Two secular universities will offer dorms specifically for Catholic students in 2013's fall semester.
Florida Institute of Technology, a private research institution, broke ground on the Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Student Residence last month. The Catholic News Service reports a similar groundbreaking ceremony at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville for St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center, which includes a dormitory and chapel, in October.
Matt Zerrusen, president of the Newman Student Housing Fund, told CNS that the residences create community among Catholic students during a time in their lives when 50 percent of students on college campuses lose their faith.
"This is unacceptable. It is a huge, huge deal in campus ministry, and all the Newman Centers want to add dorms. These are the first, the pioneers," Zerrusen said.
Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center show millennials increasingly self-identify as non-religious. A 2007 study published by the Social Science Research Council found a clear of young adults reported a decline in religious service attendance.
Father Douglas Bailey, SDS, told the Catholic News Agency the new residence hall would be open to all students, not just Catholics. He hopes it would evangelize the rest of the campus.
"My guess is that people who are not Catholic and who would live there are people committed to their Christianity, and would want to live with similar-minded people," Bailey said. "My intention would be not to proselytize them but to incorporate them into the Christian community there."
Until now, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had been the only other secular university with a Catholic dorm. It houses 586 students and includes a chapel and residence hall. The Texas A&M site will accommodate 287 students, CNS reports, and FIT's residence hall will house 140 students. Both of the new dorm complexes will also include chapels.
The Newman Fund is reportedly planning to institute Catholic residence halls at other universities.