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Service to the Local Church

“The University offers educational and formational programs and resources that build up the local Church; in union with the local Church, it also provides a locus where people of faith can wrestle with difficult questions facing the Church and the world.”

Fordham University, since its very founding, understands its history and destiny as being shared with the local church; in organization, programming, and personnel it dedicates significant resources to support the needs of the local archdiocese and neighboring dioceses.

Programs and Resources

Throughout this Examen process, leaders across the University community have voiced the conviction that Fordham’s Catholic and Jesuit mission distinguishes it in two especially noteworthy ways. First, Fordham, unlike its secular counterparts in higher education, is naturally committed to cultivating a strong relationship with the local church and to serving a variety of particular needs within that church. Second, as an institution whose purpose is to advance high-level critical thinking and to produce rigorous academic scholarship, Fordham plays a unique role among the many institutions affiliated with the local church, including parishes, parochial schools, and a multitude of charitable organizations and spiritual initiatives which provide their own distinctive contributions.

Its relationship to the local church is the vehicle through which Fordham continually affirms and advances a tradition of dialog between the Church and the academy. At its best, this tradition enables people of faith to draw upon the critical insights of the academic disciplines and thereby persistently refresh and refine the relationship between faith and the broader cultural context in which faith is lived out. Such a dialog also ensures that academic researchers give due weight and consideration to the theological, philosophical, and moral claims of people of faith.

It is important to recognize that this engagement will, at times, produce natural tensions, as ancient spiritual wisdom is drawn into conversation with new data and new scholarly insights, and as the Church seeks to discern what may best promote the vision of the gospel. Yet Fordham’s commitment to maintaining a strong relationship with the local church should be understood as a pledge to ensure that, regardless of such tensions, this dialog remains both robust and mutually fruitful. Fordham can boast of an expansive list of programs and resources directly dedicated to serving the local church. One prime example is the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE), which provides training in pastoral ministry, religious education, and spiritual counseling and direction at substantially reduced tuition costs to employees of the Archdiocese of New York and other local dioceses. GRE is also home to the Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord Online Program, a training program for church employees undertaken as a collaborative effort with the Archdiocese of New York.

Under the auspices of the Graduate School of Education, the Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education serves as a well-known hub of groundbreaking research designed to foster fruitful innovation in Catholic education at the primary and secondary levels.

At Fordham Law School, the Feerick Center for Social Justice has provided legal counsel to the Archdiocese of New York, and its associates have assisted in developing and executing the Making All Things New process by which parishes were merged and clustered.

Other examples of service to the local church include the free public programming through which the Center on Religion and Culture models intelligent and sophisticated discussion of contemporary faith issues and the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice’s service learning program which connects students to local Catholic organizations.

Ultimately, these examples only hint at a full accounting of how Fordham commits itself to the local church and dedicates its programs and resources to its service (see Appendix Eight).

Relationship with Local Ordinary

Fordham’s relationship to the local ordinary has been marked throughout its history by mutual trust and a shared commitment to advancing the vision of the gospel. As president, Father McShane has cultivated a warm and durable bond with the ordinary of the Archdiocese of New York, as well as with the ordinaries of neighboring dioceses.

In recent years, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has preached and lectured for the Fordham community on multiple occasions, and Fordham has bestowed on him an honorary doctoral degree, as well as its Founder’s Award, in recognition of his leadership. Fordham has also welcomed Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Bishop Frank Caggiano, respectively the ordinaries in the neighboring dioceses of Brooklyn and Bridgeport, CT, as well as cardinals, archbishops, and bishops from throughout the region (indeed, from around the globe).

The intent behind cultivating such ties to local church leaders has been to signify Fordham’s unambiguous commitment to serving the Church in ways that comport with its unique status as an institution of higher education.

Preparation of the Next Generation of Catholic Intellectual Leaders

Universities bear a vital responsibility for cultivating new generations of intellectual leaders. But Fordham bears the added responsibility of preparing leaders equipped to advance the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Multiple examples demonstrate how this responsibility is fulfilled. It should be noted that Fordham distinguishes itself among United States Jesuit colleges and universities by enrolling the largest number of undergraduate Theology majors and minors. The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, with its highly selective undergraduate concentration that engages Catholicism from an interdisciplinary perspective, also serves as a critical locus for the formation of such leaders.

Furthermore, doctoral programs in Theology and Philosophy enjoy strong reputations, rivaling peer programs throughout the country and producing scholars noted for their scholarship in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Yet while these programs each demonstrate a healthy and vigorous commitment, particularly in the areas of Theology and Philosophy, the Examen process surfaced a desire, shared especially among deans, for more strategic opportunities for faculty from across the disciplines to engage critically with the Catholic intellectual tradition. By introducing Fordham’s diverse community of scholars and teachers to concepts within this tradition that have contemporary resonance, faculty would be invited to widen their intellectual scope and enhance their ability to engage substantively and critically in conversations within their particular areas of research and teaching.

Assuring Fordham’s ongoing capacity to prepare the next generation of Catholic intellectual leaders will require careful stewardship of existing academic programs, as well as a commitment at all institutional levels to hiring leading scholars across the disciplines who are either already engaged with the Catholic intellectual tradition or willing to engage with it in substantive ways.

Conclusion

Consideration of Characteristic 5 reinforced the Steering Committee’s sense of the importance of our commitment to serve the local church. We look forward to learning how, as a University, we may best continue in our relationship with the various dioceses we serve. Because individual schools have their own programming, we feel it is best to encourage such programs rather than set a University-wide Mission Priority at this time.