Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, s.j., President of Loyola University Chicago, giving the keynote address at IFCU in Melbourne last week
Catholic universities must make a conscientious effort to form students in mind and heart, character and spirit, that is, the whole person, the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) was told at ACU’s Melbourne campus last week.
Under the theme, Times Change, Values Endure, IFCU brought together more than 200 member institutions, spanning 62 countries with representation from every continent.
In his keynote address, Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, s.j., President of Loyola University Chicago, said IFCU members are responsible to build institutions of quality that bring to the Church and the world something unique and different from what secular institutions can offer.
“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,” he said.
“The second characteristic is that a Catholic institution must be an instrument of service and must become a community dedicated to this purpose.”
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.
At IFCU, members reflected on a rich academic history. Its institutions trace their origins back to the early monasteries in Europe where monks transcribed the Bible and other important documents, enhancing the history of Christianity and western civilisation.
The very first gathering of IFCU took place in 1925 at the Catholic Institute of Paris. Its members at that time were 14 mostly European universities.
Globalisation and technological advances have closed the distance between nations, making it easier than ever before to access knowledge and education. Massive Open Online Courses enable teenagers in Bangladesh and elsewhere can undertake programs from the Catholic University of Murcia or Georgetown University who have been working with EdX on the delivery of programs internationally.
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven said IFCU members had a commitment to build a more just and humane world in the light of reason and faith with the ferment of the Gospel and the advances of knowledge.
“The applications mean that we bear a responsibility to ensure that the promise of globalisation delivers for the many – not us just for the privileged few,” Professor Craven said.