President Denning Opens the Year at Convocation

August 31, 2017

Fr. John Denning, president of the College, opened the school year at Academic Convocation with a message of light and hope. Read his remarks below:

I, too, would like to congratulate Professor Bettina Scholz. In her scholarship and dedicated mentorship of students, Professor Scholz exemplifies what our faculty do day in and day out and what we promise our students - a journey of discovery, classroom collaboration, rigorous research, lively debate, and the quest for greater understanding.

I also want to express my deepest appreciation to Professor Helga Duncan for her powerful reflection on the rise of anti-intellectualism and its harmful impact on our world, including our institutions of higher learning. She has given us much to reflect upon as we begin this, our 69th academic year.

Professors Scholz and Duncan – congratulations on this wonderful recognition of being recipients of the Louise F. Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Tyler, thanks so much for the potato shovel. I don’t know if you are aware, but I actually started growing potatoes 2 years ago. This year’s crop is purple and now I know where I can find a useful tool for my harvest.

I also want to extend a warm welcome to our 1st year students. I hope the beginning of your collegiate career is going well and that you truly feel at home here at the College. I encourage you to become deeply engaged, and also look out for one another, especially those who may be struggling with the transition, these first few days of the semester.

And a special welcome to the Class of 2018, our seniors. I know you will provide great leadership for our student body. And I pray that you will help our 1st year students feel at home in this community of scholarship and faith. I hope you know just how important your words and actions are in helping to make the Stonehill community a welcoming one.

I also want to acknowledge and recognize that we have members of our community who have families and loved ones in Texas and Louisiana. Please know that our support and prayers are with you during this most difficult time and in the days ahead.

These last days of summer have been marked by some tumultuous times. In light of what occurred in Charlottesville a little over 2 weeks ago and its aftermath, I have found myself returning to a text that has both challenged and inspired me for the past 30+ years. It is a small paperback of reflections by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled, Why We Can’t Wait.

In particular, there is a letter that he addressed to clergymen while being held in a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963. In the letter, Dr. King responded to those who questioned whether or not it was the right time for him and others to engage in non-violent direct action to further the cause for civil rights. Dr. King wrote these words that I find so meaningful in our current context:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

As we begin this academic year, let us heed Dr. King’s call to deepen our spirit of solidarity among us and among all people in our nation and in our world. Let us have courage to always promote justice, fairness, and equality so as to truly shape a world that is both compassionate and just.

The virtue of solidarity, one of the enduring principles in Catholic Social Teaching, was described by Pope Francis in his message on the World Day of Peace as a moral virtue, “not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far, but a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good because we are all really responsible for all.”

And Pope Francis goes on to say that “Solidarity represents the moral and social attitude which best corresponds to an awareness of the scourges of our day, and to the growing interdependence, especially in a globalized world.”

Here at Stonehill, we stand in solidarity with one another, recognizing our responsibility for the needs of each another and our neighbor. I pray that we possess the fundamental conviction and moral compass to stand up to the scourges of our day including racism, anti-Semitism, hate, and bigotry and any other action or word that denies the inherent dignity of the human person.

I know we will all be called upon in the days ahead to reach out to one another and to work together to make our College and the broader community, one of Light and Hope.

At the beginning of this academic year, please know of my prayers for all of you. May we all grow in wisdom, justice, and grace. And may Our Lady Queen of the Summit watch over us in her love. Thanks so much.