From the President:
What Is God Calling You To Do?
Warm greetings to all of you! The beginning of this traditional academic year held many blessings for us as a Catholic, Dominican University.
First of all, our chosen theme for this year is “Justice,” which comes forth from our Catholic, Dominican traditions. And how timely this theme is in relation to the visit of Pope Francis! Surrounded by all the excitement of his visit, he remains a simple, holy man. I was touched by his kindness, warm human gestures, his prayerfulness and his call for all of us to live our lives in a just way.
Justice calls us to take a look at our own lives and to see how we are positively or negatively affecting the common good of all God’s people. How does what I do affect how other people live? Am I concerned about the poor and the marginalized and the systems that keep people in those boxes, or do I move out of my own comfort zone to make a difference? This is a question all of us have to answer individually.
As president of this fine University, we also have a responsibility to educate and instill in our students a sense of social justice. We can do that through Catholic Social Teaching and our Dominican values.
We also need to provide opportunities for students to engage with the poor and marginalized. We do this through our Siena Serves program, which is based on service to those in need.
We also have an obligation to point out to students the connections among personal prayer, communal and liturgical prayer and service, which flows from those experiences. It is not enough to just pray, although extremely important. We must also act. In our Dominican language, we give to others the fruit of our contemplation.
Each year before our freshmen begin their experience at Siena, they must read a book chosen by a committee of faculty and staff – and come prepared to discuss it. This year’s read was “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. It speaks to the lack of justice in the South in our criminal justice system.
We were most fortunate to have the author on our campus to speak to all of us on Common Dialogue Day, an annual tradition where we cancel classes and have presentations around a theme, this year being justice.
What a remarkable man! One of the points Stevenson strongly emphasized was that we had to be in “proximity” to the poor and the marginalized to understand their situation and be moved to do something. In addition, we have to change the “narrative” that we have been using in order to effect change.
It has given me great cause to reflect upon all of these elements in order to make a difference in our world. As Dominicans, we must constantly reflect, pray and be transformed ourselves in order to be transformative in our world.
So, I challenge all of us, alumni, students, faculty, staff—all of us—to take a look at ourselves as individuals and as a university community, and ponder what it is that God is calling us to do. Only then, can we deepen our sense of mission and identity.
May we all have the commitment and courage to do so.
Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD