It is a fact that the majority of students on Liberal Arts courses in the United States are young women. So, if there is such a demand, why isn’t Chavagnes offering places to girls for its first intake in September 2016?
First off, Chavagnes is an existing male community, and developing our existing structure so as to educate up to a dozen young men at undergraduate level is something we can do without taking an enormous financial risk. It makes sense to build up our work, stage by stage. Once we have 10 or 20 boys working well on their BA, it will be time to set up a hall for girls too. We hope to do this in 2019. By that time, we hope and pray, Chavagnes will be well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged university college.
Within the community of the Studium (a medieval word for a fledgling university) we are planning two Halls: one for men, and one for women. As the young people coming to join us will often be leaving home for first time, we recognise that whilst they are already young adults, they still need the kind of pastoral support that will create within each Hall a Catholic family-style environment. For this reason, then, the Mens’ Hall will have a Warden and several younger male academic staff who will live alongside the students as well as teaching them. The Ladies’ Hall would also have two or three female professors who would act as role models and mentors for the young ladies in their care.
Once the Ladies’ Hall becomes a reality, we would envisage a system where a certain number of classes would be conducted in the Hall (smaller tutorial groups) whilst others (larger seminars and lectures, theatre projects, music groups, visits, weekly social events) would be shared between both Halls. We would aim to create an environment where both the difference and complementarity of the sexes would be respected and celebrated, as suggested in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on Catholic Education, Gravissimum Educationis. This approach would in fact be unique in modern Catholic Liberal Arts education, but we believe it will create a wonderfully rich educational culture, in which young men and women can learn together in a natural way. It is a re-imagining of the traditional way in which university life was conducted in the past.
For the first intake of students in September 2016, we have already had enquiries from both young men and young women (from France, the USA and Australia), and we are reluctant to turn anyone away. So we are looking at possible ways of catering for the needs of female students even before we are able to offer a proper hall of residence. It may be possible to find one or two good Catholic host families who would welcome a small number of girls (perhaps two or three) as members of the family, enabling them to join in the Studium classes and activities. So if you are a young lady interested in our programme, do please get in touch with us and we can look at what we can be arranged for you.
We believe that what we are creating here will be, with God’s grace, an especially fruitful educational apostolate and will be a great place for Catholic boys and girls, typically aged 17-19 when they start here, to grow into the strong, reliable and impressive young adults who will be at the forefront of our society in the years to come.