Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I very much enjoyed reading Fr. Jenkins' inaugural address until I arrived at the final paragraph:
With respect and gratitude for all who embraced Notre Dame's mission in earlier times, let us rise up and embrace the mission for our time: to build a Notre Dame that is bigger and better than ever -- a great Catholic university for the 21st century, one of the pre-eminent research institutions in the world, a center for learning whose intellectual and religious traditions converge to make it a healing, unifying, enlightening force for a world deeply in need. This is our goal. Let no one ever again say that we dreamed too small.
I guess this is what any college president is supposed to say at the beginning of his tenure, but it still jolted me. Boasts of becoming "bigger and better than ever" are what I expect to hear from Harvard, but not from Notre Dame. It's a mistake, in my view, to assume that being "bigger and better than ever" will inexorably lead to a "bigger and better than ever" platform for shining Christ's light into the world. Maybe it will, but it seems just as likely that as the platform becomes bigger, Christ's light becomes more difficult to discern. And what exactly do our own big dreams have to do with following Christ? If Fr. Jenkins says "let no one ever again say that we dreamed too small," I say "let no one ever again say that I placed my own dreams above God's call." I firmly believe that God can give us a vision to pursue, but I find that usually has little connection to my own dreams, even when they are "bigger and better than ever."