From the President:
Siena Heights: This is Holy Ground
The University’s theme for this academic year is Contemplation and Action. This year’s Common Dialogue Day is entitled, “Get Some Perspective,” which grew out of the Contemplation and Action theme.
I have a little picture in my office with a line from Psalm 46 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still, and know, experience, that I am God. This is what I have come to know as contemplation
in my life as a Dominican.
St. Catherine of Siena called it creating your inner cell. Be still, and go to that place within you where God is and speaks Truth to your heart. That truth that flows from contemplation must be shared with our world, and, I believe, that’s when we are compelled to act. Thus, we can see the relationship between contemplation and action.
But what does all of this mean to us as a Dominican higher education institution? We live in a very busy world where we are bombarded with things that distract us. How do we overcome these distractions and spend quiet time to contemplate and reflect on all that goes on around us?
Contemplation can truly influence our perspectives on things. Let me give you an example. The University recently made a statement about those coming across our borders, offering to assist to educate those who may be college-ready, but also challenging our government leaders to act in a responsible, compassionate way.
My prayer and contemplation focused on the dignity and sacredness of all life. After that experience, I knew that we, as an institution, dedicated to peace and to truth, must act. After speaking with others, they affirmed that decision. So you can see how contemplation and action work together.
But it can happen in just everyday situations as well. When a student has done something wrong, do we perceive them as a thorn in our sides, or as a person who may be experiencing difficulty and needs our assistance?
When we hear constructive criticism, do we immediately get defensive, or do we try to listen with an open mind and heart and make changes to improve?
Are we quick to make judgments about people before we understand what they are perhaps going through?
As the President of Siena Heights University, when I prepare for class or a presentation, do I look at many different perspectives on the topic or do I just give my own?
I would challenge you to ask yourself similar questions. I believe contemplation gives us new eyes with which to see, new ears with which to hear, new hearts with which to understand and new spirits with which to love. As a Dominican university, this is what we are called to do. This is our heritage, this is our tradition, this is our Mission.
When I think about Siena, the main campus as well as our off-campus and online sites, I know where we stand is holy ground. This is holy ground. This is holy ground that holds the goodness of God’s creation, its people, its beauty and its possibilities. Where we walk is holy ground. The footprints we create today lay the foundation for the future.
My prayer for this year is that we take the time to contemplate so that we will be moved to action that will make profound differences in the lives of our students, in the lives of each other and in the life of our world.
May the God of love continue to bless us abundantly and move our hearts to new places where we have never been before.
Be still, and know that I am God. May God bless us all!
Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD