Earlier today, Brother John Paige was inaugurated the 4th President of Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind. Presiding at the Mass was Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the diocesan bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Preaching was Very Rev. Richard Warner, C.S.C., superior general of the Congregation of Holy Cross. His homily was a powerful reflection on how a Holy Cross education finds its source and summit in the Holy Eucharist and is ex corde ecclesiae -- at the very center of the heart of the Church. We thank Fr. Warner for sharing his beautiful homily with us on Spes Unica.
It is a pleasure for all of us to be here to begin these events surrounding the inauguration of Brother John Paige as the 4th president of Holy Cross College. It is an important occasion for the Church, the Diocese, the Congregation of Holy Cross and everyone associated with Holy Cross College.
For 170 years, the Congregation of Holy Cross has been engaged in Catholic education at all levels. Under the leadership of Blessed Basil Moreau, the Founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, young men accepted his challenge to serve God and the Church in the devastating aftermath of the French Revolution, by rebuilding a system of Catholic education.
Reflecting on the strength a community could bring to this arduous endeavor, Blessed Moreau wrote:
"Today, in the midst of occupations and contradictions which are inevitable in such a work, I find consolation in hope and in discovering in each member of our community a sincere friend and a zealous co-worker in all that is good and remains to be done. For it we have already produced admirable results, we are destined to produce even greater ones."
It is especially appropriate that we mark this new beginning for the College in the context of the Eucharist. Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, imbued the religious who joined him with a love for the Eucharist.
Referring to the Eucharist, Blessed Moreau wrote:“It is at the altar that, in order to console the troubles we face. He offers us a manna more appealing than the manna of the desert; it is there that He gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink; it is there that He becomes present within our souls, His heart speaking to us with all its affection, and bringing our own hearts to beat with His.”
Blessed Moreau knew from the depth of his own faith and its practice through the Eucharist; he knew that this deep expression of love can lead us to emulate it in our own lives and ministries. And the Holy Cross religious who joined him passed on this same love of the Holy Eucharist to those with and to whom they minister. Indeed, the Eucharist is the central act of prayer at the heart of Holy Cross religious communities and ministries.
Our Gospel reading, refers to St. Joseph, the patron of the Brothers of Holy Cross. Many years and numerous holy and faithful men and women played an essential role in the 18 centuries which led to the central moment of the Incarnation.
Matthew recounts for us the concluding moments of the preparation of the world for the coming of Jesus with the concluding words of the genealogy of Our Lord. It ends with Joseph, described in simple yet powerful words as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.”
Joseph is described as a gentle man, yet he is filled with faith and accepts the will of God for himself. His gentleness, his sensitivity and his fidelity are the great strengths that enabled him, with Mary, to be the parents who provided a powerful witness in a good home for Jesus as, in the words of Scripture, “he grew in wisdom and in grace before God and the people.”
The history of the Holy Cross Brothers, and the education they pioneered at Holy Cross College and offered to so many of their graduates, are remarkable achievements of men who are worthy disciples of Jesus and who live and work together in the image of and with the virtues of St. Joseph, their patron.
Each time a Catholic institution of higher education celebrates the inauguration of a new leader, a number of good things happen. First of all, the college or institution takes stock of its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. If it is a Catholic institution, it also takes measure of the opportunity a change in leadership can enable it to be even more faithful to its opportunities as a Catholic institution.
In his Apostolic Constitution issued 21 years ago on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, Blessed John Paul II issued a document to assist followers of Jesus in applying the Gospel and the teaching of the Church to Catholic Universities, and by extension, to other Catholic institutions of higher learning. In Ex corde ecclesiae, Blessed John Paul II offers a beautiful and challenging document.
After explaining that the because of the relationship between research and the search for truth which has an essential relationship to God, the Supreme Truth, he states that this search for truth is carried out without fear and with enthusiasm.
Then, referring to the community, he states that its source of unity “springs from a common dedication to the truth, a common vision of the dedication of the human person and, ultimately, the person and message of Christ which provides its distinctive character.”
And of course, this task of Catholic education is carried out in communion with the local Church and its pastor. We have gathered together in this Eucharist, presided by our pastor, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the diocesan bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, to pray with and for Holy Cross Brother John Paige, and for those religious and committed lay people - colleagues, directors, benefactors, graduates, students and friends - who will work together with him, as he assumes the responsibility of serving as president of Holy Cross College.
Brother John brings a rich, varied and deep educational background, many years of experience in the United States and Africa, and proven leadership skills in education, religious formation and as a mentor to Holy Cross educatiors throughout the world. Above all, he brings to his new ministry an engaging zeal and resolve to bring all his considerable energy to the task that lies before him. With his coworkers, he will build on the many strengths of Holy Cross College, developed over the years of its dedication to the young people of our community, and develop even further and more deeply the Catholic vision of the human person on which the strong basis of a Holy Cross education rest.
Blessed Moreau’s challenge, and Holy Cross College’s future, were perhaps summed up most admirably in his own words, when Blessed Moreau urged Holy Cross priests and brothers to recognize that a Christian education, consists of dedicated zeal to the formation of students, so they might grow in the image of Jesus Christ.
Brother John, may God continue to bless you in this ministry you have agreed to lead at Holy Cross College. With God’s grace, what you will accomplish here is critically important. But you know that there are many people who wish you nothing less than God’s choicest blessings for your faith, your commitment and the talent and hope you bring to the task.