A university is always a work in progress, always changing and always adapting itself to the world around it. The search for truth — which is the university's reason for being — is inexhaustible this side of heaven. There is always more to discover, more to learn, more to know. Such discoveries are the contributions that a university makes to the world and to the development and growth of its people.
A Catholic university, of course, searches for truth aided by reason — that's what makes it a university — but also motivated by faith and God's revelation — that's what makes it Catholic. When one seeks truth prompted by reason and inspired by faith, one cannot help but meet God along the way. In that meeting, one also sees in the world God's creative hand at work. Humankind, God's greatest work, then assumes a beauty, a nobility, a dignity and a purpose — not simply because we see it but because God created us that way. It's there already, waiting to be discovered and shared. And, so, it becomes a logical consequence of our search for truth prompted by reason and inspired by faith that we love and care for one another as the work of God's hands. It just makes sense to the reasoning mind and the faith-filled heart. Reason. Faith. Service.
It is not accidental that these three words have become a motto of sorts for The Catholic University of America. They are, after all, what we “do” here and we “do” them because they flow from our Catholic identity. In my observation over these past 12 years as President of The Catholic University of America, we “do” them very well.
As I reflect upon my tenure and service at the helm of the national university of the Catholic Church in our country, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for what we are and have become — thanks to the dedication, commitment and hard work of so many people here — and for the many lives we have touched in so many ways over the years.
That I have had the privilege of serving as the 14th President of The Catholic University of America is an experience that I shall treasure as long as I live. That I have had the opportunity to share in and witness so much accomplished at The Catholic University of America is a memory that will never fade. That I have come to know so many extraordinary, loving people in service of one another and of those who come to us seeking truth through reason, faith and service, has changed my life forever. I am grateful to God, to the Church and to all of you.
It is, therefore, with a grateful heart that I inform you of my decision to step down as President of The Catholic University of America in this 12th year of my service. I shared this decision with the Board of Trustees in June so that the university could make appropriate succession plans and begin the search process. Our goal is to have a new president in place by Sept. 1, 2010. Information about the search process will be communicated as soon as possible.
I am not a believer in the idea of "lame ducks" nor do I have any interest in a “long wake,” Irish or otherwise. There is much that needs to be done this year and my attention is firmly fixed and focused on this "work in progress" and will remain so until my service is completed at the end of next August. And, so, let us continue to work together with confidence and joy. The Catholic University of America is in the best shape it has ever been and, thanks to all of you, its future is even brighter! God bless you and all who are or will be part of this wonderful university community.
Respectfully and with deep affection,
Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M.