Homily, Abbot Mark Cooper, O.S.B.
What an exciting time for Saint Anselm College as today we celebrate the beginning of new leadership for our over 100-year-old institution of Catholic higher-education. For almost 125 years this hilltop has been a place where individuals have gathered to explore ideas together, to consider new ways of asking questions, and seeking solutions. Thousands of students, led by their faculty, have come here to search out the truth, to learn new skills, to attempt to discover the path to wisdom. Some have found their faith here, others have worked and prayed and studied to clarify the faith with which they arrived: Fides quaerens intellectum, the Latin inscription on the statue of Saint Anselm in the foyer of this Church, faith seeking understanding.
Throughout our long history we have had a succession of 10 individuals as President of our College. Today we pray for, and ask that the Lord watch over our 10th President of Saint Anselm, Dr. Steven DiSalvo. We ask God' blessing on Dr. DiSalvo's work, God's care for him and his family, God's grace that he might be a wise and gracious, and inspired leader of this school we all love so much.
A President of a College or University today in these United States, faces a series of daunting challenges. Academic leadership and faculty recruitment, fund raising, a myriad of legal issues, alumni relations, involvement in, and being a model for, the lives of a diverse set of students, all of whom are at least 2 steps ahead of every adult on the technology curve. All these things and others as well, any President must deal with on a daily basis. But I believe that at this particular institution, just as with other mission-driven institutions, be they Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim or of some other persuasion, there is an overarching task that a President faces, and it is the most important of the many and varied tasks he or she takes up each day. Here at Saint Anselm our particular tradition rests on the foundation of our faith, that God created us, and loves us, and gave his only Son to lead us to salvation. The Church, in her love for Christ, if we will but look to her, provides us nourishment and guidance and instruction to help us attain the goals mentioned above, of faith and knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It will be our new President's task, I believe above all else, to protect and cultivate and strengthen our identity and our mission, to ensure and promote an atmosphere, here, among our faculty and students that allows those insights at the heart of Catholic learning and tradition, experience and wisdom, to thrive. This, in order that all who come to Saint Anselm College might be guided by what St. Peter in his first epistle calls a new birth. "A birth in hope," writes St Peter, "which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ...a birth to an imperishable inheritance...a birth to a salvation...to be revealed in the last days."
On this feast of Saint Luke the evangelist, our first reading from St. Paul, began with these words: "Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thesalonica." St. Paul must have been disappointed and despondent in writing these words, as he had witnessed the once vibrant faith of his co-worker Demas, draining away. Our faith suggests to us that anyone totally enamored of this world, those who do not see God's hand at work in the history of the human race, those who allow no thought for an immediate and eventual accounting to a Creator, those, like the totalitarian leaders of the 20th century, who envisioned a super-race, or a super-state, or a society without reference to the transcendent, such, our faith suggests, will not find the path of wisdom.
The faith that undergirds and informs the efforts made for nearly 125 years on this campus, in classroom and in the dormitories, in the playing fields and the laboratories, that faith makes clear that there is another life beyond the present world. May we ever foster that insight on this campus, that it might challenge all we do and think and believe.
Today's gospel concludes with Jesus' instruction to his disciples being sent to preach Christ's message, "whatever town you enter...say to them, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand.' " May that message be operative here, leading us toward a culture of life, and beauty, and truth.
Today let everyone gathered here pray with one heart, as we ask God's choicest blessing on Dr. DiSalvo to lead us in pursuit of the truth, to assist us all in growing in our faith, and to nourish the identity of Saint Anselm College as an institution always attempting to direct those who come here on the surest path to wisdom. May God bless Dr. DiSalvo today, and in all the years to follow.