The Catholic University of America

Oct. 1, 2014

From the

A Busy Fall

  Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, shown at right at a September conference co-sponsored by the School of Business and Economics.

Summer is officially over and fall weather arrived right on schedule in Washington, though it’s probably a more temperate version than our students from Boston and Chicago are accustomed to. In any event it’s a wonderful time of year to walk around campus.

September was a busy month. On Sept. 12, 258 freshmen and 45 student ministers, retreat leaders, and support staff traveled to northeast Maryland for the Freshman Retreat. Jeanne and I joined the students on Saturday night. It was wonderful to see so many freshmen taking advantage of this opportunity for reflection, the sacraments, and fellowship.

In last month’s column I previewed the 15th International Congress of Canon Law, which met at the University Sept. 17–21. More than 250 canon and civil lawyers came from around the world to the congress, which was held for the first time on U.S. soil and sponsored by our School of Canon Law and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). There was a strong international flavor to the event, which had simultaneous interpreters for English, Spanish, and Italian in booths at the back of the Pryzbyla Center Great Room.

A week later (Sept. 24-26) the Great Room was the venue for a somewhat smaller but equally important meeting. The School of Business and Economics and the Napa Institute co-sponsored a conference entitled Liberty and Solidarity: Living the Vocation to Business for academic, business, and Church leaders. EWTN taped the presentations for airing at a later date.

Both conferences fit nicely the first two goals of the University’s Strategic Plan: “Promote the distinctive Catholic culture of the University” and “Strengthen academic excellence.” I applaud the organizers from both schools for their initiative. Compliments are also due to our Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, which continues to be active in sponsoring events on topics of current concern. Today (Oct. 1) it is sponsoring a program on the morality of money and politics with the Franciscan Action Network. In November it will co-sponsor a conference on restorative justice with several other organizations, including the USCCB. I encourage us as a community to look for opportunities to do more of the same.

Kurt Martens, associate professor of canon law, speaks at the 15th International Congress of Canon Law. (Photo by Sister Nancy Bauer, O.S.B.)

Today Theological College begins a celebration of its annual Alumni Days. This year’s event is a special one. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of the death of Theodore Basselin, who established an endowment for gifted seminarians to get a rigorous education in philosophy. The college is marking the occasion with the publication of Basselins of Theological College: Memoirs, a chronicle that spans 75 years of Theological College and Catholic University history.

I am travelling more than usual this fall. At the end of September I went to Salt Lake City to meet with leaders in the Hispanic community at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National Convention. The purpose of the meeting was for me to introduce Catholic University to these business leaders and to learn from them how the University can more effectively welcome and support Hispanic students. Now I am in Seoul, South Korea, to speak on Oct. 2 about “The Changing American Family” at the fourth Bernard Wonkil Lee International Forum for Catholic Humanism at the Catholic University of South Korea. President Johan Yeong-Sik Pahk came to CUA in 2011 to speak at a symposium during my inaugural year. I’m delighted to now return the visit. On Oct. 21 I will travel to Houston to give the address at the Red Mass for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. My topic will be the role faith can play in the everyday work of a lawyer.

I will be sorry to miss the Columbus School of Law’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Law School Building’s dedication on Oct. 1, and the Bozzuto Group’s grand opening of Monroe Street Market on Oct. 2.

But I am looking forward to taking part in the festivities of Cardinal Weekend Oct. 16–19. It’s going to be a packed weekend. This year we welcome back members of the classes of years ending in 4 and 9 (from 1964 through 2009) for reunions. On Oct. 17 we will dedicate Father O’Connell Hall. Bishop O’Connell will be with us for the occasion. I hope you’ll come by to see the building’s newest improvements and renovations — including the Great Hall, now renamed Heritage Hall. Over the course of the weekend we will host a series of events for life-long donors to the University.

Returning alumni will also have the opportunity to enjoy the newly renovated Hartke Theatre that weekend. The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will stage its production of the musical Carousel, beginning Oct. 17 and running through Oct. 26.

I want to congratulate two members of our faculty for recent significant achievements. At the end of August the National Science Foundation awarded Professor Venigalla Rao, director of the Center for Advanced Training in Cell and Molecular Biology, a $600,000 grant for advancing his Bacteriophage T-4 research. Professor Rao’s proposal received the highest ranking of 73 proposals from the NSF’s panel of molecular biosciences. In September, Professor Thérèse-Anne Druart from the School of Philosophy received the prestigious Marianist Award from the University of Dayton for her scholarly contributions to the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Last week the University’s Board of Trustees met and renewed my appointment as President of The Catholic University of America. I have been deeply grateful to serve the University. I look forward to continuing to work with the faculty, students, staff, and alumni in the years to come. As I wrote in a recent article, for Jeanne and me, the University is truly home.