The Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Washington, DC, has recently expanded into Divine Mercy University, including a new School of Counseling. To learn about the university’s history and future, ZENIT spoke to Fr. Charles Sikorsky, the institution’s president.
ZENIT: What is the significance of the name ‘Divine Mercy University’?
Fr. Sikorsky: Mental health, emotional and relational issues are on the rise, due in large part to the growing secularism in the world with its accompanying spiritual and moral emptiness. A vast majority of those suffering from these problems are not getting help, many because they either fear coming forward or they cannot find professional help that is respectful of their religious faith and values.
For the past 16 years, The Institute for the Psychological Sciences has made tremendous progress in integrating the Catholic-Christian vision of the person and its value system into mental health care. We have seen tremendous good and healing come from the work of our alumni, faculty and student body and we feel called to do more. We believe that we have an “institutional vocation,” if you will, to reach out as far as possible to help heal so much of the brokenness that plagues humanity. We studied how best to spread our work and saw the need for a School of Counseling and also the opportunity to reach many folks who could only study online. By adding an additional school, we became a university.
In choosing the name Divine Mercy University, we were looking for a name that fits with our mission. The essence of that mission is both a spiritual work of mercy (counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant) and a call to mission. There is a problem, we are called to do something about it, and above all, we are called to do so in a loving and merciful way. Since Vatican II, the Church has constantly been emphasizing the need to be missionary and merciful. As a Catholic institution we take that to heart.
ZENIT: How is this relevant to today’s world?
Fr. Sikorsky: You might say we are living in the Millennium of Mercy. While it is providential that we are launching the new university during the Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, we should not forget that Saint John Paul II instituted the liturgical feast of Divine Mercy back in the Jubilee Year of 2000. The theme of mercy is deeply connected to his pontificate as is his emphasis on the centrality of the human person – both of these are fundamental to our work. As he said many times, the central problem facing humanity today is an anthropological problem: we need to understand the true nature, dignity and destiny of the human person. Over the past 16 years, these truths have been woven into our curriculum in a way that takes nothing away from the best that empirical and natural science can offer – in fact, we are convinced that they only enhance science. As we expand in response to society’s growing needs, Divine Mercy University will challenge the world with the truths about the human person not in a confrontational or defensive way, but with a zeal fueled by compassion, empathy and respect. To me, that’s a work of mercy.
ZENIT: What will we see in the future of Divine Mercy University?
Fr. Sikorsky: This is a time of outreach, expansion and consolidation for the University. Pope Francis has repeatedly called the Church to go outside of itself and build new connections to the hurting, to be a “field hospital after battle.” Responding to that call, we are going out to reach more students through online education and expanding into new fields so that we are able to bring the insights we have about the human person to a larger audience. At the same time, we believe the expansion will serve to strengthen our existing programs and what we offer to our on campus students.
Our first step was to create a new School of Counseling in order to offer degrees in that growing and important field. Thus, we will begin with two schools within Divine Mercy University: the School of Psychology, which will continue to be called The Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS), and the School of Counseling. Our first degree in Counseling will be available online and in the fall of 2016. We have received many requests from across the country and around the world for such a program, and it will be accessible to anyone, no matter where they are located. We are excited that it is now possible to join us from anywhere in order to become an instrument of God’s mercy.
ZENIT: How will the impact of the alumni change with the launch of the new university?
Fr. Sikorsky: Our current alumni, who have done so many extraordinary things, will continue to build on all the good they have been doing. Over time, our alumni will have a greater impact both in the extension of their reach into the field of counseling and from their presence in many additional dioceses, states and countries. Throughout our history, IPS alumni have solidified and strengthened the institution and the mission that we stand for. As Divine Mercy University, we will continue that essential and important part of forming, educating and strengthening our mission-centric graduates.
For more information on the programs offered by Divine Mercy University, visit www.ipsciences.edu.