by Meghan Glass
Communication and Digital Media Major
Cardinal Dolan joyfully receives his honorary degree from James Delaney, chairperson of the University board of trustees; Dr. Lawrence DiPaolo, vice president for Academic Affairs; and Dr. Rosalie Mirenda.
Cardinal Dolan awaits the hood that signifies
his status as honorary degree recipient.
Winter Storm Stella couldn’t put a damper on the spirit of Neumann University’s fifty-second Charter Day. Commemorating the granting of an education charter to the school, originally Our Lady of Angels College, by the State of Pennsylvania in 1965, and recognizing in a special way the sponsorship from the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, the day featured the bestowing of an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, to His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, who also gave the annual Leunissen Lecture.
Amid the freshly plowed roads and lingering snow and ice left behind by Tuesday’s storm, activities to celebrate the day went full steam ahead as planned. The stately Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development was set up beautifully for the Academic Convocation and 13th annual Dorothy A.P. Leunissen Presidential Lecture, as well as the Mass that preceded it.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan leaves Neumann University’s Charter Day celebration with Dr. Rosalie Mirenda.
The ceremonies included many honored guests, in addition to Cardinal Dolan.
“[It is] both an honor and a privilege, truly an honor and a privilege, [for] Neumann University [to bestow] the honorary degree,” Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of the school, expressed upon introducing Dolan.
“To be an alumnus of [this university] is an honor indeed. Thank you.” Dolan said in closing his talk.
With so much to be thankful for, gratitude was one of the key themes during the afternoon. Sr. Marguerite O'Beirne, OSF, Vice President for Mission & Ministry, opened the events with remarks honoring the guests and sharing her gratefulness for many, particularly the Mirenda family. Dolan also expressed his thanks many times.
“I’m very grateful for your gracious invitation and your very warm welcome,” Dolan said in opening his talk.
The importance of service, one of Neumann’s five core values, RISES (Reverence, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship), was also a central part of the day. Neumann has given an extra special focus to the core value Service this school year and that dedication has been vivid in all aspects of the school.
“Whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant,” a verse from the Gospel at Mass, Mt. 20: 26, read. “We are blessed to be here to commemorate the chartering of an institution whose heart and soul is dedicated to the service of others, our very own Neumann University,” said Dr. Lawrence DiPaolo, Jr., Vice President for Academic Affairs.
“It’s clear to me [from] the gracious hospitality that I experienced that this is a campus where service is taken very, very seriously,” Cardinal Dolan expressed during his homily, a sentiment he later reiterated in his presidential lecture.
The Presidential Lecture series, named in honor of the late Dr. Dorothy A.P. Leunissen, who was a lifelong friend to the Sisters and a longtime supporter of Neumann, was established in 2004, and brings in speakers to address topics currently of interest in Catholic Franciscan higher education.
“I trust this might be as enjoyable as yesterday’s snow day,” Dolan remarked, setting a tone for his talk that was friendly and warm despite the formality of the event and the flurries that swirled in the breeze outside.
Dolan spoke on the intertwined nature of Christ and the Church, noting that there can be no separation between the two. He quoted Henri De Lubac, a French Jesuit priest considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century: “For what would I know of him without her?”
He expressed that at Neumann, the truth of the intertwined nature of Jesus and the Church is lived each day.
“Here, at Neumann, we sense the nobility of God’s truth in everything: from literature to physical therapy, to theology and philosophy to history and chemistry,” Dolan said, later adding, “…here is communion realized in the gift of friends and classmates.”
“I was thankful to be a part of it. It was an honor to be here,” Dr. DiPaolo said, regarding the day. “It was very inspirational and so appropriate, very well done,” Dr. Dianna Dale, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management added. “I’m so proud to be a member of the Neumann University family.”
The day was bittersweet, however, as it was Dr. Rosalie Mirenda’s last Charter Day as president of the school. Mirenda, closing her 21st year as president, is leaving behind a legacy both of leadership and of love.
“We’re sad, no doubt, we’re a little anxious, for sure,” she said of herself and her husband, Tony, who also has had a prominent presence at the school, “but we are at peace with the decision that we made back in August.”
“And we know that with folks like you, friends like you here today,” she continued, “Neumann University has nowhere to go but up. Up as a Catholic University in the Franciscan tradition. And I challenge each and every one of you … to support that Catholic identity in the Franciscan tradition. It will be the distinguishing feature for Catholic higher education as we go forward.”
Appropriately, the Sisters closed the ceremonies with the Blessing of St. Francis, composed by Sr. Bonagratia Hughes, OSF., and based on both the Blessing of St. Francis of Assisi to Brother Leo and on Numbers 6:24-26, echoing both the Mirenda legacy and the University’s hopes: “Pace e bene” (Peace and all good).