Update to faculty and staff: A message from board chair, Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem.

Aug. 24, 2020

Dear friends, greetings in the Lord!

May whatever blessings you have garnered from these past six months remain with/within you as we stand somewhat anxiously ready to begin this academic year 2020-21. It is an opening not like any other in our history.

The beginning of academic years at SNC always come cheek by jowl with the August 28 Solemnity of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church and the giver of the Rule Norbertines strive to follow in community life.

Augustine was not unfamiliar with issues medical. It seems that he was chronically in bad health and scholars have pointed out that it is demonstrated, among other places, in the explicit references to health of mind and body in his Rule.

As I reflect on the opening of the academic year, I’d like to take my cue from the heart of this Rule – while leaving the issues of physically dealing with COVID-19 and its possible psychological side effects to our quite capable Health Services and Counseling & Psychological Services.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 that I think is particularly fitting for the moment:

"The intention behind all this [life in community] is that no one will seek their own advantage in their work. Everything you do is to be for service of the community, and you are to work with more zeal and enthusiasm than if each person were merely working for themselves and their own interests. For it is written of love that 'it is not self-seeking' (1 Cor 13:5); that is to say, love puts the interest of the community before personal advantage, and not the other way around. Therefore, the degree to which you are concerned for the interests of the community rather than for your own, is the criterion by which you can judge how much progress you have made. Thus, in all the fleeting necessities of human life something sublime and permanent reveals itself, namely love (Cfr. 1 Cor 12:31; 13:13).

So, to state the obvious, every aspect of unselfish care for our students, ourselves and the local community, is to be a work of love: One of spiritual as well as medical care.

As we open a new academic year, we are called to attend to our mission and to recall that everything we do has as its goal our common journey on the way to God, a phrase Augustine added to his citation of Acts 4.

I will leave you with one final piece of advice that Augustine provides which is very relevant to our situation today: Each is called to surrender something of their individual freedom to the common good out of authentic love. And, if done in love (explicitly or not), it is part of our being on the way to God together.

I wish a blessed start to this academic year to you all!

Fr. Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem.
Chair, St. Norbert College Board of Trustees