Life was coming back to our campus! In a year that challenged every postsecondary academic institution, this past fall we returned with approximately ten per cent of our course offerings in person. Full adherence to social distancing and health protocols were followed in line with the directions we have received both from regional health authorities and the University of Waterloo, and although nowhere near our normal capacity, it felt good to see students return to campus safely, and with optimism.
In January, we were preparing to return to ‘normal’ levels of pre-pandemic, on-campus teaching and student life activity. While the spectre of the new Omicron variant looms across the world, we remained hopeful. Inspired by the message of our founders, the Congregation of the Resurrection, and their mission to “enkindle a fire of divine love in the heart of every person on this earth”, we are focused on the future and the work to be done. Unfortunately, those plans are now postponed as we continue to follow Public Health safety guidelines and delay our return to campus until later in January.
After a year and a half on the job, my colleagues remind me that I am no longer the ‘new guy’, and it is true. We have had several people join the university since I started my term in July of 2020, including our new Vice President Academic and Dean (VPAD), Dr. Carol Ann MacGregor. Carol Ann comes to us from Loyola University in New Orleans, but she is originally from Trenton, Ontario. As you will learn in the feature piece in this issue of Update, she completed her early university studies at Queen’s and McGill before going on to Princeton to do a PhD in Sociology. When she started in her new role at SJU this past August, she hit the ground running. Picking up from the great work started by our Interim VPAD, Dr. Cristina Vanin, Carol Ann understands that the strength of this community lies in its people. She has immersed herself in her portfolio, which includes teaching, research, and student affairs, and has embraced an academic world in change. We are all facing this transformative time together.
Looking to the future for St. Jerome’s University many things are clear. We will not define ourselves by the number of Catholics we count among our faculty, staff and students, but we will also not ignore our foundational roots. We will be a university animated and informed by a Catholic Christian mission and identity that is shared by all who work and participate here, regardless of belief.
Our scholarship and teaching, our thought leadership and focus on students, will continue to make us an important part of the diversity of the University of Waterloo. In this, our emphasis on vocation – the understanding that each of us has a calling which attaches meaning and purpose to what we do, will inspire us to use our resources to think critically about the world, and to pose solutions to the problems facing humanity. We must continue to educate and form leaders of conscience who will respond actively and ethically to the ecological and social challenges of sustainability, social justice, marginalization, and alienation.
Dr. Peter Meehan at his Installation Ceremony on November 4, 2021.
Watch the recorded version of the ceremony in the frame below.
We look forward to the final stages of work on our next Strategic Plan (2022-2027) as well as to the submission of the final report from the President’s Working Group on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization. Our community has embraced both of these projects through the consultative process and has initiated many wonderful ways to demonstrate our commitment to this work even prior to the completion of the final report and action plan respectfully.
Both of these projects will call on us to be thoughtful and reflective as a community, and to consider the importance of change and transformation in order to meet the needs of a modern, relevant, engaged, accessible and inclusive Catholic university. In this, we are informed by Pope Francis’s emphasis on the importance of Synodality - the process of ‘walking together’ rooted in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. It calls on us to consider the need for change at this moment in history, and to work with others to create opportunities for “encounter and dialogue” in order to better serve the common good.
All of these things resound with a message of hope and optimism for St. Jerome’s mission, now and in the future. It is an educational mission that includes teaching and research as well as a powerful commitment to integral human formation. Both are deeply rooted in our history of service to the communities of Kitchener-Waterloo and our important role at the University of Waterloo. With this in mind, we understand that to those whom much has been given, much should be expected. We will not be satisfied to be one of the “best kept secrets” at the university we are often described as. Rather, we will step out into the future ambitiously, with a confidence in our mission that is forward-looking, and the desire to continue to bring the best of St. Jerome’s to Waterloo Region, to Ontario, to Canada, and to the world!
President and Vice Chancellor
Watch the Installation Ceremony
for SJU's 8th President and Vice Chancellor!
Dr. Peter Meehan’s Installation Ceremony on November 4, 2021, was attended by a limited number of invited guests, including faculty, Meehan family members, and representatives from academic partners, and local government officials, due to the COVID-19 gathering restrictions and safety protocols in place.
Watch the recorded version of the ceremony in the frame above.