Impact of global events on University

I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to the entire University community as we begin the 2002-03 academic year. The year has commenced with the welcoming and orientation of our new class, the class of 2006. As always the orientation, planned and executed by our student orientation team, was carried out with consummate skill, warmth and professionalism. This year’s theme appropriately was “Together we unite as Villanova Blue and White.”

Villanova’s sense of unity was never more evident than a year ago when we came together in response to the events of September 11. The Villanova community was directly impacted by those events in the loss of life of many graduates, relatives and friends. Our response as a community was exemplary. As the anniversary of September 11 approaches within the next few weeks, we are planning appropriate events of remembrance and prayer throughout that day. Of course, you will be informed of the schedule of events and be most welcome to participate.

Another terrible crisis carrying over from the previous academic year is the crisis of confidence in the Church flowing from the notorious sexual abuse scandal and its handling by the Church. As a Catholic University it is incumbent upon us to reflect in depth on this crisis and on the surrounding issues in the life, history and structure of the Church, and society for that matter, which may have given rise to the situation we are facing.

During this fall semester the University will sponsor several forums addressing these issues impacting the Church. We will begin on September 17 with a public lecture by Margaret Steinfels, the editor of Commonweal Magazine, entitled “How Did We Get into this Mess.” Ms. Steinfels was one of the prominent lay persons who addressed the Bishops during their widely covered June meeting in Dallas. Subsequently during the semester we have planned four forums dealing respectively with the legal, psycho-sexual, and ecclesial dimensions of the crisis, and finally the media and the politics of the crisis. These four forums are intended not only to inform but to provide opportunity for open discussion and airing of views for our students, faculty and staff.

As terrible and hurtful as this situation has been, I view it as an opportunity for the University and the Church. The word “crisis” suggests that every crisis is a call to decision. A crisis literally is “a decisive moment” or “a turning point.” Responding appropriately to this crisis should entail heightening our consciousness of the Church, its call, its history, its structures and our own call to take responsibility for it. An Augustinian community could do no less!

As we begin this academic year, I invite all of you to join in the pursuit of the highest quality for our University through your academic endeavors and your full participation in the life of the Villanova community.