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July, 2019

   Father O'Connell at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.

This edition of Inside CUA is being published a day early, on March 31. On April 1, CUA will be closed as we begin the Triduum, the three days leading up to the most important day on the Catholic calendar — the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. It’s a wonderful way to begin one of the most beautiful months of the year in our nation’s capital. I hope that all of you will find time to step back from your everyday cares and from all the bad news that bombards us every day to reflect on what matters most in life and the purpose each of us serves on this earth.

As I mentioned in last month’s column, Provost James Brennan and I spent about a week in mid-March traveling in Europe — first to a symposium in Ghent, Belgium, sponsored by our longtime academic collaborators the Brothers of Charity, and then on to Rome. The purpose of the latter visit was to meet with Vatican officials. This is something we do annually as a papally chartered university. Without doubt the highlight of the European trip was the opportunity to see Pope Benedict XVI again and to chat with him briefly in St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father recalled his visit to CUA in April 2008 with great fondness.

During our stay in Rome, I took delight in having dinner with our CUA students who are spending a semester there. I wish I could trade places with them! If you’re interested in reading more on the European trip, go to

The day after returning to CUA from Rome, I hopped aboard another plane and headed to Rapid City, S.D., where I gave the "The Palm Sunday Address" at the annual Palm Sunday Brunch for Catholic Social Services. Seven hundred and fifty people attended this event. While in the Black Hills, Bishop Blase Cupich, a CUA alumnus, took me on a tour of Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. It was fantastic! On Saturday evening, CUA trustee Ray Hillenbrand hosted a dinner for the parents of CUA students from the Diocese of Rapid City. He is one incredibly generous and supportive trustee!

Hopefully, I’ll be done traveling for a while. And that’s a good thing, because the week beginning Sunday, April 11, will be an unusually busy one. On that day, an external team of 10 evaluators working on behalf of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education arrives to kick off its four-day accreditation visit. During their visit to campus, the evaluators will be talking to faculty, staff, administrators and students about the university. Universities get evaluated for reaccreditation every 10 years and this year it’s our turn. I look forward to the evaluators’ visit because I think we have a great story to tell them about the many ways in which CUA has moved forward since the last accreditation occurred a decade ago.

Father O'Connell delivers "The Palm Sunday Address" at an annual brunch for Catholic Social Services in Rapid City, S.D. (Photo by Laurie Hallstrom, West River Catholic.)

Soon after we say goodbye to the Middle States team, we’ll be preparing to welcome a much larger but much younger “team of evaluators” – our newly admitted undergraduate students. We expect to have more than 600 of them come, along with their parents, to our annual Odyssey Day on Friday, April 16. This is always an important day, not just for the admitted students but for CUA as well. Many students and their parents come to momentous decisions that day about which university they will attend. We have been splendid hosts in years past and I am confident that everyone on campus will pull together once again to demonstrate the great education and experience that CUA provides its students.

On the day after Odyssey Day, April 17, we will host our annual Alumni Achievement Awards luncheon in the Pryz. As always, we have a distinguished cast of awardees. I wish our admitted students could stay an extra day to witness examples of the success stories CUA produces. You can check them out by going to

And then I will get on a plane once again, for a very important reason. On Friday, April 24, I will be in Atlanta for the 21st American Cardinals Dinner, the scholarship fundraiser for CUA students. This year, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, a member of our Board of Trustees, was kind enough to host the fundraiser.

God Bless all of you during this Holy Week and always!

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Last Revised 30-Mar-10 03:14 PM.