Southern Catholic and the Legion
As you all likely know, Southern Catholic College, located in Dawsonville, Georgia, was purchased this summer by the Legion of Christ. The school had been in grave financial crisis and was incapable of continuing on without some external support. There were a number of options available, but for their own reasons the Board and the president turned to the Legion, at a time in which the latter is in the midst of its own struggles, strife, and need for reform. It was perhaps not the best move that could have been made, but what has happened has happened and there is no going back.
What was a good move, or at least appears a good move for the time being, however, was the appointment of Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, as the new president. Unlike his predecessor, of whom the students saw little, Fr. Aaron is front and center and visible every day in a dozen ways. He regularly stays into the evening, meets with students constantly, and genuinely listens to other’s opinions, rather than waiting for his turn to speak. Despite his lack of experience in this position, he appears to be very intelligent and invested, and is doing his best to discern well the true nature of the Catholic university. At present he is also effectively functioning as the chaplain, as that role has not yet been filled. The sacrifice and dedication he is currently making is hard to put into words.
Aside from the constant presence of Fr. Aaron, however, the Legion has not made a gigantic impact. Through organizations such as ReGAIN, horror stories about the Legion coming into schools with bulldozers and a giant broom are all too familiar; but that has not happened here, and on the whole—despite the need for a little bit of bulldozing and a lot of sweeping—is a good thing, because if an intelligent assessment is made, we will preserve the good while the bad is eradicated. To a certain extent I had hope, and I know others had hope, that heads would be (figuratively) rolling within a matter of days after the Legion presence was established—an unrealistic expectation. And while I do still hope that change does not take too long, for those that have eyes to see and a head to think should be able to see it without much difficulty, patience for the sake of thorough consideration is not too much to ask. In the meanwhile, small changes do provide some satisfaction, and large, immediate changes might seem suffocating. Legion priests from the Atlanta area have been assisting with Confession and Mass, and one member of Integer works on campus as the head of fundraising; aside from that, things go on much as they have before.
The Legion of Christ has, in many ways and for many years, proceeded in a number of endeavors without prudence. This has given them a bad reputation: and frankly it has been deserved in a large percentage of the cases. But there are nonetheless very holy and intelligent priests in the order, who are coming to terms with the flaws in the operative manners of the order, who seem eager for reform. Southern Catholic College is a great opportunity for that reform, for both the order and the school.