On April 27, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were canonized Saints of the Catholic Church. A number of Catholic college presidents have reflected on what this historic event means for their institutions and for the Catholic Church throughout the world.
Franciscan University of Steubenville President Fr. Sean Sheriden, TOR, led a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonizations. He stated:
For us as Catholics, the naming of a saint is about something intimately related to all that we believe. It's a chance to celebrate holiness embodied in the life of another human being. On this pilgrimage we will be celebrating the holiness of two popes!
At an institution named after one of the newly canonization popes—John Paul the Great Catholic University—President Dr. Derry Connolly reflected on how the beloved pope inspired the University. He stated:
In his apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990), John Paul II proposed that the impact especially “of the mass media on persons, the family, and the institutions and whole of modem culture be studied deeply”. He urged the Catholic University to “become more attentive to the cultures of the world of today, to promote a continuous and beneficial dialogue between the Gospel and modern society.
He lists criteria that characterize the “values of a culture: the meaning of the human person, his or her liberty, dignity, sense of responsibility, openness to the transcendent, and the preeminent value of the family, the primary unit of every human culture”. A Catholic University, “aware that human culture is open to Revelation and transcendence, is a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture”.
John Paul the Great Catholic University thus seeks to deeply “discern and evaluate both the aspirations and the contradictions of our culture”, in order to make positive contributions to our modern cultures – to truly Impact Culture for Christ. While the Gospel transcends all cultures, “the Kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men and women who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the Kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures.”
Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis said, “We have been called the flagship college of the New Evangelization and we owe our thriving faith life to the inspiration of soon to be Saint John Paul.” He stated a number of ways that the University has been inspired by Pope John Paul II:
• In 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited Altoona, Iowa, Stephen Minnis and other students visited from Atchison,Kansas. The visit made a big impression.
• In 1990, Pope John Paul II promulgated Ex corde Ecclesiae, the transformative Apostolic Constitution governing Catholic colleges and universities.
• In 1993, Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day in Denver was pivotal to many vocations — including Father Brendan Rolling, OSB, the Benedictine College chaplain who built its College Ministry program and Abbot James Albers, OSB, the abbot who this year consecrated Benedictine College to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
• Other Benedictine College administrators trace their enthusiasm about the faith to encounters with John Paul II in his 1987 trip to California and his 1999 trip to St. Louis.
• The college’s landmark document Benedictine 2020: A Vision for Greatness defines its academic goals by quoting John Paul: “As a Catholic college, we consider faith and reason as ‘two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.’ [John Paul II, Fides et Ratio]”
Christendom College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell said that the College is rejoicing “at the elevation of these two outstanding popes to sanctity.” He stated:
A unique charism of Christendom is our devotion, not only to the Holy See, but also to the person of Holy Father… In a special way we are honoring the memory of Pope John XXIII, since the college itself is a fruit of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which he called. Pope John Paul the Great happened to be the pope for almost the entire history of our college and he always showed special solicitude for the work of the college.
…With the entire universal church, we rejoice at the elevation of these two outstanding popes to sanctity.
Additionally, the president of the University of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., believes that their “canonizations could not come at a more propitious time.” He said:
On Sunday, (April 27) we at the University of Notre Dame will join with millions the world over in celebrating the lives of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Their canonizations could not come at a more propitious time. The rich teachings of the Vatican Council, convened by the former, stirred the evangelization of the latter. In Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII said plainly that, “nuclear weapons must be banned,” and Pope John Paul II inspired the collapse of tyranny without a shot being fired. Nuclear weapons still threaten annihilation, and tyrannical regimes still threaten neighbors. In their mutual witness to the Risen Lord in a fallen world, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II have become true prophets of our time, and we gratefully invoke them as such.”
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