Niagara University is showing its Vincentian heritage in practical Vincentian ways. It is initiating a number of new concrete and comprehensive initiatives that affect its students, the faculty who form them and people who suffer from various forms of poverty.
Last year, the thousands of participants gathered for the celebration of our Vincentian Family Heritage in the presence of Pope Francis and the relic of Vincent’s heart. In one of the side events Fr. Dennis Holtschneider reminded them that “Charism Formation” must lead to the empowerment of laity who are on fire with the spirit of Vincent. In a presentation entitled “From Here to Where,” he said
If our institutions wish the Vincentian mission to continue, then any solution or program must focus on creating a culture whereby living, breathing embodiments of the mission meet new recruits, and thereby transmit the culture to a new generation. There is no other way for cultural transmission to successfully take place.
The challenge, then, exists not in disseminating information about Vincent or the poor or the university’s heritage; though all this is important and useful. No, the challenge is to create the conditions whereby lay professionals feel empowered, encouraged, and rewarded to live, breathe and speak the culture; and thereby impress and encourage others to follow.
The new focus on broad-based lay empowerment is captured by one word added to the title of the sector responsible for university mission: what was once the Office of Mission and Ministry is now the Office of Mission Integration.
A section from its website captures it well.
Depending on your job at the University, you may have a great deal of contact with students, or you may have relatively little direct contact with students. Either way, you play a vital role in creating the community where our students live, study, work, pray, and play. Every single employee at the University is in a position to have a positive impact on students as they engage in the transformative process of higher education. Understanding the University’s Vincentian heritage and mission is essential to this, our shared task.
For those perhaps skeptical of such lofty ideals of integration I invite you to look at the concrete and comprehensive steps they are and will be taking in the near future which emerged from their planning process.
To learn more about the direction the Office of Mission is taking at Niagara, visit their website.