The Catholic Intellectual Tradition coupled with career-related experiences are a lens to examine self and world: that gives clarity of direction.
What is a 'Catholic' University?
Unlike public institutions of higher education, a Catholic university provides a space where both reason and faith serve the development of the individual. The meeting of faith and reason in the service of the common good produces graduates who are confident, have a clarity about where they are headed, and who enter the world with a purpose.
The Catholic Church played a foundational role in establishing the earliest universities in Europe dating back to the 12th century, and in the United States at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries.
In “The Idea of a University” (1852), John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote that the University “is a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge.”
By the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council began asking Catholic Universities to reflect particularly on what it means to be Catholic in the modern world. This question has perhaps become more urgent in recent decades with the decline of vowed clergy and reliance on lay faculty to sustain Catholic institutions.
Contemporary definitions of ‘the Catholic University’ are shaped by the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “The Heart of the Church,” issued in 1990 by Pope John Paul II, who writes:
“BORN FROM THE HEART of the Church, a Catholic University is located in that course of tradition which may be traced back to the very origin of the University as an institution. It has always been recognized as an incomparable centre of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the good of humanity.”
“In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative.”
(Ex Corde Ecclesiae A.1.14; emphasis added)
I will close with a word from a student and scholar whom I hope you will get to know during your time at Niagara. His name is Antoine Frédéric Ozanam.
“To be a martyr is to give back to heaven all that one has received: his money, his blood, his whole soul.
The offering is in our hands; we can make this sacrifice.
It is up to us to choose to which altars it pleases us to bring it,
to what divinity we will consecrate our youth and the time following, in what temple we will assemble:
at the foot of the idol of egoism, or in the sanctuary of God and humanity.”
There is great power at this university. I ask you to use it in ever more creative ways.
Let us enter together, the sanctuary of humanity.
(Very Rev. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M. during the 2018 Vincentian Heritage Celebrations)
What is Catholic Social Teaching?
Catholic Social Teaching (or CST) is a modern tradition composed of official Church statements on social, political, economic and environmental issues concerned with protecting the dignity and well-being of all persons; promoting just relations within societies; and informing ethical choices that serve in the preservation of the natural world.
What is “the common good”?
The concept of the common good has a long history dating back to ancient Greek philosophy, but in essence its definition is brief. The common good refers to:
“The sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.”
(Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium Et Spes, Pope Paul VI, 1965)
People have access to their own fulfillment when they have the provisions needed for safe and healthy living - food, shelter, and clothing - but also quality education and meaningful jobs, affordable healthcare and trusted childcare.
When all have access to the common good, then all can participate in the common good, creating fair and just relations between individuals.
To learn more about CST, visit Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis: https://www.cctwincities.org/education-advocacy/catholic-social-teaching/
Niagara University and Catholic Social Teaching
Inspired by the works of St. Vincent de Paul and committed to meeting the needs of the 21st century, Niagara University is engaged in research, teaching and service to make a positive impact on the greater society. Niagara's mission is not limited to any one sector of the university. Our pledge is to guide the development of the mind, body, and spirit of all students at the University, and every single person who works here has a part in that. Three current key social initiatives at NU include:
Approximately 1,200 of NU’s NYS students received TAP during the 2015-16 school year, totaling nearly $2,700,000. And 28 percent of our undergraduate students on the Monteagle Ridge campus are PELL eligible, meaning that they come from households that are the most financially challenged. Currently, 98 percent of Niagara's students receive some type of financial assistance. Poverty can strike at any time. When there is a change due to loss of employment, death of a parent, serious medical condition, etc., we encourage the student or parent to contact the Financial Aid Office. The family may be asked to complete a Special Circumstances form. If warranted, the student will be sent a revised financial aid award letter. Poverty is no barrier to a Niagara education.
100% of Niagara University's students are involved with some sort of outreach to the poor and marginalized, most of which is organized and executed through our IMPACT program (formerly Learn and Serve Niagara). IMPACT is a measured approach to instilling in NU students a model of collective impact that creates systemic change through project-based experiential learning. It is a comprehensive and individualized service program that places more emphasis on professional and personal growth versus a model that highlights hours of service: https://www.niagara.edu/impact/
Racism, Diversity, Equity
The work of the Identifying and Dismantling Racial Injustice Task Force report is final and is in the implementation phase. Read the full report here. University updates will appear every two weeks in your niagara.edu email inbox. Keep working and using the resources below.
Racism is a pernicious, complex problem. Universities often talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, access and opportunity too often without applying their strengths. Niagara University's Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality and Mission will uphold the Vincentian mission in our effort to combat racism, and to promote diversity and inclusion on our campus through reflective, targeted research, scholarship, and public engagement.
The Niagara University Office of Multicultural Affairs seeks to engage the Niagara community through events and programming which will highlight and celebrate diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion in order to help support students in an effort to maximize their college experience and empower them to achieve success both academically and personally: https://www.niagara.edu/ma/
A thorough treatment of Catholic and Vincentian theory and practice of leadership for diversity and inclusion can be found here.
In an encyclical entitled “Laudato si,” dated May 24, 2015, Pope Francis denounces global consumerism and unsustainable development which lead to environmental degradation and the ultimate destruction of our planet. Stressing that this is a moral cause, Francis calls on all the world’s Catholics to join the fight against climate change in order to protect the Earth and everyone on it. Niagara University is committed to incorporating sustainability into our campus life. Sustainability is the ability of current generations to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs: https://www.niagara.edu/nu-sustainability-facts/