Good afternoon to all of you! And especially to you, Dr. Donahue.
To formally welcome you to the 29th presidency of Saint Mary's College on behalf of the Christian Brothers is a happy privilege on my part, and an opportunity to make with you – in the name of the Brothers – an act of faith in the future of our mission as we entrust you with this grand institution both as its leader and its servant.
Nearly 150 years ago when the Brothers took over Saint Mary’s College in San Francisco, surely none of them had an inkling that their college would one day look like this one, let alone be set later on what was then a prosperous Spanish rancho in a town named after the grandson of a famous explorer of Alta California, José Joaquín de la Santísima Trinidad Moraga, let alone be led by James Albert Donahue.
Those would have been grandiose visions. Yet each day we live we celebrate visions from the past, and on this day the visions of those Brothers are all celebrated at this time and in this place. So let us welcome you, Dr. Donahue, first in the names of those 8 unsuspecting visionaries who reach out from the first Saint Mary's College to embrace you warmly: Brother Justin, Brother Cianan, Brother Gustavus, Brother Sabinian, Brother Dimidrian, Brother Pirmian, Brother Genebern, and Brother Emilian.
We Brothers, today standing on their shoulders and carrying their dreams salute you for your openness to the action of God's Holy Spirit who has led you, step by step in your life to this Moraga destination. We salute you as a college community for the experience you bring to all of us as a gift to be shared in various portions among our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends.
Saint John Baptist De La Salle, the Founder of the Brothers some 332 years ago, left us with an amazing legacy that is manifest not only in schools around the world today, but manifest also in the power of words to inspire and shape the lives of the Brothers and all those who join in our mission of human and Christian education.
He continues today to tell the Brothers and all who join us: "Yours is a ministry wherein you must touch hearts" (MSF) We Brothers welcome you with this ministry as our most precious gift, and we trust that it will enrich you the more you spend it. Touch our hearts!
Furthermore, De La Salle told the Brothers to adore God in their students (MSF). For the last 300 years, this is a hallmark of education in schools conducted by the Brothers.
We believe in you enough to entrust you with the same mandate, that you see the face of God in our students, and seeing it, help all of us to see it, and to be humble enough to see ourselves as their servants, and to share with them the treasures of our learning.
About these same students, who are the only reason why this college exists, De La Salle again tells us: "They are a letter which Christ dictates to you, which you write each day in their hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but tablets of flesh which are the hearts of your students." (MTR)
We Brothers welcome you to be this kind of letter-writer with us and all who stand alongside us in our ministry of education. Let all of our names be on that letter along with yours!
The mission of the Brothers, into which we gladly welcome you, sets our students at the center of everything we do. We are nothing without them. At the same time, De La Salle made it clear to his first Brothers, and today we include all who stand with us as teachers, by telling us that we are like fathers and mothers in the role we play, that we are even like bishops and the apostles in their role as teachers.
This sacred vocation of the teacher is highlighted in our Order's 1966 Declaration – a contemporary expression of De La Salle's vision. Joined by our faculty colleagues, of which you are one, we also welcome you to consider with us this profound reminder: "It is not in words or in books that students meet most forcibly the God who calls them by name, but rather in the person of their teachers" (Dec 41:5). Help us adore God in their persons so they can meet God in us.
So, Dr. James Donahue, if this welcome has not frightened you yet, let me conclude with words from Dante who, in his Purgatorio, praises the "traveler in the dark who holds his lamp behind him, shedding light not for himself but to make others wise" (21:91).
Perhaps this is the highest compliment with which we can welcome you. We say to you – Be this kind of leader for us, who cares not so much about his own path, but guarantees that those of us who follow have the assurance of your light.
We say to you – Welcome!
We say to you – Live Jesus in your heart. Forever!