April 15, 2011

Presidents of Catholic Universities Come Together to Close Symposium

Thomas Keefe, president of University of Dallas

Rev. Borys Gudziak, rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, said he came to CUA's symposium on intellect and virtue "very consciously. We wanted to lend our voice from Ukraine to the reflection on Catholic education. CUA can and should play a leading role in the direction of Catholic universities in the world and I am glad to see the University reaching out within the United States and to the international community of Catholic universities."

Father Gudziak was one of 10 distinguished presidents of Catholic universities from around the world who served on an advisory panel put together by President John Garvey as he planned the two-day symposium hosted by Catholic University on April 11 and 12. Five of those presidents were on hand Tuesday to bring the proceedings to a fitting conclusion by taking part in a roundtable discussion.

As the first at the podium during the roundtable discussion, Father Gudziak drew laughter when he said, "We have been fortunate in Ukraine. We had nothing. So we had nothing to lose." Ukrainian Catholic University is less than a decade old.

"And that has allowed us to be free to do what the Lord has called us do," he said.

His young university has been bold in its efforts, he added. In a country where Catholicism has a legacy of martyrdom, where bishops and clergy have been arrested and suppressed, Father Gudziak said his university is "embracing the cross and the resurrection by inviting the poor and disenfranchised into our university." He said that by being courageous, they have stood up to those in power.

"There is no circumstance in which we cannot be free to live spiritually," said Father Gudziak.

In his remarks, Rev. Terrence Henry, T.O.R., president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, said, "Today, Catholic education is presented with an historic opportunity to play an unprecedented role in the struggle for human freedom and dignity, and in providing a person with a reliable tool to measure the value of a person's actions."

He added that the mission of Catholic education "can only succeed if is united with an integral part of the mission of the Catholic Church. There is no greater voice in the world today that champions the cause of authentic human freedom and human dignity more than the Catholic Church."

Thomas Keefe, president of the University of Dallas, noted that the "witness to Catholic faith [during the symposium] has been joyful and meaningful."

He said that "every Catholic university I have worked for has had a profound effect on its students."

He urged the educators in the room to "make sure their students know they are loved and cared for. They will respect themselves if they know others respect them."

Rev. Brian Shanley, president of Providence College; Rev. Johan Yeong-Sik Pahk, president of The Catholic University of Korea; Rev. Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Rev. Borys Gudziak, rector of Ukrainian Catholic University

Rev. Johan Yeong-Sik Pahk, president of The Catholic University of Korea, said he was honored to be invited to the symposium and to share the story of his university. He said his university strives to "uphold Catholic identity in a secular age while staying true to the mission of higher learning."

Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., president of Providence College, told the audience that CUA is a "place I love. I spent 18 years in the shadow of this University as a student and faculty member."

He added "CUA gets it right in making commitment to the University's mission part of faculty tenure." And he urged other Catholic universities to encourage such commitment among its faculty.

Father Shanley said, "Students are more anxious than ever before. They need to hear "fear not.' They are unsure about their place in the world. They need to be reminded that Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid.'"

Following the remarks of each university president, they fielded questions from the audience. The end of the roundtable discussion was also the end of the two-day symposium. As host, President Garvey had the last word of the day, using the opportunity to thank the participants and audience.

He said all who participated were the "most wonderful, heartwarming people - interesting intellectuals who have shared how faith plays into their lives."


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