Madonna’s mission receives its spirit from these Franciscan Values:
In 1937, Madonna University (then known as Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Junior College) was established by Mother Mary DeSales Tocka and her council in the Felician Central Convent in Livonia, with a first year enrollment of 18 Sisters.
Madonna University instituted master's-level programs in 1982 and became a university in 1991. A leader in nursing education at the state, regional, and national levels, Madonna’s College of Nursing and Health launched the University’s first doctoral program – the Doctor of Nursing Practice – in 2009. Through this growth and development, the institution has become one of the nation's largest Franciscan universities with a combined undergraduate and graduate student body of approximately 4,500 students.
The foundation of Madonna University can be traced to 1855 in Warsaw, Poland where a young woman named Sophia Truszkowska, formed a religious order dedicated to caring for the poor, homeless, sick, and the elderly. Known as the Felician Sisters, this small group of women dedicated themselves to helping their community through the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. The first Felician Sisters arrived in the United States in 1874, settling in a Polish community in Wisconsin to establish schools for the community’s children. By 1880, the Felician Sisters had expanded their efforts into Michigan, administering schools in both Bay City and Detroit. As the Felician community grew, so did the need for an institution of higher education to prepare Felician Sisters as teachers.
Madonna University exemplifies the fine tradition of Catholic and Franciscan scholarship that has contributed significantly to the intellectual and professional development in our society. With alumni on every continent except Antarctica, Madonna University graduates apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful service around the world – improving the lives of others, while excelling in their own professions.
“For the love of Christ urges us on.” 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NRSV)
Our Mission and Heritage theme for this year is “Empowered by our Felician Mission and Heritage: Everyone Leads.” In Paul Schmitz’s book, “Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up,” the definition of leadership has three parts. The first: that leadership is an action that many can take and not just a position that a few people hold. The second: leadership is about taking personal and social responsibility to work with others for common goals. The third: that leadership is about the practice of values that engage diverse community members and groups in working together effectively. How many of us have heard this definition of leadership before? We are at a point in history that demands that we stop waiting for others to solve problems and right the wrongs of our times. It is our responsibility to contribute to the change we want to see in society and part of being active in the spiritual renewal of the world, the mission of the Felician Sisters. Our scripture passage speaks to this and shows that St. Paul stresses that we must live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised. So we must follow the example of Christ and live for the other, practicing love of God and neighbor in order to repair injustices in the world. St. Francis heard and answered the call to lead when God said, “Go, repair my Church.”
St. Francis of Assisi was part of the elite in society, being the son of a wealthy merchant. In his early life, he liked to have a good time and enjoy his position in life. But one day God called him to repair His church. Francis answered that call and did so not by self-righteous rhetoric, but by living as an example for all to follow. He renounced wealth and took on the garb of the poor. He preached repentance, not so much for him through austere means or extreme asceticism, but through a joyful disconnection from the power and temptation of wealth. He taught people about the joy of life apart from material possession, about treasuring the natural world and about humanity’s relationship to all of life. And people listened and followed him and did likewise. He gave them the opportunity to have a voice and be a positive change in society. The Felician Core Values for Ministry do likewise. They speak to giving help to the voiceless in finding their voice, righting relationships, and living for one another.
BL Mary Angela once wrote, “Time is given to us for doing good.” (III, 126). This is a time when we can strive more actively to become leaders and help empower all to be the positive change that they want to see. Chris Lowney in his book, “Everyone Leads: How to Revitalize the Catholic Church,” speaks to being active leaders in order to bring about positive change. He writes that leadership culture can be formed from all levels: “from the bottom to the top, one individual, family, and one Catholic institution at a time” (p.9). Let us take this time to become leaders in doing good for the betterment of our ministries, our communities, and for society as a whole. Let us allow God to surprise us, to open our eyes and hearts to what more it is we are called to do. Let us allow ourselves to be empowered by the Felician Core Values so that we can become leaders for good. Let us take inspiration from the words of BL Mary Angela, “Our Lord obviously demands of you the virtue of the love of neighbor, since He gives you the opportunity to practice it.…” (I, 37-38) We are empowered by our Felician Mission and Heritage: Everyone Leads!