Notre Dame President Outlines Schools' Duty

Father John Jenkins on the Role of Catholic Universities

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana, SEPT. 30, 2005 ( The University of Notre Dame’s new president says he is committed to uniting and integrating “two indispensable and wholly compatible strands of higher learning: academic excellence and religious faith.”

“This is no easy mission,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, 51, in his inaugural address Sept. 23 to a crowd of 4,000 students, faculty, staff and spectators at a convocation ceremony.

“But its difficulty is not our concern; we did not create the mission, and we cannot change it,” he said. “The word ‘mission’ derives from the Latin root ‘missus’ — which means “sent.” We have been sent to seek God, study the world, and serve humanity.”

Notre Dame’s 17th president used the words of Pope John Paul II as the foundation of his remarks on Catholic education.

“What is the role of a Catholic university? Pope John Paul II wrote that our proper activity is — and I quote — ‘Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better,'” Father Jenkins said.

“We have not just an opportunity, but a duty to think and speak and act in ways that will guide, inspire, and heal — not just for followers of the Catholic faith, but for all our neighbors in the nation and the world.”

Tackle faith issues

Father Jenkins stressed that the world needs universities that tackle faith issues with reverence and critical discussion; contribute to the sciences and the field of bioethics; address poverty and human suffering; and foster men and women who are a capable, knowledgeable and committed to serving others.

He added, “The Catholic Church needs a university whose scholars can help pass on its intellectual tradition, even as they address the challenges and the opportunities the Church faces in this century.”

Father Jenkins, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, succeeds Holy Cross Father Edward Malloy as president.

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