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What Is It Like To Be a Non-Catholic Family at Gonzaga?

By Martyn Crew, father of Emily Crew ’19

Our family is Jewish. Despite this, it really wasn’t a big decision that our daughter should enroll at Gonzaga. Gonzaga provides a values-based education and this is something that we strongly believe in, even if the values are not those of our own Jewish tradition. Despite the obvious religious differences, we came to see great commonality between the Jewish and Jesuit value systems. For example, the emphasis on the education of the whole person (cura personalis) and on action in the community.

Judaism is a religion of doing and nowhere is this more evident than in the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (healing the world). Through Gonzaga’s community programs such as Campus Kids and Zag Volunteer Corps, our daughter has been able to put this concept into practice every day and make friends and do good in the process.

In every respect, our experience as Jewish parents at Gonzaga has been a positive one. Let me give you one specific example. At Orientation Weekend, as we prepared to leave our daughter, we decided to attend the Welcome Mass. We left our decision to the last minute, as we really weren’t sure if it was something we would feel comfortable with.

As a result of making our decision late, Saint Aloysius was packed, but there was some open seating right at the front of the church. When we arrived at these seats, I asked a person who already sat there if she thought it would be ok for us to sit in these seats. This person was Michelle Wheatley, the Director of University Ministry. She welcomed us with open arms and made us feel completely at home as we took our seats, ready for the Mass and, symbolically, took our place in the Gonzaga family.

The Mass certainly held some mysteries for us – when to stand, when to sit, do we say the Catechism and the big question of whether we should take Communion. I’ll be honest and say that there were some uncomfortable moments during the Mass but these were washed away in the flood of emotion as the freshmen assembled at the front of the church and the parents – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and more – shed a collective tear and filed out of the church into the bright Autumnal sunlight.

The way the Mass was staged provided a very healthy separation and closure for both our daughter and ourselves. That final act of separating the students from their parents had clearly evolved over many years and is borne out of a deep understanding of the emotions that both parents and students are experiencing in that moment.

Our experience with Gonzaga has shown us that the humanistic values that both modern Catholicism and Judaism are based on transcend the differences in our beliefs and religious practices. We could not be happier with our experience at Gonzaga and hope incoming families of all faiths and traditions share the same experience.

Welcome Mass is an annual tradition within Orientation Weekend. We welcome all, regardless of spiritual and faith background, to join us. The Mass includes a special blessing over new students, and the President’s Reception is hosted immediately after. This year’s Welcome Mass will take place on Sunday, August 28, at 10:00am in the McCarthey Athletic Center.


  1. Rebecca Moscatel

    Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Our daughter will be joining the Gonzaga community in the Fall 2016-17 and we are Jewish as well.
    I had seen the Welcome Mass on the Orientation schedule and had similarly felt reservations about attending.
    It sounds as though it is something we will not want to miss and I am grateful for your insight on this.

  2. Susan Slowes

    We are also a Jewish family and my daughter just graduated after 4 wonderful years at Gonzaga. The school shares our values so religion didn’t make any difference to the experience.