New to The Newman Guide: The International Theological Institute

An Interview with Max Becher by the Catholic Education Daily

October 22, 2014, at 4:15 PM  |  By Kathryn Zagrobelny -  Catholic Education Daily At the International Theological Institute (ITI) “Catholicism is practically the air you breathe,” alumnus Max Becher, who also works as U.S. director of recruitment for ITI, recently told The Cardinal Newman Society in an interview. Located in Trumau, Austria, ITI is recommended in The Newman Guide for the first time this year. The Newman Society recently released the 2015 edition of the Guide in addition to an innovative new “Recruit Me” program that lets students sign up to be recruited by the recommended Catholic colleges. The Newman Guide says of ITI: “The International Theological Institute (ITI) offers English-speaking undergraduates the opportunity to live in the heart of Europe while pursuing one of two unique academic tracks. The faithfully Catholic institute is situated in the beautiful Austrian countryside just south of Vienna, Austria, and classes are held in a restored castle from the twelfth century.” The Guide continues: “ITI holds the status of an Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty from the Vatican, specifically concentrating on the study of Catholic theology, and uses the ECTS credit system accepted in the European Union. At the undergraduate level, students can choose either the one-year liberal arts Studium Generale track or five-year track which terminates in a Master of Sacred Theology (STM), rather than a bachelor’s degree.” “Theology is not simply studied, it is lived,” said Becher. “That is actually the most accurate description of life at ITI on every level.” In addition to intellectual formation, the Institute seeks to form its students spiritually, vocationally, and personally. The Institute’s mission draws from St. Athanasius who stated that “the best theologians are not simply those who study the faith, it’s those who live the faith, and they study it on their knees,” Becher continued. ITI seeks to provide its students with intellectual and personal encounters with God. Within the classroom, students are encouraged to participate in daily liturgies, which has resulted in a high daily Mass attendance and active participation in Adoration and praying the Rosary. There is a strong connection between coursework and living out one’s faith, Becher told the Society. The vocational formation that occurs is another integral part of the ITI experience. The student population comes from “all walks of life” stated Becher; some are recent high school graduates, while others are older graduate students, married couples, parents, seminarians, priests, and religious sisters. “All the different vocations of the Church are living in your midst and instead of thinking about it in a bit of an abstract way, you see it every day,” he said. According to Becher, some married students have children and their spouse living with them on campus. The children can often raise questions about the faith and offer perspectives that lead to theological discussions later in classes. They additionally serve as living examples of the motto of ITI’s patroness, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, “to be little, small, and child-like.” Jesus, too, “a many number of times mentions children as an example for us to try to enter the kingdom of heaven,” reflected Becher. “It gives kind of a living dynamic to what we’re studying in a more intellectual way in the classroom.” He remembered, from his own experience at ITI: “I would go out into the courtyard and not only would I bump into a few fellow students, I’d run into a pack of kids riding by on their tricycles or kicking a ball around.” He continued, “One can only spend so much time studying and working hard and books and classrooms and such. It’s very therapeutic to go out and play with the kids for a while.” All students live on campus in buildings that border a courtyard. “It feels like family, it feels like a home,” said Becher. “The families and the students routinely get together for either common meals or Sunday potluck brunches and they’re going to Mass together.” Additionally, the older students act as mentors for younger ones and help them to mature. The Institute’s location near Vienna also serves as a “gateway” between Eastern and Western Europe. “The reason that location is significant,” said Becher, “is part of our mission is to bring together Catholics from the Western, or Roman rite, and Catholics of the Eastern rite…who are in union with Rome but from a very different liturgical tradition from those of us in the West.” Because of this and because students hail from both traditions, explained Becher, ITI celebrates both Roman and Byzantine Catholic liturgies. All students participate in an annual walking pilgrimage to a local Marian shrine, celebrate the feast of its patroness, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and attend a pilgrimage to a holy site in Europe. Past pilgrimage locations have included Lourdes, Lisieux, and Turin. The accessibility of such opportunities is one of the advantages of ITI’s international setting which allows students to be immersed in new cultures. Read more about the International Theological Institute in its online profile in The Newman Guide. Students can sign up to get recruited by ITI and the other Catholic colleges recommended in the Guide at the Recruit Me page. Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. - See more at: