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July, 2019

I write this column in the final days of February. As you read this, about 100 of our students will have had the extraordinary good fortune of praying the rosary on March 1 in Caldwell Chapel with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI via satellite hookup. We were one of 10 universities around the world (and the only one in the United States) to receive this wonderful honor. It was a great way to kick off spring break for our students and a fitting prelude to the Holy Father’s upcoming visit to CUA in April.

Representatives from the media tour campus in preparation for the pope's upcoming visit.

Though many of you don’t see visible signs of it yet, I can assure you that preparations for the papal visit are intensifying with each passing day. A group of about a dozen CUA staff, faculty and administrators have been juggling their usual responsibilities along with numerous and varied papal preparations. In the coming weeks the circle of those involved in this work will grow. As this occurs, my goal is to disrupt campus life as little as possible, particularly as it pertains to our students. But, as one prominent journalist told me, the papal visit to the United States is going to be a “huge story” and CUA will be part of it. We saw some evidence of that when about 50 media representatives toured campus in mid-February to gauge where they would like to place their TV trucks, cameramen and still photographers when the pope comes here. I invite you to keep checking and for news related to the papal visit. Of course, any urgent announcements requiring the attention of the entire campus community will be sent via e-mail to you.

Dr. James Brennan, provost, has identified those members of the university faculty who will be preparing the site-visit report for our Middle States reaccreditation efforts in the next academic year. The approach of our steering committee will be rather comprehensive and the university community will receive periodic progress reports in Inside CUA and other modes of communication throughout the year. I am especially grateful to Dr. James Greene (School of Arts and Sciences/Biology) and Dr. Shavaun Wall (vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies) for their generosity in taking on the onerous task of serving as co-chairs of the steering committee. On Feb. 26, the provost and I hosted a lunch for all the members of the steering committee to thank them, in advance, for the work that lies ahead of us.

On Feb. 25, I engaged in a conference call with the presidents of the colleges and universities which, with CUA, constitute the NCAA Division III “Landmark Conference.” The topic of the discussion was the initiative being spearheaded by some college presidents outside of the Landmark Conference to create a NCAA “Division IV” or a “Division III A” and “Division III B.” It seems that many more institutions are interested in the approach of Division III athletics than in the past. CUA and all its colleague institutions in the Landmark Conference are vigorously opposed to creating a new division or subdividing the current Division III. We believe it will destroy prospective students’ interest in athletics as one of the incentives to enroll in our schools.

 Speaking of athletics, the spring season is upon us. It seems like only yesterday we were preparing for football, but the spring athletic teams have migrated south to warmer climates to prepare for the upcoming season. I encourage everyone to enjoy the fine spring weather, which I hope is just around the corner, at one of the contests on our athletic fields at the DuFour Center. While our thoughts turn to spring, we shouldn’t forget our winter athletes. Congratulations to freshman basketball player Jason Banzhaf for being named the Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year! We also had a number of winter athletes earn all-conference honors in women’s basketball, swimming and indoor track and field. We salute them and wish our spring athletes good luck!
The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music has done another outstanding job presenting CUA’s annual President’s Festival of the Arts. This year’s theme — Thornton Wilder’s plays and the operas inspired by them — has attracted a great deal of enthusiastic attention in the metropolitan area. I am grateful to Dean Murry Sidlin, Professor Grayson Wagstaff and all our colleagues and students in the music school for their commitment to excellence in music and musical performance here at CUA.

Father O'Connell

March 14 will mark the 10th anniversary of my election as president of CUA. The past decade has been an extraordinary privilege in my life and ministry as a priest. I am grateful to all of those who have shared the journey with me. I look forward to continuing that journey of service to the university with you (rumors of my demise or a move to America’s heartland have been greatly exaggerated!).

Vice President for Development Bob Sullivan and I have been living “out of suitcases” for the past five weeks or so, beating a path around the country — literally from coast to coast — catching up with alumni and donors. The outreach is so important, as is the way it enhances the visibility of the university. Development work is all “relational.” We hope that we can inspire our supporters to even greater generosity.

With spring break upon us, March is a wonderful month for us to reflect, examine our consciences, re-energize and rededicate ourselves to the fundamental values and principles in life. That process will be taking place on a highly academic level at our law school on March 27–30, when the world’s pre-eminent scholars gather to discuss a universal morality for our contemporary world. The symposium is being carried out in response to a request made to me by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in October 2004. I want to express my gratitude to law Professor William Wagner, director of CUA’s Center for Law, Philosophy and Culture, for his extraordinary work in creating this marvelous symposium. It promises to be one of CUA’s finest and most important conferences ever. You can read more about it in this edition of Inside CUA (see “How to Put On a World-Class Symposium”).

This year, Easter occurs on the earliest calendar date possible. It is a feast, a time, a season to celebrate new life — the new life that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Risen Lord. May this year and all its wondrous events be gathered up in the paschal mystery of Easter and truly be for all of us at CUA a source of new life. In the ups and downs of our everyday world, may we be ever mindful of Jesus’ words, “Behold, I am with you always.” Happy Easter and all God’s blessings to you in this beautiful springtime!

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Last Revised 28-Feb-08 03:59 PM.