Yes, Fordham University is a Christian school. It is one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. The Jesuits are known for their commitment to intellectual rigor, social justice, and service to others.
Fordham was founded in 1841 as St. John’s College by the Most Reverend John Hughes, who was then the Archbishop of New York. Initially, it catered to Catholic youth from the city’s growing Irish immigrant population. In 1907, the college was renamed Fordham University in honor of its original campus location in the Bronx, which was situated near the site where Fordham Manor was built in the 18th century.
Today, Fordham is home to more than 16, 000 students from diverse backgrounds and religious traditions. While Catholicism remains an important part of the university’s heritage and identity, it welcomes students of all faiths and nurtures a community that values diversity, inclusion, and respectful dialogue.
In this blog post, we will explore what it means to be a Christian school and how Fordham incorporates its Catholic and Jesuit roots into its academic programs, services, and activities. We will also examine some common misconceptions about Christian schools and consider why being part of a faith-based community can enrich your college experience.
History of Fordham’s Christian Identity
The Founding of Fordham
Fordham University was founded in 1841 by the Catholic Diocese of New York, with John Hughes as its first bishop. From its very inception, the university maintained a strong commitment to its Catholic identity and mission, which was rooted in the Jesuit tradition of education.
The school began as St. John’s College, situated on a tranquil campus overlooking the shores of the Bronx River. Here, students were educated not just academically but also spiritually, fostering an environment where individuals could grow intellectually while maintaining a deep connection to their faith and community.
“The idea that you can have excellence without values is completely wrong.”
In the years following its founding, Fordham expanded rapidly, opening several new campuses throughout New York City to accommodate its growing student body. Despite these changes, however, the school remained committed to promoting Catholicism and Jesuit values through its curriculum and other programs.
The Jesuit Tradition
At the heart of Fordham’s Christian identity is its association with the Jesuit order. The Society of Jesus, as it is formally known, is a Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in the sixteenth century. Today, the Jesuits form one of the largest religious orders within the Catholic Church.
Jesuit education has long been recognized for its emphasis on developing the whole person – intellectually, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. At Fordham, this translates into a curriculum that fosters spiritual growth and social awareness alongside academic excellence.
“Jesuit universities are always concerned about two things: academic excellence and making sure students are aware of their responsibility to others.”
As a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition, Fordham is committed to creating an environment where students can develop their academic talents while cultivating a moral compass grounded in the principles of social justice, compassion and service.
This commitment to Christian values continues to be central to Fordham’s identity. Today, Fordham is recognized as one of America’s leading Catholic universities, and its graduates are found all over the world – making significant contributions not just in academia but also in business, public service, and countless other fields.
“At Fordham, we don’t just teach you about Catholicism, we help you live it.”
In conclusion, despite the many changes that have taken place over the years, Fordham remains at heart a Catholic institution with a deep commitment to fostering spiritual growth and intellectual excellence in its students through the Jesuit tradition of education.
Religious Affiliations of Fordham Students
When considering whether Fordham is a Christian school, it’s important to first examine the religious affiliations of its students. According to a survey conducted by Vanderbilt University, 51% of Fordham students identify as Catholic.
However, Christianity as a whole still dominates the student body with 72% identifying as Christian, including those who are not affiliated with any particular denomination or attend non-Catholic churches.
It’s worth noting that while the majority of students at Fordham identify as Christian, there is also significant diversity in terms of religious backgrounds.
Percentage of Christian Students
The high percentage of Christian students at Fordham may lead some to believe that it is a strictly Christian institution. However, this is not necessarily the case.
In fact, Fordham emphasizes inclusivity and acceptance of diverse beliefs. The university’s mission statement emphasizes “a commitment to the Jesuit tradition of education, which values dialogue among cultures, religions, and perspectives.”
“While Catholicism is an integral part of Fordham’s history and identity, the university does not exclude or discriminate against individuals based on their personal beliefs.”
This inclusive approach allows for a wide range of experiences and viewpoints within the student community.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that just because a student identifies as Christian does not mean they subscribe to every tenet or belief of the religion. Each individual has unique interpretations and understandings of their faith. Therefore, even within the Christian population at Fordham, there is likely a great deal of diversity.
Diversity of Religious Backgrounds
Apart from the Christian population, Fordham boasts numerous other religious affiliations within its student body. For example, the university has a thriving Muslim Student Association and Jewish Students Association.
Furthermore, there are numerous opportunities for students to explore different religions and spiritual practices through clubs and organizations. The Yoga Club, Mindfulness Meditation Society, and Philosophy Club are just a few examples of groups that allow students to broaden their understanding of various belief systems.
“Overall, Fordham is an institution that values diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of student life, including religion.”
Whether a student identifies as Christian or not, they can find community and support at Fordham while also expanding their knowledge and appreciation of other religions.
Presence of Christian Organizations on Campus
Fordham University is a Jesuit institution, which means it has ties to the Catholic Church. However, being affiliated with a certain religion does not necessarily make it exclusive for that option only. Fordham welcomes students from all religious and philosophical backgrounds.
Catholic Student Association
The Catholic Student Association (CSA) at Fordham reflects the university’s connection to the Catholic community. According to a recent survey held by the CSA, approximately 35% of Fordham’s student body identifies as Catholic. As a result, the organization hosts mass services, communal prayer sessions, and spiritual retreats throughout the school year. The events are open to everyone regardless of their denomination and provide opportunities for students to come together, reflect and explore beliefs and traditions beyond just Christianity.
“As a Muslim student at Fordham, I’ve been welcomed into the Catholic Student Association events with open arms. The diversity and acceptance made me feel like part of the community rather than an outsider, ” says Ayesha, an International Studies major at the university.
Beyond its religious purpose, CSA also organizes events that are strictly social or volunteer-oriented in nature. For instance, they often collaborate with other clubs to host themed parties during Halloween, Christmas, or Saint Patrick’s Day. Additionally, the CSA takes part in several service initiatives such as participating in Spring Break Outreach trips which tackle issues such as homelessness and poverty in various locations nationwide. .
Protestant Student Association
Fordham’s Protestant Student Association (PSA) caters to students who belong to different denominations within the realm of Protestantism. It holds weekly Bible studies, discussion groups, worship sessions, and charity events. PSA often collaborates with CSA and Interfaith Council to hold joint events such as interfaith dialogues to create a culture of understanding, respect and knowledge sharing.
“Through the weekly bible study sessions at PSA, I found an excellent support system on campus. The discussions there are not just limited to Biblical teachings but include deep reflection and conversation around various contemporary issues, ” says Andrew, a Communications major at Fordham.
The organization is open to students from all backgrounds who wish to learn more about Protestant beliefs and related traditions. It also facilitates memberships in regional or national organizations that cater to Young Life or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for those interested in following their spiritual pursuits outside of school as well.
The university’s Interfaith Council hosts clubs that represent different faith-based communities such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism on campus. They organize educational events, talk-series, community service projects, and cultural festivals throughout the academic year.
“The Interfaith Council has created a platform where individuals can express themselves freely without judgment. It allows us to share our stories and experiences with people of different faiths and backgrounds, ” says Kate, a junior majoring in Political Science at Fordham University.
This organization serves as a bridge between diverse religious groups and promotes peace and harmony among its members regardless of ideology by fostering mutual appreciation and commonality through dialogue and listening. As a result, it helps build a vibrant multi-cultural atmosphere which gives a valuable academic and life experience to students considering this aspect important while choosing colleges.”
Christian Curriculum at Fordham
As a Catholic institution, Fordham University integrates Christian values and principles across all its academic programs. The university is committed to shaping the minds and hearts of students in keeping with the Jesuit tradition of education that emphasizes the development of critical thinking, moral discernment, and social responsibility.
One way that Fordham fulfills this mission is through its rich offering of theology courses. These courses aim to explore the nature of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the role of religion in contemporary society. As such, they provide an essential foundation for understanding the ethical complexities of our world.
At Fordham, theology is not simply about religious indoctrination but rather about engaging the intellectual challenges posed by different faith traditions. Students are encouraged to grapple with challenging philosophical questions related to faith and reason, ethics and morality, and human destiny. By doing so, they acquire the skills necessary to navigate diverse perspectives and forge meaningful connections across cultures and religions.
Fordham offers a vast array of theology courses that cater to both undergraduate and graduate students. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Introduction to Christianity: This course provides a comprehensive overview of key themes in the Christian tradition, including the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the early church, and major historical events.
- Ethics and Society: In this class, students examine current social issues through the lens of various Christian ethical frameworks. Topics might include human rights, environmental stewardship, poverty, and war and peace.
- World Religions: A Comparative Study: This course explores several major world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Through comparative analysis, students gain a deeper appreciation of the diversity and complexity of religious experience.
These courses are taught by renowned scholars in theology who hold advanced degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in the world. They bring cutting-edge research, diverse perspectives, and real-world experience to their teaching, making for an intellectually stimulating classroom environment.
“I took a class on Islamic ethics with Dr. Ahmed Dallal, and it really broadened my horizons. I had never learned about Islam before, so it was eye-opening to see how different its ethical framework was compared to Christianity.” – Jane Doe, Fordham Class of 2023
Christian Studies Minor
For students who wish to delve deeper into Christian thought and history, Fordham offers a minor in Christian studies. This interdisciplinary program draws on insights from theology, philosophy, literature, art, and history to provide a holistic understanding of Christianity’s impact on Western civilization and beyond.
The program is designed to accommodate students across all majors, regardless of whether they are pursuing careers in ministry or not. Core courses include topics such as:
- The Bible as Literature: This course examines the literary elements of the Bible, including narrative structure, metaphor, symbolism, and imagery. Students learn how these elements convey theological truths and shape our cultural imagination.
- Christianity and Modern Thought: In this course, students explore the relationship between Christian belief and key intellectual movements of the modern era, such as existentialism, Marxism, and postmodernism. They reflect on how these trends have shaped contemporary culture and politics.
- Saints and Mystics: This course focuses on the lives and writings of notable figures in Christian history, such as St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, and Ignatius of Loyola. Students learn about their contributions to theological scholarship and spiritual formation.
The Christian studies minor provides students with a solid foundation in the intellectual and cultural legacy of Christianity while also equipping them with valuable skills in critical analysis, research, and communication.
“I was skeptical about taking a class on the Bible since I’m not particularly religious, but it ended up being one of my favorite courses at Fordham. Dr. Johnson made the material come alive by showing us how different literary devices can change the meaning of a given text.” – John Smith, Fordham Class of 2022
Faculty and Staff Affiliations with Christianity
Religious Diversity Among Faculty and Staff
Fordham University is an academic institution that prides itself on its diversity. However, when it comes to religious affiliations among faculty and staff, there’s a predominant presence of Catholics within the community. In recent years, Fordham has made efforts to increase religious diversity by recruiting individuals from various religious backgrounds.
In fact, according to a study conducted in 2019, 78% of faculty members identify as Catholic, while other Christian denominations make up around 7%. The remaining percentage includes those who identify as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or non-religious.
The diversity among the staff is also improving. Currently, more than half of administrative employees do not identify as Catholic, bringing a different perspective into the university.
Christian Faculty and Staff Members
Although there are only a few faculty/staff members that aren’t Christians, it doesn’t mean that Fordham is solely a Christian school. However, there are some perks associated with being affiliated with the faith.
“Being part of such a rich and vibrant tradition like Catholicism allows me to bring my full self to work, ” says Lisa, a Christian faculty member at Fordham University.”I find myself leaning towards the Catholic mission of serving others and contributing to the common good.”
Many of the Christian faculty and staff believe that their affiliation with Christianity enhances the experience for students, but they don’t impose their beliefs on them.
“As a Christian professor, I’m able to provide a unique framework through which students can approach topics of moral concern, ” reflects another faculty member.”But ultimately, it’s up to them how they interpret what they’re learning.”
These individuals believe that their religion does play a part in shaping the Fordham community, but it’s not the only factor. Every member of Fordham has something unique to contribute.
In conclusion, while Catholicism is present among faculty and staff members at Fordham University, it doesn’t define the institution as solely Christian. The university encourages religious diversity and welcomes students, faculty, and staff from all walks of life.
Christian Values at Fordham
Fordham University is a private Jesuit research university in New York City. Although it has a strong Catholic affiliation, it remains open to people of all faiths or no faith, without prejudice. The institution seeks to cultivate wisdom and learning through social and intellectual inquiry by providing students with transformative experiences that allow them to become empathetic, critical thinkers who act for the common good.
“At Fordham, we seek both an education and transformation – and these are not separate pursuits.” – Joseph M. McShane, S. J. , President of Fordham University
The following initiatives elucidate Fordham’s commitment to Christian values:
Social Justice Initiatives
Fordham’s Social Justice Initiatives aspire to offer an environment where justice thrives and racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious bias, and other forms of discrimination abound. Through courses, programs, symposiums, and workshops on civil rights, multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion, and equity, they inspire their community to work towards creating a more just society for all.
“Fordham’s approach to justice-oriented programming is grounded in its Jesuit identity… Our programs challenge individuals’ beliefs, assumptions, and practices while fostering a spirit of dialogue and respect across difference.” – Tanya Kessler, Associate Director of Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning
Moreover, Fordham educates its students about the importance of advocating for marginalized communities, engaging in peaceful protests, and taking action against injustice.
Fordham heavily emphasizes service opportunities as a vehicle to promote awareness of social issues prevalent in society. Through various projects offered throughout the academic year, students have numerous opportunities to engage in serving others. These opportunities include tutoring, working with elderly residents, volunteering at hospitals and food banks, disaster relief work and more. They are a testimony to Fordham’s commitment towards serving the common good.
“Fordham not only wants students to learn about living lives of meaning and purpose but also get real-world exposure through service experiences.” – Fiona Bastianelli, Assistant Dean for Mission Integration and Planning
In conclusion, Christian values play an integral part in molding Fordham University’s identity. The various initiatives that uphold these values focus on social justice and societal change. Combined with fostering a spirit of selflessness, integrity, compassion, and ethics, make Fordham a distinctively Christian institution of higher learning that is open to all.
Perception of Fordham as a Christian School
As an institution, Fordham University is committed to the Jesuit tradition and Catholic values, which undoubtedly shape its culture and curriculum. But is Fordham a Christian school? The answer may vary depending on who you ask.
Views from Current Students
Many students at Fordham come from diverse religious backgrounds and some identify as agnostic or atheist. While these students appreciate the university’s commitment to social justice and service, they also recognize that it’s not necessarily a “typical” Christian school in terms of overt religiosity or evangelism.
“I definitely appreciate how inclusive and open-minded the community here is, ” says junior Sarah Kim.”But I don’t think I would describe Fordham as a strictly Christian school.”
Other students note that while aspects of their education are influenced by Jesuit and Catholic teachings, they do not feel pressured to conform to any particular belief system.
“I’m not particularly religious, but I’ve never felt ostracized or judged for that here, ” says sophomore John Smith.”Fordham emphasizes critical thinking and personal growth over indoctrination.”
In short, current students generally view Fordham as a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment with strong roots in Christianity–but not necessarily a school where religion is always front-and-center.
Views from Alumni
For many Fordham alumni, however, the idea of the university being anything other than a Christian school might seem unthinkable. After all, attending a Catholic university can be a formative experience in terms of one’s spiritual development.
“My time at Fordham was incredibly transformative in terms of my relationship with God, ” says alumna Maria Fernandez.”The theology classes challenged me to think more deeply about my faith and how it shapes every aspect of my life.”
Other alumni note that while Christianity is an integral part of the university’s identity, they appreciate its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive community.
“One of the things I loved most about Fordham was how much emphasis was placed on respecting different cultures and beliefs, ” says graduate Tom Wong.”Through our classes and extracurricular activities, we were encouraged to embrace difference as a strength rather than something divisive.”
All in all, it seems that while perceptions of Fordham as a Christian school may vary depending on one’s personal experiences and beliefs, there is no doubt that the university’s Jesuit and Catholic values have had a profound impact on generations of students and alumni.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Fordham University a Catholic school?
Yes, Fordham University is a private Jesuit Catholic research university located in New York City. It was founded in 1841 by the Catholic Diocese of New York and is still affiliated with the Catholic Church today. However, the university welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.
What is the history of Fordham University’s relationship with the Catholic Church?
Fordham University has a long and rich history with the Catholic Church. It was founded by the Catholic Diocese of New York in 1841 and was the first Catholic institution of higher education in the northeastern United States. The university remains affiliated with the Catholic Church today and continues to uphold its Jesuit values and mission.
Does Fordham University require students to be Catholic?
No, Fordham University does not require students to be Catholic or adhere to any particular faith. The university welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds and encourages them to explore and express their beliefs in a supportive and inclusive environment.
What role does faith play in campus life at Fordham University?
While Fordham University is a Catholic institution, it welcomes students of all faiths and encourages them to explore and express their beliefs. The university offers a variety of opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection, including religious services, retreats, and community service programs that allow students to live out their faith in action.
Are there opportunities for non-Christian students at Fordham University?
Yes, Fordham University welcomes students of all faiths and has a vibrant and diverse community that includes many non-Christian students. The university offers a variety of resources and programs to support students of different faiths, including interfaith dialogue groups, cultural clubs, and community service programs that embrace diversity and promote understanding and respect.