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Seek Peace and Pursue It

This message from President Brian Bruess ’90 was sent to the St. Norbert College community on June 1, 2020.

Dear SNC family,

Carol and I have watched with horror and disbelief as Minneapolis and St. Paul – the very cities and neighborhoods in which we raised our babies – burned. More importantly, and significantly more horrifying, we watched the video of yet another Black man, Mr. George Floyd, dying: a fellow, beautiful, God-created human killed at the knee of another human.

Our rage, anger, and despair was rightly intensified as it came on the heels of the video of yet another murder of a Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, out for a jog in a suburban Georgia neighborhood. And on the heels … and the heels … and so many heels of too many killings of too many of our fellow humans who God gifted with Black and Brown skin.

We are a nation in pain. We are a community in pain. We are a family in pain.

And we can only imagine, but not fully know, the pain of our SNC students of color, our Black alumni, our SNC families who live every single day with the fear that they call out for breath – literal or otherwise – but not be heard.

We cannot fully know the very real and palpable ways that centuries of racism – the explicit and implicit, micro and systemic – have too often caused pain for our students, friends, and fellow God-created humans. Our mission as Green Knights, as a Catholic, Liberal arts, and Norbertine College, calls us to put down our defenses and listen more fully to the pain of our nation, to our fellow humans, to our SNC family and community members. It calls us to actively dismantle racism in every shape, every form.

I know this single letter is not enough. It is not a healing wand, waving a truth and promise that all will be well. But I want our students and community to know that I and this community are committing to listening more fully – to understanding and believing that it’s time for a significantly more robust understanding of the lives, fears, and evidence-proven realities of many in our beloved community who have been disadvantaged or harmed by systemic racism.

As members of the St. Norbert College community, we are called to be open to lifelong learning. To faithful, critical listening. To educating ourselves and each other. And to be clear: such education is not always comfortable. In fact, it is frequently quite uncomfortable. Norbert of Xanten wasn’t comfortable as he moved from a life of selfishness and excess to one of transformation and service, inspired by a literal lightning strike, a powerful, illuminating moment during which he could no longer silence God’s message to seek peace and pursue it.

It’s hard to see now, but the day will come for our nation’s healing. We must face pain with purpose, that which our mission as Green Knights calls us to face. We must think critically, act wisely, and pray fervently for healing of not only ourselves, but together as a community of fellow humans, each a child of the same God.

Please know our SNC community is thoughtfully planning more, reflecting more, and will be doing more to commit to and make systemic change. We will do better to hear you all, see you all, and invite each and every member of this community to the table with full voice, as our mission calls us to, something which we haven’t always done perfectly. Perhaps we, as a higher education institution, can be the positive influence that creates a path forward – one where all can breathe freely.

And as we walk forward together, I invite you to pray with the words that Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem., shared with Carol and me yesterday, a luminous guide for our collective grief, hope, and anguish. May our prayers help bring God’s grace to the family of Mr. George Floyd, and to all who are suffering at the knee, and in the darkness, of racism and discrimination.

Kindle the Light Within Our Hearts
In the heart of each and every one of us lives living light … light that dispels fear and illuminates beauty, light that heals wounds and inspires courage, light that vanquishes violence and fear and invigorates our every impulse toward goodness and peace.

Incline us, Source and Origin of Holy Light, True Light from True Light, to kindle this living light so that we might all of us see more clearly all the beauty in the world, for in seeing beauty again and anew, we will love it more and we will protect it better.

Let us safeguard the light of every heart, nourishing it and encouraging its brilliance … let this be our common endeavor and our common cause; let this be our firm resolution and our tireless vocation. May we all, every single one of us, treasure this heart-light and find consolation and inspiration in being keepers of living light, light that only, ever and always compels us toward brighter actions, luminous speech and beaming moments of wonder, grace and awe.

St. Norbert, pray for us,

Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D.
St. Norbert College