Pope Francis, in a few meaningful words, can pull together the work of our hands and the yearning of our hearts and minds. In his brief address Feb. 9 to the Congregation of Catholic Education at the Vatican, he affirmed the mission-rich approach to education embraced by Fontbonne University and other Catholic Universities.
"The school and the university make full sense only in relation to the formation of the person," the pope said. "All educators are called to collaborate in this process of human growth, with their professionalism and with the richness of humanity of which they are bearers, to help young people to be builders of a more supportive and pacific world."
At Fontbonne, we express it this way in our mission statement: "Fontbonne University, a Catholic institution sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is committed to the common good through the daily pursuit of transformative education, inspiring students to become global citizens who think critically, act ethically and serve responsibly."
We aren't simply delivering a product. We attempt to meet each student wherever they may be on their journey and to aid them in the process of personal transformation so that each may serve the common good.
Pope Fancis also said: "Another expectation is that the culture of dialogue will grow. Our world has become a global village with multiple processes of interaction, where every person belongs to humanity and shares the hope of a better future with the entire family of peoples."
At Fontbonne, I've written often about the need for civil dialogue when dialogue on the public arena seems far from civil. Fontbonne is a campus community that is reflective of the "richness of humanity" Pope Francis describes. This is particularly true here where we welcome students from nearby and abroad and who bring with them many faiths, beliefs and cultures. Our hope is that this blending will lead to Francis' vision of a more "pacific" or peaceful world and a "culture of dialogue."
"There is a last expectation that I would like to share with you: the contribution of education in sowing hope," Pope Francis said. "Man cannot live without hope, and education is generator of hope."
We often measure the return on investment of education in terms of earnings after graduation. We certainly want our students to be successful in all of their personal and professional pursuits, but we will have served our mission well if we graduated scores of sowers of hope to a world sorely in need of it. Higher education has been widely criticized lately for high cost and low ROI. The true measure of our success is seen in the lives our graduates lead in service to their communities, their churches, their families and their professions.
This is the work we do every day at Fontbonne and at Catholic colleges and universities across the country.
Pressimone is president of Fontbonne University. RELATED ARTICLE(S):GUEST COLUMNIST | Acknowledging the beauty of our differences