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Christendom College

Front Royal, Virginia

Nestled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley
amid the breathtaking sight of the Blue Ridge
Mountains is Christendom College, a small,
orthodox Catholic liberal arts college. For
more than a generation, Christendom has
been preparing undergraduates to live their
faith within families, careers and religious
The college started modestly in 1977
when historian Dr. Warren Carroll and sev-
eral others offered its first classes in a former
Catholic elementary school building in Tri-
angle, Virginia, about 45 minutes south of the quick facts
nation’s capital. Two years later, a permanent
Founded: 1977
campus was established at its present site in
Type of institution: Small liberal arts college
Front Royal, 70 miles west of Washington,
Setting: Small town
Undergraduate enrollment: 421 (2008–09
From the very beginning, Christendom academic year)
has sought to address what it saw as deficien- Total cost: $25,478 (tuition, room and board
cies in existing Catholic higher education. It for 2009–10)
forthrightly identifies its Catholic mission by Undergraduate majors: Six
emphasizing its role as an educational apos-
tolate, requiring all professors to be Catholic Five Key Points
and teach all classes through a Catholic prism.
1. A pioneer in the new wave of orthodox
This approach fosters a vibrant campus spiri-
Catholic colleges since the 1970s.
tual life and reinforces college regulations
2. A solid, integrated liberal arts core
consistent with Catholic teachings. The spiri-
curriculum of 84 credit hours.
tual emphasis is so comprehensive that the
college says that Catholicism represents “the 3. The spiritual life is vibrant and
air that we breathe.”
Although Christendom students choose 4. The study-abroad program in Rome
among six major areas of study, the academic attracts most of the college’s juniors.
program differs from those of most other con- 5. An impressive cadre of orthodox
temporary colleges by retaining a traditional lecturers on campus.
emphasis on core requirements in the liberal

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Christendom College

arts. Christendom has an 84-credit core cur- ited by the regional Southern Association of
riculum that constitutes about two-thirds of Colleges and Schools, prepares students for
the four-year program, with heavy emphasis graduate school and various professions. It
on Catholic theology and philosophy. also has seen about eight percent of its alumni
President Timothy O’Donnell told us, enter religious life. And, in keeping with its
“The college has a very clear vision. We stress atmosphere of like-minded students and sup-
academics and Catholicism. As a result, we at- port for family life, approximately 250 “alum-
tract students who know what they’re getting. nus-to-alumna” marriages have taken place.
We end up attracting a person who hungers Although not a university, Christendom
for what we are providing.” offers one graduate program of its own. The
From its inception, the college was tar- college acquired the Notre Dame Graduate
geted to eventually reach a maximum number School in 1997. Located in Alexandria, Virgin-
of 450 students, ia, across the Po-
about 30 above tomac River from
its current enroll- Wa s h i n g t o n ,
ment. Despite its D.C., it awards
small size, the 421 a Master of Arts
students in the in Theological
2008–09 academic Studies, mostly
year came from to adult students.
45 states and six The school holds
other countries. summer sessions
This was a record at the Front Royal
enrollment as was campus.
the number of The cost
freshmen. About of studying at
half of these stu- Christendom is
dents had been quite reasonable:
homesc hooled. $25,478 for tu-
The portion of male students has increased ition, room and board in 2009-10. The tuition
steadily from 40 percent in 2004 to about 46 rate is below what the average private college
percent today. in Virginia charges, and the typical financial
The college works hard to nurture its aid package at Christendom is substantially
students, reflected by a 91 percent freshman larger than what most of its local competitors
retention rate. A few students, after receiv- offer.
ing the benefit of the rigorous core curricu- Christendom students cannot, however,
lum program of the first two years, choose to rely on government assistance to pay college
transfer to another college that allows them costs. The college and its students accept no
to major in disciplines other than the six at federal funds or federal aid, including no fed-
Christendom. The college understands this erally subsidized student loans, to avoid even
and awards a three-year Associate of Arts de- the potential for government interference in
gree to those students choosing to move on. the college’s activities and Catholic identity.
At the 2008 commencement, two students re- The college provides both need-based and
ceived an associate’s degree. merit-based aid and helps students obtain
Christendom, which is fully accred- loans from private sources.

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From the
A 15-member board (which includes one Financial Aid Office
priest) governs the college. Founding presi-
dent Dr. Warren Carroll and current president “Christendom College has a strong com-
Dr. O’Donnell are members. Christendom is mitment to providing a comprehensive Fi-
located within the Diocese of Arlington, and nancial Aid Program for its students. The
according to the college, “is submissive to the College offers two kinds of financial as-
authority of the Bishop of Arlington regard- sistance: need-based aid and merit-based
ing the orthodoxy of Catholic doctrine taught academic scholarships. Financial aid is
at the College.” Board members take an an- given to help defray all or some part of
nual Oath of Fidelity. the tuition cost. Applicants are expected
Among members of a separate advisory to pay the cost of room and board, fees,
board is Catholic journalist Mary Ellen Bork, books and living expenses out of their
who said recently of the college, “It is an is- own resources.
land of Catholic culture in Northern Virginia
that serves the Church and the country.” “The Financial Aid Program is funded
Dr. O’Donnell has taught at Christendom through the consistent generosity of the
since 1985—before that at Loyola Marymount College’s donors. Christendom accepts no
University in Los Angeles—and was named its direct federal aid, nor does it participate
third president seven years later. He received in indirect programs of federal aid such
both his licentiate and doctoral degrees in as the Student Guaranteed Loan. All fi-
theology from the Pontifical University of St. nancial aid applicants are ineligible for
Thomas Aquinas in Rome, known as the An- any form of federal assistance, either di-
gelicum. Among other honors, Dr. O’Donnell rect or indirect, except for Social Security
was named by Pope John Paul II a Consultor benefits and Veterans Administration
to the Pontifical Council for the Family for a benefits which are paid directly to the
five-year term (2002–07). He is the author of student.
two books, Heart of the Redeemer and Swords
“Academic scholarships are based primar-
Around the Cross: The Nine Years War, and host
ily on the student’s SAT or ACT scores, as
of several television programs for the Eternal
well as high school G.P.A. Because Chris-
Word Television Network (EWTN) includ-
tendom does not accept Federal funds, it
ing Glory of the Papacy and Luke: Meek Scribe
does not use the FASFA, but rather pro-
of Christ. Dr. O’Donnell and his wife, Cathy,
vides its own Financial Aid Form, easily
have nine children.
accessed at For
more information, please contact Alisa
Public Identity Polk at or call
800.877.5456 ext. 1214.”
It would be difficult for Christendom to have a
fuller Catholic identity. It does truly permeate sors, “The faculty believes this commitment
the campus. All faculty members are Catholic to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
and annually make a Profession of Faith and strengthens our academic freedom, since it
take the Oath of Fidelity before the Bishop of frees us from error in fundamental principles
Arlington. According to one of these profes- upon which our research and teaching are

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Christendom College

based.” of Catholic orthodoxy, ranging from promi-
This approach is clearly articulated in the nent cardinals and leading Catholic public
college’s vision statement, which notes, “Only officials to distinguished academics, writers
an education which integrates the truths of and pro-life activists. The graduation speak-
the Catholic Faith throughout the curriculum ers, honorary doctorate recipients, Pro Deo
is a fully Catholic education.” et Patria Medal awardees and guest speakers
Not surprisingly, Christendom has fully represent an impressive grouping of defend-
embraced Ex corde Ecclesiae. As Dr. O’Connell ers of the faith.
writes: “Ex corde Ecclesiae is the call of a par- Among notable speakers in the fall 2008
ent to her rebellious child. The Holy Father’s semester were Dr. Scott Hahn, Catholic jour-
ardent desire is that those in leadership posi- nalist Russell Shaw and Father James Schall,
tions should come to their senses and return S.J. Appearing at the college in April 2008,
to their Father’s house lest they perish on the Cardinal Francis Arinze said, “It is refresh-
way.” ing to see a Catholic college where the parents
The list of speakers who have appeared can send their children and not get worried
on campus represents a veritable “who’s who” whether they will get serious Catholic edu-

Message from the President

Dear Parents and Prospective Students:

Located in the beautiful location in the Shenandoah Valley of Virgin-
ia, Christendom College is committed to providing our students with the
finest Catholic education possible. With our rigorous 84-credit hour core
curriculum taught by inspiring, top-notch professors who care personally
about each student, and who teach the classical liberal arts with a Catholic
worldview, we properly ground our students by teaching them to think critically.

We work to provide a truly Catholic culture on campus, one that permeates every aspect of
student life. Our Chapel of Christ the King, situated in the middle of our campus, is the heart of
our program. Our chaplains offer traditional, beautiful liturgies, and our students have ample
time for confession, adoration and other apostolic works.

Our program seeks to bear witness to the whole truth about God, man and the created or-
der. Here at Christendom the love of life, learning and Catholic festivity go hand-in-hand with
the desire for God. I personally invite you to join us in our common effort to consecrate the intel-
lect and will to Christ our Lord and King.


Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell

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Christendom College

cation—without discount—just as it is.” The Academics
2008 Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated by
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Bos- The college bulletin states: “The Christendom
ton. College [84-credit] core curriculum, unlike
The 2009 commencement speaker was the ‘smorgasbord’ general education require-
Dr. Jude Dougherty, retired dean and phi- ments common in most colleges and uni-
losophy professor at The Catholic University versities, is designed to provide the orderly,
of America. Also honored at that commence- sequential presentation of fundamental prin-
ment was Father Frank Pavone, national di- ciples of theology, philosophy and mathemat-
rector of Priests for Life. ical science in conjunction with the historical
There are no questionable speakers and, and literary knowledge which is foundational
in fact, every speaker we could identify ac- for an understanding of our civilization.”
tively promoted Catholic teachings. There are All courses in the freshman and sopho-
no clubs that are at more years are pre-
variance with Catho- scribed. These in-
lic beliefs. One col- clude four theology
lege administrator courses, including
put the identity issue “Fundamentals of
in perspective: “The Catholic Doctrine I
greatest strength of and II.” There also are
Christendom Col- four required philos-
lege is its integral liv- ophy courses during
ing out of orthodox the first two years.
Catholic doctrine For the junior
both inside and out- and senior years, stu-
side the classroom.” dents must take two
In a move that more theology cours-
further emphasizes es (“Moral Theology”
its commitment to and “Apologetics”)
the Church, Chris- and two additional
tendom sponsors a three-day religious Dis- philosophy courses. Two years of a foreign
cernment Weekend each year, giving the language—Latin, Greek, French or Span-
students an opportunity to hear from such re- ish—are required as are courses in English,
ligious as Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde, Fa- history, science and political science (one of
ther Pavone and Monsignor Stuart Swetland, which is “Social Teachings of the Church”).
vice president for Catholic identity at Mount All students must write a senior thesis.
St. Mary’s University. Students can select from six majors and
The college also evangelizes to a broad- begin work in a concentration in the third and
er audience through its Christendom Press, fourth years. The majors are classical studies,
which currently has 32 titles in print. Distrib- English language and literature, history, phi-
uted through ISI Books, the press includes losophy, political science and economics, and
works on religion and Catholic-related his- theology. Students can also choose to minor
tory from such authors as Dr. Carroll, the late in mathematics or liturgical music. The most
Father Stanley Jaki, O.S.B., Mark Shea and L. popular majors at Christendom are history,
Brent Bozell.

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English and philosophy, which together ac- try. One student explained that a course on
counted for 72 percent of the 2008 graduates. the history of Germany used Catholic values
Regardless of the major, students are not to better critique the horrors of Hitler and Na-
shortchanged in their religious formation. For zism.
one thing there is the An English profes-
integrated curriculum sor said of the Western
that builds on theology classics: “These works,
and philosophy with as well as those in the
a strong emphasis on Anglo-American tradi-
Catholicism. tion, are critically stud-
In addition, spiri- ied for what they reveal
tual values and Catho- of the human heart and
lic tradition are present soul, and of our under-
in all the disciplines. standing of man’s place
One student said that in the universe.”
the college worldview “This field of
is “the center of histo- study,” he added, “in-
ry is Christ becoming cluding mastery and
man.” It is not surpris- understanding of the
ing that there would tools of literary analy-
be a certain intersec- sis and scholarship and
tion of majors. This is their philosophical bas-
also reinforced by the es, is an important and
periodic talks given legitimate discipline
by college founder and for a Catholic college
noted historian War- whose graduates are
ren Carroll. expected to engage the
Because faculty members voluntarily modern culture and work to transform it.”
take an annual Oath of Fidelity, orthodoxy in In the political science department, all
these subjects is safeguarded. There are no students take an introduction to political
vocal critics of Catholic teaching on the fac- theory and a Catholic social doctrine class.
ulty. As Dr. O’Donnell said to us, “Any public The latter class deals explicitly with Catholic
dissent from the Magisterium or the Pope are teaching affecting the political order. Major
grounds for immediate termination.” encyclicals and social doctrines are studied.
The commitment to Catholic identity As a way to enhance the curriculum,
and orthodoxy shows itself most in the the- students have the opportunity to attend the
ology department. In addition to courses on Junior Semester in Rome either in the fall or
Mariology, the papacy and Church councils spring. There also is a short summer program
and documents, there are broader ones such available in Ireland.
as “The History and Nature of Modernism” A majority of the college’s juniors par-
and “Theology and the Public Order.” There ticipate in the Rome program and have found
is a Thomist cast to the theology and philoso- that the location of the campus, just across
phy departments. the street from Saint Peter’s Square, has aid-
American history courses look at the role ed them in their knowledge and love of the
of the Catholic Church in building the coun- Church and her deep history. It is a rigor-

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ous five-course semester, which includes one institution.
course each in theology, philosophy, art and A dress code is maintained in the class-
architecture, Italian and an interdisciplin- room—as well as at Mass, meals and special
ary course. The Rome program does not offer events. Usually this includes a dress shirt and
much semblance of the campus life that stu- necktie for men and a dress or blouse and
dents become accustomed to in Virginia, and skirt for women. A jacket is also required for
students we spoke to either relished or felt a men at Sunday Mass and for speakers’ pre-
bit intimidated by the setting in the heart of sentations.
the Eternal City.
Finally, Christendom sponsors several
summer programs for different populations.
Spiritual Life
Since 1989, the college has hosted a Summer
The Chapel of Christ the King is at the center
Institute, where topics of an educational and
of the campus and of campus life. All activity
catechetical nature have been addressed by
on campus passes by the chapel several times
such Catholic leaders as Father Benedict Groe-
a day. Time is taken out every weekday to al-
schel, C.F.R., Cardinal
low students to attend
Arinze, Dr. Scott Hahn,
daily Mass, which de-
Bishop Robert Morlino
pending on the day, is
of the Diocese of Madi-
offered in the Ordinary
son, pro-life physician
and/or Extraordinary
John Bruchalski and
Forms, two to three
many more.
times a day. About 75
And each year 100
percent of the student
high school seniors can
body attends Mass dur-
attend a one- or two-
ing the week. President
week summer program
O’Donnell and many
that includes classes,
other faculty members
spiritual programs and
attend daily Mass, pro-
recreational opportu-
viding good role mod-
nities. As is the case
with other colleges,
The Mass is always
such a program allows
reverently celebrated,
students to sample life
and a more solemn Or-
at the campus and de-
dinary Form liturgy is
termine whether it is a
celebrated in Latin on
good fit. About 50 per-
Sundays, Wednesdays
cent of students who
and Fridays. On Mon-
attend the summer pro-
days, Tuesdays and
gram eventually enroll
Thursdays Mass is cel-
at Christendom.
ebrated in the Extraor-
The college has in-
dinary Form.
troduced two sessions of a one-week summer
On Sundays, some students attend the
Latin immersion program for high school stu-
12:15 p.m. Extraordinary Form Mass at Front
dents which provides another opportunity
Royal’s St. John the Baptist parish.
for prospective applicants to get to know the

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Christendom College

There are three very involved chaplains. Student Activities
The head chaplain, Father Daniel Gee, led a
2008 student mission to Banica, Dominican Christendom offers many activities outside
Republic, where he worked before coming to the classroom. The St. Lawrence Commons,
Christendom. The priests hear confessions 11 where students and staff dine, is the scene for
times a week, and lines for the sacrament are dances and performances sponsored by the
reported to always be full. Student Activities Council. There are some
There is daily adoration of the Blessed typical college activities such as orientation
Sacrament as well as recitation of the Rosary weekend, Italian night, Oktoberfest, formals
and the Divine Office of Morning, Evening and other dances.
and Compline Prayers. On the first Thursday But there are also other Catholic cultural
of each month, a special holy hour is offered celebrations, such as a St. Joseph’s feast and
in reparation to the Sacred Heart, followed by St. Patrick’s Day festivities. In fact, many ac-
all-night adoration and ending at the 7:30 a.m. tivities focus on the liturgical calendar or
Mass on Friday. The Legion of Mary is very feast days of saints. President O’Donnell told
active at Christendom, with outreach to the us, “The main motive for celebration is lost on
town and vicinity. most people. Having things in order, by mak-
In the area of social action, students in ing faith or saints the focus, there is a proper
the Shield of Roses pray the Rosary and offer ordering and [students] end up having a lot
sidewalk counseling in front of Planned Par- more fun.”
enthood in Washington, D.C., each Saturday This focus, not surprisingly, spills over
morning. Par- into campus
ticipation in the groups, which
annual March include the
for Life, also in Shield of Roses
the nation’s capi- pro-life club,
tal, is a tradition Legion of Mary,
that includes and Holy Rood
nearly the entire Guild (assist-
student body. ing with altar
Three times, in- vestments and
cluding in Janu- linen). The Cor-
ary 2009, Chris- poral Works of
tendom carried Mercy group
the banner lead- ministers to
ing the March. the poor in the
All reli- Front Royal area
gious ministries by helping out
at Christendom are specifically Catholic, so at soup kitchens, delivering meals and visit-
the controversial issue of “balance” with that ing nursing homes.
of other faiths is non-existent. In fact, Catholi- The St. Juan Diego Confraternity assists
cism is the only faith noticeably represented in the formation of student missionary work-
on campus. One student told us, “We had an ers who participate in the college mission pro-
atheist a couple of years ago, but I heard that gram. Members pray for the Catholic evange-
she recently converted.” lization of the Americas and participate in

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Christendom College

trips within the region. living arrangements at off-campus college
There is an active drama contingent on residences because of dietary considerations
campus, including the St. Genesius Society, or a need for a quieter atmosphere.
named after the patron saint of actors; the Fine There are three female and three male
Arts Program; and the Christendom Players. residence halls. Inter-visitation is prohibited.
Among recent productions were A Midsum- In addition to eliminating the opportunities
mer Night’s Dream, You Can’t Take It with You for inappropriate behavior, one female stu-
and The Secret dent applauded
Garden, which the separated
was performed residential pol-
in November icy, saying, “It
2008. provides a safe
Cultural haven, a time for
opp or t u n it ie s girls to breathe.
and lectures also It’s a great place
exist through for people to
the Major Speak- bond and form
ers Program and friendships and
the Beato Fra to just be you. It
Angelico Arts encourages girls
Program. Other to have good
groups include Catholic friend-
the Chester-Bel- ships.”
loc Debate Soci- There is an
ety that helps students hone their argumenta- active religious life within residence halls,
tion and rhetorical skills. Students can write where there are group Rosaries and where
for The Rambler, a biweekly publication, or for a Pilgrim Virgin statute migrates from one
the Chronicler Online a weekly synopsis of building to another. Chastity and modesty
life at Christendom. are strongly promoted by the Student Life Of-
Christendom is a member of the United fice and others.
States Collegiate Athletic Association and Every floor in every hall has either a resi-
the Shenandoah-Chesapeake Conference. dent assistant or a proctor whose job it is to
Among its seven varsity teams, the men’s and promote community life, enforce college be-
women’s soccer teams had particularly out- havior policy and assist students. There are
standing records in fall 2008. Rugby, a very weekly room inspections. Neither television
popular campus activity, was added as a var- nor Internet access are allowed within the
sity sport in 2007. Various intramural sports residence halls but are provided in campus
also are available, and students participate in centers. Students under the age of 21 have a
an annual east-west flag football game. curfew of midnight during the week and 1
a.m. on weekends.
The college also provides two houses for
Residential Life men and one for women as well as the nearby
Cardinal Newman Apartments for men.
Campus housing is provided for all full-time
The published rules of student con-
students. Although 95 percent of students live
duct are fully in accord with Catholic moral
on campus, some are allowed to make their

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Christendom College

teaching. Drinking is prohibited in the col- Front Royal is easily reachable via Inter-
lege residences but some students do seem state 66 from Washington, and north-south
to get around the Interstate 81 is
policy. There is an close. Dulles Inter-
effort made to teach national Airport, a
students to drink major airport that
responsibly and, at served nearly 25
some campus events, million passengers
students over the age in 2007, is about
of 21 are allowed to an hour east of the
consume alcohol in campus. Closer
limited amounts. to the capital city
Medical care along the Potomac
for students can be River is Ronald
addressed by the Reagan Wash-
college’s part-time ington National
nurse or, if needed, Airport, another
at the Warren Memo- significant facility
rial Hospital, a 196-bed facility in Front Royal, with many direct flights to the eastern half of
located about ten minutes from campus. The the United States.
Washington, D.C., metropolitan area includes
nationally respected specialists and hospi-
The Bottom Line
For more than 30 years Christendom College
The Community has made a vital contribution to American
Catholic life through its solid spiritual for-
The town of Front Royal, which has a popula- mation and its liberal arts curriculum. While
tion of about 14,500, is rather plain, although some colleges in this Guide may match its
the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains Catholic commitment, it is unlikely that any
is beautiful. For diversions, students seem exceeds it.
content with the campus activities and the One faculty member said to us, “The
rich array of outdoor opportunities in the college exemplifies in small what ‘Christen-
area. These include the abutting Shenando- dom’ means: a society ordered to Christ, our
ah River, which allows for canoeing, tubing God and King.” You can see it, you can feel
and fishing. Hiking is available at the nearby it on the campus. They are justifiably proud
Shenandoah National Park and correspond- of presenting Catholicism as “the air that we
ing mountains. breathe.”
The nation’s capital is only about 70 miles Many Catholics are aware of Christen-
away and it presents historical, cultural, artis- dom College, so we are probably not break-
tic and political opportunities for students. A ing any new ground in recommending it. But
number of students are from Northern Vir- we want to encourage parents and students
ginia and quite familiar with the region. to look carefully at the college, and for all the
right reasons.

122 The Newman Guide