This morning, many of us attended the inauguration Mass at St. Agnes. It was a beautiful celebration of faith and learning—which, when you think about it, is a good way to describe the promise of our life in community at Bellarmine University: as “A Celebration of Faith and Learning.”
In fact, we sang a hymn this morning that was aptly entitled, Praise the Source of Faith and Learning, and as I sang, the lyrics struck me as an expression of the heroic purpose and the unique value of a liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition. The words seemed to illuminate Bellarmine’s own Latin motto, in veritatis amore, “in the love of truth.”
The second verse of that hymn says:
God of wisdom we acknowledge
that our science and our art
and the breadth of human knowledge
only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation
lies a depth we cannot sound
where your purpose for creation
and the pulse of life are found.
These words, written by Thomas Troeger of the Yale Divinity School and set to the tune of the Welsh hymn Hyfrydol, evoke not just the compatibility of faith and reason, but the necessity of nurturing both in our lives.
It is the perfect hymn for a university like ours—a university teaching at the intersection of the liberal arts and professional studies, and rooted in the Catholic educational tradition—because the lyrics go straight to the heart of our added value.
Our bright students come to us from all faith traditions, and no faith tradition. Our faculty and staff are determined to impart to these young people “science and art, and the breadth of human knowledge.” And we are determined to teach them how to create new knowledge for humankind. But also, yes: We impress upon them the importance of faith, of spiritual life, of ethical behavior, of developing and maintaining a coherent, grounded interior life of honesty, integrity and compassion. …
We help our students find their “purpose” in “the pulse of life,” explore the ultimate questions, and search for truth wherever that search may lead. On a college campus, young people grow up. What kind of adults will they be? At Bellarmine, our mission is to help students “develop the intellectual, moral, ethical and professional competencies” so that they will go forth into the world with “successful living, work, leadership and service to others.”
In our mission statement, the words “moral and ethical” are right there with “intellectual” and “professional.” In today’s world we need “the smartest person in the room” to also be a good person. Seeing to that outcome is a mission worthy of our dedication and our life’s work. …
Bellarmine University and its graduates are deeply engaged in society, working to improve the human condition. And we will not back away from our responsibility toward our neighbors, our city, the region and the world. We will intensify our commitment. We will provide an anchor in the storm of indifference and a beacon of light for our fellow human beings at the margins. This university on the hill will continue to serve as a community of teachers and learners who understand that the liberal arts, professional and graduate education, are the keys that open doors for every person with a Bellarmine education. …
We are fortunate and blessed to work in higher education. We are fortunate and blessed to work on this beautiful campus, with each other and our talented students. We are committed to our mission and to “the good of this place,” where faith and learning flow together. In the words of this morning’s hymn:
As two currents in a river
fight each other’s undertow,
till converging they deliver
one coherent steady flow,
blend, O God, our faith and learning
till they carve a single course,
till they join as one, returning
praise and thanks to you, the Source.
Dr. Susan M. Donovan | firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an excerpt from Dr. Susan M. Donovan’s Oct. 27 Inauguration address. The complete text is here.