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President Michael Sweeney's remarks on the occasion of the Alemany Award Celebration
June 7, 2007
Ladies and gentlemen: It is my privilege to serve as President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and on behalf of the Board of Members, the Board of Trustees, the students, faculty, and administration of our School, I wish to welcome you!
I would like to begin the formal program of the evening by acknowledging former recipients of the Alemany Award who are present with us this evening.
I would like to offer a very brief introduction to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, whose privilege it is to offer the Alemany Award. But to introduce the School it is necessary to introduce the Dominican Order, and there is no better place to introduce the Order than here in our dining room, which is called the refectory. “Refectory” is from the Latin “re- facere : to refresh, to make new”, and a “making new” is precisely what Our Lord proclaimed as the purpose of his coming: “Behold, I make all things new.” The purpose of our Order is to announce the “new thing” that is the Gospel.
We are the Order of Preachers: the Church has given us the mandate to preach: to convert by announcing the truth. What is the truth that converts? It is not, certainly, a matter of mere cautious, intellectual formulations (whether ancient, modern, post modern, post-post modern, or whatever new characterization we find ourselves waking up to tomorrow) but a truth that frees, a truth that is unafraid, even in the face of death, a truth that makes all things new, the Truth who is a Divine Person, the Truth who came in order that his joy might be in us, and our joy be complete.
We are called to suffer with and for the One who is Truth. But we are, perhaps, closest to Him when we rejoice with him in our presence to the Father and to each other. Beatitude is God’s ultimate invitation to mankind, and the Truth whom we proclaim is the first and final means of our happiness.
The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology continues the great Dominican tradition of crafting an education that is for the sake of preaching the truth, and that is, therefore, ordered to the happiness of men and women. At our School we offer a graduate education in both philosophy and theology (in fact, we are the only graduate school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in North America that is devoted exclusively to the integration of these two disciplines). We instruct both the seminarians with whom you are enjoying the meal and lay men and women; we invite them to learn to collaborate in the same project: to seek to understand all things, first in the light of our natural reason and then in the light of our faith; to take delight in what they have understood, because they have glimpsed things in their source and in their end, and so to be able to speak compellingly to our culture –to call our civilization back to the happiness that God intends for us.
In order for us to be more effectively about this work, Pope John Paul II liked to speak of the necessity for the Church to be ever more conscious of herself and of her mission. With his admonition in mind, this evening we are doing something new: we are honoring a woman and a man whose service has been directly for the sake of building up the School as an institution; in doing so, I hope that we might thereby become more conscious of ourselves and of our common mission. How wonderful if there are those among our guests who might become collaborators with us.
G. K. Chesterton once said of Rome that she was not loved because she was great, but was great because she was loved. If we aspire to greatness as a School –and, for the sake of the Church and Order I most certainly intend and pray that we do– we will achieve that greatness because we love, not only our students and the work to which they call us, but also the community and institution that supports our students and our work. Eleanor Westbrook and Scott Connolly have served the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology truly as an apostolate –as a work of love– and in honoring their service to us we are invited to see ourselves as they have seen us.