What makes a Vincentian campus Vincentian? This was the question Fr. Gregory Gay, CM addressed in his presentation at Niagara University the day before the installation of Fr. James Maher, CM as 26th President of Niagara University.
His answer “Hard work and Sheer Joy”
Although written in the context of high education it offers insights for any Vincentian Family institution.
So it is fitting that this edition of Saturday Study Hall the series exploring the resources of the Vincentian Encyclopedia offers this talk “Hard Work and Sheer Joy: Toward a Vincentian Campus Culture”.
Some thought starters…
My starting point is an age-old truth: that after all the teaching and learning, the goal of a Catholic and Vincentian education is to draw one out of the secure setting of classroom and campus to encounter the world of the poor and those on the margins of society. When undertaking this endeavor, one will experience disorientation, confrontation, formation, and ultimately, transformation.
Let me share with you four key points I believe are crucial in developing a Vincentian campus culture:
First, Vincentian colleges and universities should, according to local circumstances, admit and promote the development of the poor. In accord with the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, all students should be imbued with sensitivity for the poor.
Second, that they be places where Catholic intellectual, moral, and social traditions are taught in their great richness to the next generation, seeking to nourish the gift of faith;
Third, that they always serve the poor by providing access to higher education for poor and marginalized students to attend these institutions, and that they direct the expertise of faculty and energy of their students to the service of the poor;
Fourth, that they develop a distinctive Vincentian theology of service, and include reflection on the encounter with Christ in the midst of the experience of service.
In summing up my thoughts, let me return to my first premise on what happens when one first enters into the world of the poor; namely, the stages of disorientation, confrontation, formation, and ultimately, transformation. While this may seem unsettling or even threatening, it is true. However, this occasion is also one where God’s grace can do wonders, breaking down barriers, helping us to affirm our common humanity, and put aside outward differences of race, class, gender, ethnic, and religion. That is why I discussed St. Vincent de Paul in such detail. He developed a spirituality of service, based on seeing Christ in the poor and the poor in Christ. Despite his many activities and the accomplishments, Vincent was a “mystic of charity.”
You and I may never reach the same level of achievement, selfless service, or mysticism of St. Vincent. But we can try, can’t we? Niagara University is the place where this wonderful ‘labor of love’ can begin, grow, and lead us more deeply into the beauty and mystery of learning how to serve the poor in Christ. I will close with a proverb summarizing our Vincentian charism:
“I slept peacefully, and dreamt that life was sheer joy.
I awoke suddenly, and discovered that life was hard work.
I served my neighbor faithfully, and behold!
Hard work became sheer joy”
In doing the hard work of promoting and living a Vincentian campus culture, may you experience the sheer joy of what it means to be truly Vincentian in thought, word, and deed!
See the accompanying Powerpoint