The mission of Madonna University, a Catholic institution of higher learning, is to instill in its students Christian humanistic values, intellectual inquiry, a respect for diversity, and a commitment to serving others through a liberal arts education, integrated with career preparation and based on the truths and principles recognized within a Felician Franciscan tradition.
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 3,000 students.
The Madonna University seal, used on official documents, consists of the shield placed within a circle bearing the name of Madonna University and the founding date, 1937. The shield, designed by Sister Mary Angeline Filipiak, CSSF, consists of two ordinaries (geometric design elements). On the chief (the bar at the top of the shield) of red lies an open book, the symbol of learning, signifying that liberal arts education is the aim of Madonna University. Across the pages of this book are inscribed the words Sapientia Desursum (Wisdom from Above), symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the source of all knowledge. The red of the escutcheon (shield) stands for the love of God, the aim and crown of all learning. The pierced Heart of Mary with a host symbolizes the adoration of the Eucharist through her Immaculate Heart. It is also the emblem of the Felician Sisters who conduct the University. Embedded in the heart is the Franciscan crest consisting of a cross held up by the pierced hand of Christ and the stigmatized hand of St. Francis of Assisi, who also is the patron saint of the Felician community.
The blue and gold are the University colors symbolic of its ideals: blue for loyalty to God through Mary, to country, and Alma Mater; gold for oneness of purpose and unified strength of the University community in perpetuating Catholic humanism.
The emblem of Madonna University portrays the philosophy and ideals that permeate the educational structure of the institution.
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.
In a homily given by Pope Francis on the first Pentecost Sunday which he celebrated as Pope, he suggested that the word “encounter” is central to the way he thinks of Christian relationships. In the homily he encouraged us to be fearless in the ways in which we look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others. He said that “in this ‘stepping out’ of ourselves, it is important to be ready for encounter.”
As Jesus drew near to the gate of the city of Nain, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. (Luke 7:12 NABRE)
Obviously, having a son die would be a tragedy for anyone, but consider the implications for this widow. She lost more than her son. She had already lost her husband. Now she lost her financial security, her property and inheritance, even her legacy and name. This was significant because women could not own property. Without a husband or son, she had no social standing. She was a non-person. She was desperate. She had no hope. She found herself spiritually, socially, and financially destitute.
When the Lord saw her, he was moved with compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:13-14 NABRE)
In her time of greatest sorrow, the widow encounters Jesus…”Do not weep.” Jesus touches her dead son and Jesus becomes ritually unclean. “Young man, I say to you, arise!” and life is restored to the son. Life is restored to the widow; the return of her son had significant implications on her life. Jesus sensed the utterly desperate situation of this widow, stepping out of himself and allowing himself to become “unclean” he was ready for this encounter, this relationship.
Interestingly, Nain was a small farming community, well off the main road. The widow’s situation cried out for Jesus’ immediate attention, even if he had to travel out of his way. Jesus was in solidarity with this poor, forgotten, and impoverished widow. It was important for him to be there for her in her time of need. We can be in tune with others around us but some who need our help, our encounters, are not easily seen on the main road. We may have to move to the unbeaten path to find the one in need of restoration.
Two people encountering one another involves action, a give and take. It involves openness to relationships. An encounter between two people is an experience of utter connectedness within which we live in solidarity with each other.
Pope Francis explains encounter – “Do not just look, SEE. Do not just hear, LISTEN. If I do not see, if I do not listen, if I do not stop, if I do not touch, if I do not speak, I cannot create an encounter and I cannot help to create a culture of encounter.” Think about that. What thoughts would you share with Pope Francis about encounter? Do you have a story of “encounter?”
Today is all about the Samaritan woman and her encounter with Jesus. A bit of background: Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. Historically it’s complicated but suffice it to say that it involved politics and religion. (And we know how that goes in our world. Rarely at family get-togethers do people even THINK about discussing politics or religion!)
Now to add to this situation, the woman was a known prostitute. In order to fill her bucket with her daily supply of water, she did not feel comfortable to draw refreshment at the common well with the other women of the village. She had to go when the area was clear…the arid heat of the afternoon. It is here that she encounters the foreigner. He enters the picture and addresses her which sets her on edge. A Jewish man approaching a Samaritan woman. Is he stupid? No, simply thirsty. (Oh, and he has a hidden agenda.)
She reacts with reservation. What could this man possibly want with her? She lays out some bait. She admits she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus sees right through her plan. He knows full well who she is and why she’s there all alone. Doesn’t matter. He’s still thirsty. He doesn’t judge her or scold her. He has a conversation with her. She softens a bit. And slakes his thirst. In so doing, does she not realize that it is she herself who is thirsty?
In time she runs into town and shouts out: “I met a man who told me everything I ever did, everything I ever did he told me.” And she laughed out loud. Her laughter sounded like a fountain, flowing into the heat of the day. People gathered and listened as she became a herald of good tidings. The man, Jesus, the prophet, had changed her life.
Jesus made a detour around politics and religion. He saw an opportunity for conversation and transformation. He entered into her world and she into his. After all, thirst makes friends of us all! Thirst is quenched and “a disciple” is born.
What an engaging encounter this was, between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman…people at odds, different cultural backgrounds. A risk was taken, conversation ensued and a “fountain erupted.” Transformation took place.
“Persons are due honor not because of their income bracket, looks, skin color, ancestry, intelligence, mental health, physical condition, age, gender, or anything they do or don’t do. They possess dignity for one reason only: because they are made in the image and likeness of God. And it makes not one difference if that person believes in God or not. They retain dignity because of who they are.” (Mark P Shea, St. Anthony Messenger) Do you believe this? Talk about it. How do you “reverence the other”?
We have many models of folks in our Felician Franciscan way of life who serve as examples of fostering the development of something that is good. Today we’re going in a different direction looking at someone outside of our normal cast of characters and storylines….
It was a bitter cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t seem to be a passageway by foot.”
Reining his horse, “The rider replied, “Sure thing. Hop aboard.” Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man unto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny, cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without trying to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night, you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and just left you there?”
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around these parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.” The old timer continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”
Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply. “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man. “May I never be too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”
With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House. (anonymous: From Brian Cavanaugh’s “The Sower’s Seeds”)
Both Thomas Jefferson and the frostbitten elderly man entered into each other’s worlds during this shared experience. Had they not risked doing so, the elderly man may have died on the roadside and as his political life continued, Jefferson may have never given a second thought to someone in need or an issue that compromised people in the margins of society. Can you identify an example from your own life or one you have seen played out by others where there was a reaching out beyond the “safe zone” to truly “foster a culture of encounter?”
When someone looks into your eyes, what do they see? What does compassion look like? The important thing I learned from compassionate people is . . .
How does compassion make you feel? What behaviors do you exhibit as you greet “the other?”
The word reverencing is a verb - a word of action - which means to regard or treat with deep respect.
The Biblical meaning of reverencing is to honor God; express your gratitude to God and obey God’s commandments. How, then, do we honor God?
In Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus was asked which was the first of all the commandments, he replied,
“… ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NAB)
We might ask Jesus this question in the following ways: “What does God most want me to do? What’s the one thing God wants me to remember? What action does God want me to make my highest priority? What is the single most important thing in the world for me to do?”
Reverencing is the living out the great commandment. Reverencing is an attitude and a behavior. First, to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Living our lives this way can be difficult as a lot of voices in our culture tell us the most important thing in the world is to love ourselves, accept ourselves, to be ourselves. Jesus says love God first, your neighbor second, and finally yourself, yet only to the degree that you love your neighbor. We are called to imitate the life of Jesus – reverencing God, each other, and all of creation.
Thankfully, we can turn to St. Francis and Blessed Mary Angela as good examples. Both lived their lives this way. St. Francis, whose feast day is celebrated this week, walked in love imitating God just like Jesus did, praising and honoring God for all of creation, ministering to the poor and underprivileged and living with the lepers, loving all as brother and sister. Blessed Mary Angela offered her life in love imitating God through meeting the needs of her times, serving God and serving all in love with a joyful heart. St. Francis and Blessed Angela were filled with a desire of imitating Jesus and sharing total availability in love with all those who came into their lives, especially those unseen, shunned, and most in need.
When we seek to imitate Jesus, St. Francis, and Blessed Mary Angela in this way we live out the great commandment and we practice our Core Value of Justice and Peace. We practice this value by forging right relationships in reverent love, recreating a sustainable environment, promoting the common good…all in the pursuit of peace. In other words, we are honoring God, expressing gratitude to God, and obeying God’s great commandment. We are reverencing!
In what ways do your words and actions demonstrate reverencing? In what ways do you contribute to justice and peace in your daily work and life? What holds you back?
Prayer: God of all goodness, like St. Francis and Blessed Angela, we too have been called to reverence, reflecting your love through practice in Justice and Peace. Give us a generous love to respond to those most in need. Give us strength to have the courage to make choices that are life-giving, working together in our ministry to carry out our mission and live our values. Give us passionate hearts that are on fire to serve others. Give us a constant love which never falters to love You in body, mind and soul and love neighbor as our self. Loving God, may our lives honor and witness to your love for us each day. AMEN.