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placeholder May 20, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
School encourages Church in media

A tiny Catholic university in San Diego, founded just seven years ago, says it is in the black as it works to build a Catholic presence in the entertainment world and help students keep their faith. "The Church has absolutely no influence in the entertainment media," asserted Derry Connolly, founder and president of John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. His initial vision was to give students the skills need to both remain strong Catholics and to be successful in the entertainment world.

JPG offers programs in film, television and video games, as well as business and biblical theology programs, with an embracing Catholic presence in all phases of life. Connolly said JPG graduates have no difficulty finding jobs with the skills they learn at JPG.

JPG now enrolls nearly 200 students, offers a year-round program to a bachelor's degree in three years and a strong Catholic presence in all aspects of life.

Connolly described the program to a Catholics at Work audience in San Ramon.

Much of the story was his own path from an Irish-born cradle Catholic, living a routine life until, at 48 and a successful tenured professor at the University of California at San Diego, "I discovered Jesus (and) — nothing else matters!"

That pushed him to quit UCSD a year before retirement eligibility. With an idea and a donation of $50,000, he started JPG.

Connolly volunteered that 99 percent of parents might not consider sending their children there. "But if your primary interest is in your kid's faith, you will send your kids to me!" Almost all JPG students retain their Catholic faith, Connolly said, contrasting it to UCSD where rarely more than two students show up for daily Mass.

Connolly's path began when his daughter wanted to enroll at Franciscan University of Steubenville, rather than Harvard. He visited Steubenville and was moved by the strong Catholic energy of the students.

Back at UCSD Connolly began reading sacred scripture and soon felt the call to start a Catholic university. After six months "I said okay."

He called San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom's office for permission, and reached then-auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone (now archbishop of San Francisco). Cordileone talked with Bishop Brom. A short time later Cordileone called and said," yeah, go right ahead!"

Then Connolly received a modest gift of $50,000 and that got it started.

Today JPG has a niche, aimed at people who want to grow stronger in their Catholic faith and also impact the hugely influential but almost entirely unreligious entertainment industry.

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