The Catholic University of America

Dec. 1, 2015

From the

Entering the Year of Mercy

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Jeanne and I spent Thanksgiving at Nugent Hall. The boiler went out and we sat around space heaters. But it was great to just spend time on campus, especially because November was a month full of travel for me.

On Nov. 18 I went to Rome for a world congress on Catholic education hosted by the Congregation for Catholic Education to mark the major anniversaries of two landmark documents on Catholic education: the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Catholic Education, Gravissimum Educationis, and St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. More than 1,000 participants took part in the congress including our own Dr. John Convey and Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel, professors of education. At the congress, I spoke at the meeting of the European Association for Education Law and Policy. It was interesting to hear about the different challenges facing Catholic schools around the world. Pope Francis addressed the congress on the last day of the meeting, and many of our students at the Rome Center were able to attend.

I also travelled to the West Coast in November to meet with alumni, parents, and supporters of the University in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver. As I mentioned in my last column, we were hosted by Archbishop Gomez in L.A. and Archbishop Aquila in Denver, both members of our Board of Trustees. Next week (Dec. 10) Cardinal Dolan, who is a trustee and alumnus, will host a reception for the School of Business and Economics’s Board of Visitors in New York City. We are fortunate to have trustees committed to the mission of the University who contribute in concrete ways to support our work.

Nov. 14 and 15 I travelled to Baltimore to meet with the U.S. bishops and cardinals during their annual Fall General Assembly. Nearly half of our trustees — 23 of 50 — are American bishops and cardinals. So this meeting was really an opportunity for me to share with the bishops what we are working on at the University and to hear from them how the University can serve the Church today.

On Saturday of the General Assembly, I participated in a symposium hosted by the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) on the connections between building strong families and alleviating poverty. This was a continuation of a conversation between Catholics and African-American evangelical leaders we began in June at the last General Assembly meeting in St. Louis. From the National Catholic School of Social Service to the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, Catholic University has a wealth of expertise to contribute to ending cycles of poverty in our country. Participating in these conversations is a good way to live out the University’s mission of serving the Church and our country through our academic pursuits.

Dec. 14 and 15 the Board of Trustees will meet on campus to discuss plans for the 2016–17 academic year. And on Dec. 15 the 54-member Administrative Council will meet. This will be an opportunity for Provost Andrew Abela and me to share our plans and priorities for the spring semester. The council members can then share this information with their respective schools, departments, and offices.

I have also decided to entrust the Executive Committee of the University’s Administrative Council (18 members) with the responsibility for serving as the new steering committee for the Strategic Plan. As you may recall, the Strategic Plan, which was confirmed by the Board of Trustees in December 2011, was the outcome of more than a year-long deliberative process. Since the plan took effect in January 2012, we have made much progress in advancing its four strategic goals and implementing its 200-plus action items. To continue the momentum in implementing the plan over its remaining six years the Executive Committee of the Administrative Council will monitor progress of all the plan’s elements and provide input in cases where modifications might be in order. As appropriate, the council may recommend the establishment of an ad hoc committee to address one or another aspect of the plan’s implementation. Issues related to the University’s Strategic Plan may be referred to the full Administrative Council, which meets four times a year.

I am happy to report that our searches for several leadership positions are progressing well. Christopher Lydon, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, has found several promising candidates for the associate vice president for marketing and communications and executive director of university communications. This month we will also be bringing four candidates for the position of vice president for finance and treasurer to campus for in-person interviews.

This month we will begin two construction projects on campus. We will begin renovating University Advancement’s new office space on the second floor of Father O’Connell Hall. The renovations will be completed this spring. This month we will also begin construction on Murphy’s, the new campus gathering place, in the bookstore’s old home on the first floor of the Pryzbyla Center. Bids for this project are expected to be in on Dec. 7 and the first phase of construction will begin Dec. 14. We expect Murphy’s to open this summer.

Sunday marked the beginning of the Advent season. We have several upcoming events to help us prepare for and celebrate Christmas. Our annual Christmas Concert for Charity, a joint production of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Choir, will take place in the Great Upper Church on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. Dr. Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music and director of choral studies and the Institute of Sacred Music, has been directing the Christmas concert since its inception 26 years ago. This year’s concert will be his last. He will retire at the end of this academic year. I hope you will join us to mark the occasion. And I encourage you to come early for the annual tree lighting in the Pryzbyla Center atrium at 5:30 p.m that same day.

Last year's Christmas Concert for Charity

This year it fell to the University to choose the charitable organization we will support with the funds raised at the concert. I am delighted to announce that we have chosen the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, a religious order of sisters dedicated to catechesis, medical care for the poor, and education. In addition to the work they do in the Holy Land, Albania, Argentina, Haiti, India, and other locations around the world, the sisters have a mission here in Brookland, where they serve our neighbors. I am grateful to Father Jude and Emmjolee Mendoza Waters for recommending the sisters to us.

Christmas festivities won’t be confined to campus. The University will be hosting Christmas parties for our alumni and supporters around the country. Dec. 2 and 3, I will attend alumni Christmas parties in Pittsburgh and Chicago. We will also have alumni Christmas parties in Philadelphia (Dec. 9), New York City (Dec. 9), Boston (Dec. 10), and here in D.C. (Dec. 15). Our University Christmas party is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 21.

As the fall semester wraps up, we have much to look forward to in the spring. Let me mention just three events coming up. First, the Martin Luther King Day of Service will take place on Monday, Jan. 18. Last year more than 700 students, faculty, and staff participated in our Day of Service. Let’s try to top that this year.

Second, Catholic University has been selected to lead the March for Life on Jan. 22. Each year hundreds of our students, faculty, and staff participate in the march and volunteer to help us host hundreds of high school students from around the country at the DuFour Center the night before the March. Leading the march highlights the commitment to human dignity that guides so much of our work.

Finally, we have named Friday, April 15, as University Research Day. On that day classes will be cancelled (in all schools except the law school). Students who would usually have classes that day will be given assignments related to the research sessions that will occur in various venues around campus. A committee chaired by Dr. Melissa Grady of NCSSS will be meeting soon to embark on planning for the day. It is fitting that University Research Day will occur only a few days after we celebrate the University’s founding day (April 10). As you all know, The Catholic University of America was founded as a research institution. University Research Day will underscore the centrality of research to our mission and our identity.

Congratulations to our women's soccer team for making it to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. I am always impressed by the fact that our student-athletes are not only gifted athletes. They are committed students. This year 62 Catholic University student-athletes were named to the Landmark Conference’s 2015 Fall Academic Honor Roll. Congratulations to them as well.

On a personnel note, this past summer I promoted our Director of Public Safety Thomasine Johnson. Her new title is Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management. I know you will join me in congratulating Tommie on this change in rank. She does a wonderful job for us. I am happy that I am able to acknowledge her service in this small way.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 marks the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In conjunction with basilica churches around the world, our chancellor Cardinal Wuerl will open a holy door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the noon Mass on Dec. 8. The holy door will remain open throughout the Year of Mercy as a visible representation of the mercy of God available to all.

Campus Ministry will open the Year of Mercy with a campus-wide Evening of Reconciliation on Monday, Dec. 7. There will be an Advent penance service that evening at 7:30 p.m. in Caldwell Chapel with the opportunity for individual confession. There will also be Advent residence hall confessions on Dec. 7 from 8 to 10 p.m. More than 20 priests will be hearing confessions in each residence hall. I hope this year will be for the University community an “extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal,” as Pope Francis has envisioned it.

I wish you a blessed and peace-filled Christmas.