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April, 2019


It seems strange at the beginning of February to write “Happy New Year” — especially since Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are only a few days away — but I have not had the chance to do so in this column until now. So, I’ll combine the two and write “Happy New Year” and “Blessed Lent” to all!

I just returned from Chicago — brutally cold at this time of year — where I gave a talk at DePaul University on Catholic identity and mission in Catholic universities and colleges in the United States. While there, I had the chance to visit with Dr. Peter Casarella, a former colleague of ours from the School of Theology and Religious Studies, who now serves on the DePaul faculty. He sends his best wishes to everyone at CUA. Earlier in January, I gave a similar presentation at St. John’s University in New York. The issue is one that I consider very important and dear to my heart. Come May, I’ll be headed to Niagara University for a similar presentation.

Enough about me! If you have driven down Michigan Avenue near the new construction at the Dominican House of Studies, you may have noticed that something looks different. That’s because St. Bonaventure Hall no longer exists! It has been torn down as CUA begins the first phases of the development of South Campus. Great plans are in the works, which I will share with you at a later time.

Father O'Connell speaks at the dedication of Aquinas Hall.
Opus Hall is quickly rising out of the ground near Flather Hall. If you haven’t seen it, please take a look. The first of three new residence halls planned for that part of campus is already looking pretty impressive. For other construction updates, see the article in this issue of Inside CUA.

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, following our annual celebration of the Patronal Mass of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Crypt Church of the Basilica, I dedicated the renamed “Aquinas Hall” (formerly the Life Cycle Institute building), which is now home to the School of Philosophy. The school’s dean, Rev. Dean Kurt Pritzl, O.P., assisted in the dedication ceremony, followed by a lovely reception for all the building’s residents and guests: the Department of Sociology of the School of Arts and Sciences, the University Archives and the Office of University Development. A wonderfully generous donor has contributed funds to Dean Pritzl to help spruce up the place and I am most grateful to her.

Most of you know by now that Father Bob Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., director of Campus Ministry and university chaplain, has been honored by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with the Benemerenti Medal. The medal was conferred at the annual Advent/Christmas Mass preceding our university Christmas party on Dec. 20.

The Christmas party attracted its largest crowd ever and was a lot of fun, thanks to Frank Persico, our MC; Suzanne McCarthy, who planned the event; and all the volunteers who helped. It is truly my favorite event of the year.

Speaking of Father Bob, I must thank him, his fellow Franciscan friars, the Campus Ministry staff, and countless volunteers from our university staff and student body who welcomed and hosted some 1,600 guests to campus for the annual March for Life. What a tremendous gospel witness to our commitment to life! And almost 400 of our students joined in the march that day. Thanks to one and all.

The Center for Global Education has opened its doors in McMahon Hall with CUA’s newest administrator, Tanith Fowler Corsi, assistant vice president for global education, at the helm. Check out the center’s impressive Web site: http://cge.cua.edu. The new center is an outgrowth of the university’s 2006 Strategic Plan.

We also welcome to the university Associate Vice President Christine Peterson, who is our new chief human resources officer. Ms. Peterson will lead the restructuring of the Office of Human Resources so that it can serve the university even better than it has in the past. The creation of this new associate VP position and the mandate to restructure the office are also outgrowths of the Strategic Plan.

Provost Dr. James Brennan and Vice President for Student Life Susan Pervi, along with Dean of Students Jonathan Sawyer, have been collaborating on a new academic initiative focused on freshmen and students who have not yet declared an academic major. While it’s still a work in progress, I am very impressed with and grateful for this cooperative effort. Details to come!

At far right, Monsignor Barry Knestout announces the winning design in the papal design contest as Father O'Connell and Most Rev. Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, look on. 

On Feb. 5 here on campus, I will host the presidents of the NCAA Division III universities and colleges who, along with CUA, constitute the new athletic conference in our region, known as the Landmark Conference. This will be our second annual meeting at CUA.

Speaking of athletics, Dr. Michael Allen, director of athletics, tells me that there have been some growing pains this past winter, with a number of young stars emerging in all six sports. I am certain these exceptional student athletes will become household names among the Cardinal faithful as their careers progress here at CUA. We are all excited for the start of the spring season in the Landmark Conference. Students, faculty and staff are invited to enjoy the beautiful weather at a men’s and women’s lacrosse doubleheader at the stadium or take in a baseball game at the newly renovated Talbot Field.

Finally, we continue preparations to welcome His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to CUA’s campus on April 17. The security precautions and other preparations are incredibly time-consuming. It promises to be a great and historic occasion. Although the university and all its offices and buildings will be closed that entire day, a committee is working with me under its co-chairs Frank Persico and Victor Nakas to determine how we can maximize the involvement of the university community. The papal address itself will be restricted to an invitation-only audience. I will share more details with you as soon as I can. In the meantime, please consult our Web site for regular updates: http://papalvisit.cua.edu.

Although the main focus of our attention regarding the Holy Father’s visit will be his speech on our campus, I am so pleased and proud that CUA has been able to contribute to other aspects of his journey to the United States. As you probably know, we were invited by the Archdiocese of Washington to conduct a competition among the students in our School of Architecture and Planning to design the altar and other furnishings that will be used by the Holy Father when he celebrates Mass on the morning of April 17 at Nationals Park in Washington. The winning design team of graduate students John-Paul Mikolajczyk and Ryan Mullen, assisted by seniors Rachel Bailey and Victoria Engelstad, was announced on Jan. 28 in the Crough Center, with about 100 of their fellow students attending and cameras flashing.

The official logo of the pope's U.S. visit was designed by CUA Director of Publications Donna Hobson.
What a thrill for these students to know that their design will be used for a papal Mass that will attract 45,000 worshipers and potentially be seen by millions around the world! I also wish to congratulate all the architecture students who participated in the design competition. I viewed all the entries on display in the Crough Center and was moved by how much thought and effort and loving care the students displayed. You’ve made us all proud.

In addition to the efforts of the architecture students, our own Director of Publications Donna Hobson designed the official logo that is being used for the pope’s pastoral visit to the United States. Another labor of love. Hats off to her!

That’s all, folks! … at least for now. Be well and prayerful best wishes to all!


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Last Revised 01-Feb-08 10:18 AM.