understand more deeply and live more intensely the treasure of their Catholic Faith. The Holy Father called this is the highest duty in their lives in his letter.

So we continually remind our students that they are not only the recipients or beneficiaries of our mission, but the primary agents and benefactors as well. Their participation in the liturgical and prayer life of the College is what makes these activities the heart and center of our community. The chaplaincy is supported almost entirely by students: the sacristan, altar flower arrangements, serving at Mass and Vespers, singing in the schola and choir, organizing rosaries and prayer vigils.

The students also form an important part of the overall operations of the College through the Saint Benedict Service Program, taking care of everything from refectory duties to housekeeping, groundskeeping, and clerical work. They probably have the biggest impact on public relations at our social events such as lectures, feast days celebrations, etc. The visitors who come to campus for these events always fall in love with our students.

In fact, we decided to launch an entire website dedicated to chronicling student life at the college, appropriately named the Chronicles of Fisher More College. This website covers all the ways in which our students participate in the mission: spiritual, academic, service, leisure. I believe this site does a good job of portraying the how students participate in our mission. In any case, we pray that our students will choose to make the Faith their conscious possession during this time in their lives, and we hope that their participation in our mission helps move them toward that “highest duty” as articulate by Pius XII.

JV: What can you tell us about the social life of the students? What do they do for recreation?

MK: As you can imagine, like most young people, our students are not lacking for energy and creativity when it comes to their own recreation and leisure. When we relocated the campus to this former monastery, we made a conscious decision to keep the college in an urban residential setting rather than seek seclusion out of town. We want our students to enjoy those parts of our culture worth experiencing, while at the same time they learn to recognize and reject those parts that are disordered.
Fort Worth offers opportunities for art and culture that are affordable and easily within reach of our students. College staff organizes several social events each semester, such as pig roasts and Christmas music concerts. A big favorite was the all-college evening at local hockey games, but the Fort Worth team suspended operations this season. We have modest exercise and recreation facilities on campus, and the students operate their own intramural sports program. The weather here is nice most of the year, so we frequently see the students out walking to the local parks and grocery stores.

JV: You also have a full 4th through 12th grade program for homeschool families. Could you tell us about this?

MK: Yes, this is a very important part of our overall plan, both in terms of our mission of serving families and the Church and in terms of the overall operating strategy of the College itself. Two years ago we acquired a program named Regina Coeli Academy with 17 years of experience in delivering quality, online programs to homeschooling families.
It soon became apparent that we could develop something entirely unique in Catholic education today, namely a completely integrated, traditional, classical education program beginning in elementary school and extending all the way to a B.A. degree. We renamed the online program Fisher More Academy and made it an integral part of overall College operations. It is most specifically designed to serve homeschooling families for grades 4 thru 12, but we are also seeing an increased interest in what we call “hybrid” schools that combine a conventional setting with the online structure, administration, and instruction that we provide through the Academy.

This program allows parents to enroll their children in a full-service “school” but from the safety of home. Classes are live and interactive, the curriculum is an excellent preparation for college, and qualified students can earn up to 30 college credits by taking the college freshman curriculum in their senior year of high school. The College is the heart and administrative home of the Academy, with a shared purpose of restoring traditional Catholic formation and education that is both excellent and affordable. Obviously, there is a lot of detail that we do not have the space for here, but your readers can learn more about this program by going to our website.

JV: I would imagine the financial challenges of what you are trying to do must be enormous. How can people help?

MK: This one is easy: please pray for us. Pray that God pour His grace upon us so that our work is pleasing to Him. Please pray for our students and for our staff. In addition to that most important spiritual help, please consider supporting us financially as well. We are confident in our plan, and we are certain that it will reach self-sustainability, even while achieving the almost unthinkable goal of driving down the cost of Catholic education.

However, it is also a certainty that we must rely on the generosity of donors to reach the point of sustainability. Our programs need a few more years to mature. We have been praying for both our Joseph of Arimathea (that “rich man” and “noble counsellor who was also himself looking for the Kingdom of God”) and for that large base of dedicated supporters who want to be part of our mission through the gifts of prayer and financial contributions.


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