Like many Catholic institutions across the nation, the University of St. Thomas is finding it necessary to reflect on the question of how to maintain the integrity of its Catholic identity, while honoring the growing religious and ethnic diversity of its student body, faculty and staff. St. Thomas regards this challenge as a strategic initiative, and has committed resources and time to its serious consideration and to implementing both communication and educational strategies designed to address it.

The Moss Program for Christian Social Thought and Management has developed a seminar intended to help managers and faculty department heads to grasp the meaning and significance of our Catholic identity, while continuing to manage in this dynamic environment. The seminar, called Managing in a Catholic University, was presented as a pilot in spring 2001. Its success has led university administrators to sponsor future sessions and additional forums.

The seminar is designed to explore the three dimensions of a question faced by any manager who works at St. Thomas: How does one’s personal identity as a manager interact with St. Thomas’ identity as both a university and as a Catholic institution? The course is grounded in an exploration of the cultural shift that is taking place both inside and outside of the university environment, in the teachings of the Church and the Catholic intellectual tradition, and in several foundational management principles.

"The seminar is intended to make clear that there is no inherent contradiction in remaining true to our Catholic identity while honoring the meaning of other traditions and cultures."

The focus of the seminar is a consideration of several texts that bring to light the deeper meaning of what it means to be Catholic, including various articles that explore the meaning of diversity and multiculturalism, a number of key documents from the Second Vatican Council, as well as the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope John Paul II and other contemporary philosophers and theologians. The pope’s encyclical on the meaning of a Catholic University, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, also is explored. Perhaps most importantly, participants have an opportunity to consider the central place that human dignity, human freedom and the primacy of conscience play in the Catholic understanding of personhood, and to reflect on how that might inform St. Thomas’ management philosophy and call us all to affirm the humanity of every person.

The seminar is intended to make clear that there is no inherent contradiction in remaining true to our Catholic identity while honoring the meaning of other traditions and cultures. To be Catholic means, in part, to struggle to understand and achieve unity in diversity; the Church itself teaches us that we are all members of the human community and that “all are called by the grace of God to salvation.” (Lumen Gentium: The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #13) Secondly, the seminar seeks to illuminate the fact that a Catholic university, in particular, must be a place where all are free to pursue an unrestricted and never ending search for truth within the context of true human good. And finally, the seminar establishes that to manage in a Catholic university calls for an unequivocal commitment to management practices that are grounded in an affirmation of the dignity of the human person and in charity toward self and neighbor.

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