One of Boston College’s most distinctive facets is also one of its more obscure: the 10-year old organization called Church in the 21st Century (C21). However, its new director, Erik Goldschmidt, is doing all he can to make C21 a bigger part of student life at BC.
University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. founded the organization in 2002 on the heels of the Sept. 11 attacks and the emergence of a wide-reaching sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.
“It was supposed to be a temporary program at the time, aiming to bring people together in a constructive way to look at concerns and questions in the church and have constructive conversations,” Goldschmidt said. “People were really getting dejected —they needed practical but also pastoral conversations that just weren’t happening otherwise.”
C21 has focused on exploring a few primary areas since its inception and hopes to continue exploring those same topics under Goldschmidt. The four areas to be investigated include ways of handing down the faith to younger Catholics, relationships between laymen and women and the clergy, sexuality and the Catholic tradition, and the intellectual tradition of Catholicism.
“From here, some of the goals now are building on the core focal areas and trying to involve students, trying to reach out to students and have conversations that are helpful to them and meaningful for their formation during their time at BC,” Goldschmidt said.
As a BC alumnus who was a first-year graduate student when C21 was founded, Goldschmidt is enthusiastic about continuing to serve the BC community through C21.
“Fr. Leahy and C21 had a very hopeful approach to addressing really difficult issues. When the opportunity opened up for me to be the next director, I was like, ‘Absolutely, I would love to be there,'” he said.
In the coming years, C21 has two major goals besides furthering discussion on its original four topics.
Goldschmidt says the first is to keep up the work that has been done by C21 in the past.
“I’m coming in new and seeing they’ve been doing such amazing work,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s now a matter of building on that. One way is to involve more students.”
Besides publishing C21 Resources, C21 currently hosts a variety of events, such as the popular Agape Latte series and presentations by BC faculty, and now has a smart phone app available. The organization also gets advice from a student advisory council that provides feedback used to plan events for next fall, according to Goldschmidt.
Because C21 is unique to BC, not a chapter of an organization that can be found on campuses across the country, its next goal is to introduce its philosophy to other Catholic universities.
“The goal is both to deepen our work at BC but also to expand the scope of it across the country,” Goldschmidt said. “The idea is to renew the church and to find ways we can do that at Boston College.”
To this end, Goldschmidt says that C21 hopes to collaborate with other Catholic universities to create versions of its magazine, C21 Resources, that fit the needs and environment of each university.
Before becoming the director of C21, Goldschmidt served in a variety of positions in BC’s Lynch School of Education and then as executive vice president of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen Catholic philanthropy.