Study: Catholics a minority at America’s largest Catholic university


A study of student faiths at DePaul, deemed the largest Catholic University in the nation, has concluded that Catholic students are not the majority at the school.

Statistics gathered by the Institutional Research and Market Analytics strategy group illustrate that while 33 percent of students at DePaul declare their Catholic faith, nearly 45 percent of the student body do not identify themselves as being part of any sort of faith-based religion.

Although “First Things Magazine,” a publication through The Institute on Religion and Public Life, ranked DePaul the “Least Catholic Catholic School” in past years, it is undeniably the largest Catholic university by enrollment with 25,398 total students, 8,314 of which identify as Catholic.

St. John’s University follows closely behind with 21,354 students, and as of 2010, reports a higher percentage of Catholic students with 46 percent of its students identifying as Catholic, compared to the 33 percent at DePaul.

Senior finance major, Adam Belkalrous, identifies as Agnostic and despite his Catholic upbringing said, “I go to church when my parents force me.”

Senior mathematics and economics double major, Michael VanDorpe, who serves on the Pastoral Council, is a liturgist assistant and facilitates student mass, said although DePaul may not have the highest number of Catholic students; its identity is illustrated through its Vincentian values, “values of service and to the poor.”

VanDorpe also admitted that the founding values at DePaul, based on the practices of Saint Vincent de Paul, are found in many faiths and are often “universal values to humanity.”

“While we are a Catholic University, we are not the Catholic Church,” he said while describing DePaul as supporting diversity in a way not always accepted by the Catholic Church such as issues within the LBGTcommunity.

VanDorpe said this inclusion is one way that the university is projecting its Vincentian values which includes “respecting who people are…and how they are born is important…” He described DePaul as keeping up with its Catholic tradition in many ways, such as offering religious services at the school.

“People don’t necessarily always see it, but it’s always there,” he said.

Read the rest.


  1. I knew as soon as I read your headline on Twitter that this would be about my Alma Mater, De Paul U.

    “People don’t necessarily see it, but it’s always there.”
    I graduated in 1970, a time when the university was expanding rapidly. As a student I observed there were no crucifixes in the classrooms.
    I think people DO have to SEE it.

  2. Bill McGeveran says:

    At least up until very recently, St. John’s HAS had crucifixes in the classroom. My wife, who taught there up to a few years ago, continued to open classes with a prayer,as everyone did many years ago. I think that practice became much less common over the years.

  3. Kathy Schiffer says:

    I worked at one of the Catholic-In-Name-Only universities, and saw firsthand the bitter fruits of their dissidence: resident advisors driving students to abortion clinics; production of “Vagina Monologues”; refusal to address the problem of sex in the dorms; pro-abortion speakers on campus; refusal, in my graduate-level Old Testament course (taught by a rabbi), to allow any mention of a correlation to the New Testament; students recommending wicca for their student project in a Jesuit-led class; a Valentine’s Day gay dance on campus, and much more.
    In the wake of such failures on Catholic campuses, a number of new universities, faithful to the Magisterium, have grown up. Christendom College, Franciscan U at Steubenville, Ave Maria U, Thomas Aquinas, John Paul the Great, St. Mary Magdalen, and others have stepped in to defend Catholic identity on the campus. The Cardinal Newman Society is an important resource for young people and their parents who want to choose an authentically Catholic college.

  4. DePaul alumnus here. It’s not wonder the only historically Vincentian universities in the world are also the largest and most diverse Catholic universities in the world. In line with St. Vincent DePaul’s teachings, both have chosen to use their endowments to expand average people’s access to higher education by, inter alia, opening extension campuses in their respective metropolitan areas and making it a priority to offer scholarships and financial aid to underprivileged students. If only their Holy Cross- and Jesuit-run counterparts cared as much about reaching out to as many people as they could as they do about protecting their ivory towers and cathedrals from the “riff raff”…

  5. @ Chris.

    I don’t understand your post. Why bother even having a Catholic name and just be a regular secular school? It seems like false advertising. It does not appear to be anything “Catholic” left that is not treated with disdain by the staff and students.

  6. It speaks volumes that the talk is about “Vincentian values” instead of “Catholic faith”. I have a feeling that St. Vincent De Paul wouldn’t be too pleased, if he were alive today, that his name and what he stood for has been used to justify religious relativism and in some instances directly opposing teachings of the Catholic faith. At the end of the article, it quotes the president’s office as saying “There has never been a day in DePaul’s history when it was a university only for Catholics.” Great! No Catholic university is “just for Catholics”. It’s for anyone who wants a place where reason and faith are not seen as opposing forces, who wants to grow in knowledge, ask great questions, seek the truth about life. I’m sorry, but a real Catholic university is one that puts its Catholic identity first, that acknowledges and accepts others of different perspectives but doesn’t compromise the faith, whose teachings and policies reflect an acceptance of natural law and reason. Otherwise, just be a nice private school where every ideology and politicaly correct modern theory is seen as equally true. But please, let’s have some truth in advertising and not call yourself Catholic unless you’re proud to claim the title.

  7. Fiergenholt says:


    Correct me if I am wrong; but VERY VERY few “Catholic” universities use the word “CATHOLIC” in their names/titles.

    That is true here in the US and that is true all over Europe (even in the Vatican). I cannot say for sure whether it is true in other areas of the world.

    Here in the US, Catholic University of America may be the sole exception but I lost all close contact there about fourteen years ago and they might have had a presidential and/ or “attitude” change since then.

  8. @ George

    DePaul and St. John’s are providing a quality higher education to Americans and non-Americans of all stripes in diverse corners of the country. They fill gaps in the public system that it alone cannot fill. It was people from this “gap” that St. Vincent DePaul set out to serve. The two institutions stand in stark contrast, for example, to Holy Cross and Notre Dame, which may be more “Catholic” in terms of the background and beliefs their student bodies, but less so, in my opinion, in terms of their respective missions. Both cater almost exclusively to wealthy and elite Catholic families. I stand here proud of DePaul University, its mission, the many people it has helped and what it has accomplished as a Catholic institution.

  9. I’m not sure I understand your point. What does it matter if a school actually uses the word “Catholic” in its title and how is that relevant to this discussion? My point was that a school that claims to be a Catholic college/university has an obligation to actually be a Catholic university and not just a place that promotes religious relativism, moral indifference, and intellectual laziness under a false understanding of diversity and tolerance. Georgetown, DePaul, Boston College, Franciscan University, Providence, Notre Dame, Gonzaga…none of these schools use the actual word “Catholic” in their title yet they all claim to be Catholic schools. The problem is that not all of them actually embrace all that comes with being a Catholic school.

  10. This seems another result of the great disconnect between the teaching authority of the Church and the general Catholic population. The fact is that the bishops collectively have lost credibility and there is nothing on the horizon at the moment to regain it anytime soon.

    The reason for the loss of credibility can be debated or not, but it does exist and no matter the wishes of some contributors to this blog, the general Catholic population is no longer buying all the dictates of the Church.

    This loss of belief in the bishops is being passed from parent to child, and in my opinion seems a main reason such things are happening as stated in the article. The bishops caused it and seem unable to cure it.

  11. Deacon Norb says:

    Some time back, I was in an e-mail conversation with a late 40′s layman in my parish who is very active in our RCIA program. I would describe him as being quite devout and “center-right” in both theology and politics.

    In his e-mail, he made a “snarky” comment about graduates of Jesuit universities and how they represent a dangerous left-ward drift in our wider church.

    My reply said something like — “Graduates of Jesuit universities are everywhere in our church and hold very significant leadership roles even here within our parish. You probably cannot name any but how about these four rather prominent ones.” I then quickly named the following: (1) a local deacon whose Masters is from a Jesuit institution; (2) a widely respected local physician who is the father of a priest and whose undergraduate degree was from a Jesuit institution; (3) a retired professor of Engineering who works tirelessly as a EMHC to the shut-ins but who completed his undergraduate degree from a Jesuit university; and (4) a local official in a governmental agency whose volunteer work in community development has been widely recognized — also a graduate of a Jesuit institution.

    I also mentioned to my parishioner that our local Catholic High-school has sent — for several years — a minimum of 5% of their graduating class to Jesuit institutions — some on athletic scholarships — some because scholarships given them because of their social justice involvements.

    ’nuff said.

  12. Fiergenholt says:


    Your posting is singularly prophetic.

    Within a half-hour of the time you posted it, I was in my driveway loading my truck and a prominent but retired couple from the parish came by taking their afternoon walk. They stopped by and struck up a conversation.

    Somewhere along in the conversation, both our local priest/pastor and our local bishop’s names came up. This couple could not quit singing the praises of the local priest/pastor but roundly condemned our local bishop. I was startled by how vehement these folks were. I never asked what was prompting their grief — maybe I should have — but there’s no doubt about it. There are everyday folks out there who are devout and active Catholics who look at their local bishop with the same contempt that they look at certain politicians. Fascinating!

  13. Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church) was a move to try to get the USCCB to address the open dissent being thrust on the children of Catholic familes at the Universities rather than providing them authentic Catholic teaching. The U.S. bishops began requiring the mandatum in 2001, but it was a spinless attempt with many bishops doing nothing at all. But of course this was not a new development with the USCCB.

    Many had failed to support and teach Humanae Vitae, the wonderful and prophetic encyclical from Pope Paul VI. We live in a world that the Pope warned us would come if we accepted this evil product of birth control in our lives. Anyone who is honest can look at pre birth control to today and look at what the Pope predicted to see that he was truly given insight by the Holy Spirit in this document.

    So now we see the fruit of the USCCB to listen to the Pope, the successor to Peter. We not only have the godless secular state trying to make these evil products required on every form of health insurance, but also violating the religious liberty protection from the Consitution in trying to force those with religous objections to pay for this evil along with sterilizations and chemical abortifacients. No one should doubt that surgical abortions and euthanasia will soon follow if Obama gets a second term.

    We all need to pray for our Bishops that finally they have a solid wake up call and have united against this evil administration policies and that they will stand strong and from now on teach and fight for the authentic teaching required to save the Church in American as well as return America to one nation under God as outlined in the founding documents as written.

    May Catholic Blogs such as this one keep the issue and truth in front of the people and continue to stand strong against those who come to bash the Catholic Church and Her teaching.

  14. Bill,

    I did my BA, MS, M. Phil. and Ph.D. at St. John’s, having taught as an adjunct prof and graduate fellow in biology. I left six years ago. What did your wife teach?

  15. Norb,

    Is there a point here? or are you just letting us know about jesuitical infiltration?

    p murphy

  16. Fiergenholt says:

    A parable:

    The marriage of Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary was a very rocky one; lots of verbal abuse – both ways – and their three children growing up had a difficult time living in that environment.

    Aunt Mary died first and shortly afterwards Uncle Joe’s mental state deteriorated enough that he became verbally abusive to just about everyone.

    Mostly he bitterly complained about the younger generations and how they were all “going to Hell.” He was particularly abusive to anyone who had a child “out-of-wedlock.”

    After Uncle Joe died, his oldest daughter – then 67 or so — had a long talk with me.

    It seems that Joe and Mary were one of those lightning-fast World War II “shotgun” weddings. In fact, it was so chaotic that when they did get married in an Army Camp out west, the Catholic priest/Chaplain had to quickly walk outside the Chapel and “draft” a young Lieutenant walking by who admitted to being Catholic to act as their “Best Man.”

    The daughter never realized, at least not until she was over 50, that she was herself an “early baby.”

    Bottom line: old Uncle Joe never forgave himself and projected his own sin on everyone he could.

  17. fiestamom says:

    I don’t understand your post.

    I’m in agreement with your snarky parishioner. I don’t know about the graduates of the Jesuit run Universities, but I know enough about the leadership of Jesuit universities to know that none of my 4 children will be going there. How many of these schools are losing out on good Catholic families b/c of their CINO reputation? I’m not naive, I know these schools don’t shed tears over the loss of these potential students.

  18. Not a parable but a true story:
    Right after WWII ended, a destroyer pulled into Boston Harbor and a young sailor named Bob, who volunteered when he was seventeen, stepped off. He was engaged to a girl back home in Ohio, but, at a USO dance he met a lively girl named Barbara. Within a couple months he had broken his engagement and married Barbara. They went on to have twelve children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. They had a very loving marriage and were the hosts of many parties in the neighborhood. Bob, who had an AS in Engineering, even obtained a BS while having ten kids. Tragically, they both died of cancer within two years of each other while still in their mid-forties. They both were faithful Catholics, died peacefully in the Faith and, were such loving examples that they inspired their seventh child, my husband, to pass on the Faith to our own five children. In addition, they took their faith seriously enough that there was no “early baby”. May God keep them and may they intercede for us in this time of apostasy.

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