December 16, 2013
Dear Alumni, Friends and Benefactors of Assumption University,
Dear Basilian Confrères and Friends of the Basilian Family,
In light of the announcement that was made public today by Assumption University and the University of Windsor, I write to you to provide some background information that will help you to better understand and appreciate the significance of this important decision that has far-reaching implications for the future of Assumption University, the continued mission of the Basilian Fathers in Windsor, the Diocese of London, Catholic Higher Education in Canada, and the Church in Canada.
The contribution of the Basilian Fathers to the Windsor area has marked the lives of tens of thousands of people for well over a century. Basilians played a very significant role in the foundation of the University of Windsor in the early 1960s and people still speak with gratitude, fondness and reverence for many Basilian confrères who not only contributed significantly to Catholic Education at both secondary and university levels, but also impacted so many individual lives. If many listened to and learned from those who went before us, it was because they were both good teachers and administrators and faithful, joyful witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For the past 40+ years following the establishment of the University of Windsor, Assumption University has been seeking its way, mission, identity and purpose. The establishment of various pastoral and theological programs over the past two decades served their purpose and contributed to the life of the local Churches in Ontario and in Detroit. However such programs run their course and must give way to new initiatives. Over the past three years of my ministry at Assumption, many of you have written, called or asked me: “What is Assumption University?” We cannot simply be a landlord of historic buildings that house offices or agencies that have no link to the mission of Catholic higher education. It is essential that Assumption University maintain its academic identity and purpose, as well as to offer pastoral care to the University of Windsor community. More than half of the population of 16,000 students on campus is of the Catholic faith. What we do best is to provide a solid Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Windsor, offer lectures under the auspices of the very historic and successful Christian Culture Series, engage in conversations, collaboration and programs with various faculties of the University, the local Catholic School Boards, and work closely with the Diocese of London, blessed with a Bishop imbued with the Basilian charism of goodness, discipline and knowledge.
The offer of the University of Windsor to purchase at market value our main administration building is a very welcome one. The U of W will rename our main building Assumption Hall out of respect for the founding college that would eventually become the University of Windsor in 1962. The offices of Assumption University and the Catholic Campus Ministry Department will be housed on the second floor of Assumption Hall. Assumption University will remain in the main Administration Building of the University of Windsor for as long as Assumption University exists, at no cost to us. One of the great advantages of this sale is the partial alleviation of huge financial burdens that we bear each day simply to maintain buildings. Monies from the sales of both properties will allow us to continue to offer excellent pastoral care, lectures and programs on campus without the constant burden of fund raising to the degree that it has occupied us for the past decades.
The University of Windsor envisions multiple uses for the very beautiful, historic chapel of Assumption Hall, and will provide Assumption University with access to it for our own lectures, special liturgical celebrations, ceremonies, etc. In addition, the University of Windsor has indicated that Assumption University can also in the future consider using other venues on its campus for lectures should that be of value to us.
Assumption University would not give up its charter as a university and have the possibility of offering credited undergraduate courses in the very near future. We are also preparing to offer courses to Catholic educators through the auspices of the Roman Catholic School Boards and the Ontario College of Teachers. Assumption University has also entered into a unique partnership with Salt and Light Catholic Television Network and the Archdiocese of Detroit Media Department to become a studio and training center for Catholic Media and Broadcasting.
With this sale, the Basilian Fathers are not abandoning Assumption University. Rather than pretending to be something that we are not, remaining on campus, at the heart of the central administration of the University of Windsor, enables us to go about our work of being the Catholic presence on this Canadian university campus. No doors are shut, but many new windows are now opened for us. We view this new situation as a unique moment of promise and a new lease on life for us.
As the very important negotiations were underway over the past few months, I could not help but be moved, inspired, encouraged and challenged by Pope Francis’ recent, thought provoking Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World. Three sections of this major document speak to our situation at Assumption University, and to many of our endeavors in the contemporary Church:
In section 11 of Evangelii Gaudium we read: [God] is always able to renew our lives and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old. Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity.
In section 26, Pope Francis writes: There are ecclesial structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s “fidelity to her own calling”, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.
And finally in section 134, our higher education mission is addressed: Universities are outstanding environments for articulating and developing this evangelizing commitment in an interdisciplinary and integrated way. Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelization of culture, even in those countries and cities where hostile situations challenge us to greater creativity in our search for suitable methods.
The decision made public today attests to the fact that the Lord can truly break through certain cycles and structures that have prevented us from growth and renewal. Universities are truly outstanding environments for articulating and developing evangelizing commitments in an interdisciplinary and integrated way. A renewed focus on our pastoral ministry at the University of Windsor ushers in new possibilities for creativity and new efforts in evangelization and education – the charism of the Congregation of St. Basil.
I am very grateful to those who have gone before me in leading Assumption University through its high and low moments of the past 50 years. I pay special tribute to two Basilian confrères, who served as Presidents of this venerable institution as well as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Windsor: the late Fr. David Heath and Fr. Ulysse Paré. Fr. Heath’s wise, prudent stewardship of material goods and Fr. Paré’s bold and courageous initiatives in evangelization and education have paved the way for the new relationship we are entering with the University of Windsor.
As we near the feast of the Incarnation, we will listen once again to the words of the prophets, to the dream of Joseph, and the promise of the eternal God that takes flesh in the womb of the Virgin. It becomes clear to us once again that the story of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem was no idyllic country folk tale. It was the true fulfillment of the hopes and longings, dreams and desires of the people of ancient Israel. In the name “Emmanuel,” we find the answer to humanity’s deepest longings for God throughout the ages. Emmanuel is both a prayer and plea (on our behalf) and a promise and declaration on God’s part. When we pronounce the word, we are really praying and pleading: “God, be with us!” And when God speaks it, the Almighty, Eternal Creator is telling us: “I am with you” in this little Child.
It is in this spirit that I wish you a blessed Christmas and a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May the Lord be with each of you and with us at Assumption University at Christmas and throughout the New Year. Let us pray together that the hopes, longings, dreams and desires for Assumption University be realized in the days, weeks and months to come.
Yours in Christ,
(Rev) Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
President and Vice Chancellor