As noted in a past post, Msgr. James McDonald, the Rector of The Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, NY, is one of my heroes in life. Here is a letter he published in the church bulletin a few years back to young people going off to college. With the college school year starting, it is worth printing this out, and putting it in your college student's suitcase between the Ziploc bag of chocolate chip cookies and the envelop with the emergency $20.00 in it.
There will be a lot of high school graduations this weekend and many of our Catholic High Schools have already conducted theirs. Now there is that last summer at home and the preparation for the big move in late August or early September. I thought in this letter I would like to talk realistically to our new graduates and soon-to-be freshmen. You have serious responsibilities to yourself and your parents and certainly to Christ.
Those of you who are going away will be entering a far different world. You will have to make adjustments and compromises with roommates; in short you will have to learn to live with people other than members of your own family. Some of these people may be great but others can be annoying and definitely unpleasant. I'm hoping that you get a roommate who is a decent, considerate human being. And by the way, be that kind of roommate yourself. You represent your family and all the values you have been taught in your home.
That very different world of college has very definite moral problems. Often enough, the atmosphere is poisoned by immorality. Practically every school considers itself a big drinking school and there is enormous pressure to fit in with an established pattern of drinking that is a considered a part of college life. Don't! Any dope can be a drunk in college - it takes no ability and is an indication of a lack of moral backbone.
Drunkenness kills and if it doesn't do that immediately, it destroys lives through the tragedy of alcoholism. You are a follower of Jesus Christ and not a follower of the world. Be different! You will find others who share your same point of view.
The sixth commandment, which forbids all sexual activity outside of marriage, is not suspended by God during the four years of college. No matter how lonely you may feel or romantically inclined you may be, you are expected to be a living image of Christ at all times. Your parents brought you up with distinct and definite moral values. Please don't disappoint them! Happy marriages do not begin with college immorality.
You have a definite responsibility to go to Mass each and every Sunday or Saturday evening. I'm counting on you to go even if an awful lot of others don't. I urge you to participate in the campus ministry program and make yourself known to the chaplain. Help prepare for Mass if you are fortunate enough to have Mass on campus. Try to participate in the ministry programs. You should meet some wonderful people there.
Finally, you are in college to study. Do it! And, oh yes, use that cell phone to call mom and dad very, very frequently. They will be missing you more than you'll ever know.
In Jesus and Mary, Monsignor James M. McDonald"