IFCU General Assembly - Keynote Address - Contribution of Catholic Higher Education in a Changing World Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, s.j.
In his keynote address, Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, s.j., President of Loyola University Chicago, reflected on the current state of Catholic Higher Education and on the challenges we face to fulfill the vision expressed in Gravissimum Educationis and Ex Corde Ecclesiae, on the anniversary celebration of these two documents (respectively 50 and 25 years).
In the first place, he specifically addressed the issue of academic quality, reminding the audience that Gravissimum Educationis urged us to build institutions of quality that could bring to the Church and the World something unique and different from what secular institutions can offer.
Catholic institutions, just as in the broader world of academic institutions, come in a variety of sizes and shapes. In a growing number of places, they not only serve local and national needs but have also become recognized for their international and global reach. Despite our unique, local mission and the range of our academic offerings, we are all subject to a growing consensus of what constitutes real “academic quality”. Most often it is measured by the standing of the students admitted, the credentials of the faculty, often, the success of graduates in placement exams and jobs.
But Gravissimum Educationis and Ex Corde Ecclesiae call us to something more. The genuinely Catholic institution has two additional characteristics. First, fidelity to the Church’s vision of higher education requires a conscientious effort to form students in mind and heart, character and spirit, that is, the whole person. The second characteristic is that a Catholic institution must be an instrument of service and must become a community dedicated to this purpose.
In the second place, another important matter was addressed by Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, s.j.: the need for Catholic higher education institutions to become more explicit with regard to what constitutes the unique offering of the Catholic university to the world of scholarship.
He referred to an article of Fr. John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame who asks if Catholic universities can claim “there is a unique ‘Catholic approach’ to the issues of the day, a Catholic way of proceeding in academic studies, if we can claim that a Catholic university brings something new and unique and needed to the academy”. Jenkins and others answer affirmatively and point to the clear and distinctive treasury that is our Catholic intellectual heritage. Catholic values and teachings, with their deep theological roots, today guide us and distinguish us in our service to society and promotion of the greater good.
As a conclusion, Fr. Garanzini stated that, if we clearly have made considerable progress towards realizing the dream of the Council Fathers, there is yet much work to do, but that we should not be discouraged as higher education becomes more competitive, as our institutions have something unique and needed to offer. He believes the next constitutive document (as Ex Corde Ecclesiae is) should not come from the Church, but from Catholic institutions themselves, as they might more clearly, resolutely and precisely claim the principles guiding their intellectual project.