For Release: Oct 22, 2017
From: Dr. Derry Connolly
Founding President, John Paul the Great Catholic University
The feast day of Pope St. John Paul the Great, October 22nd, is an excellent day to reflect on John Paul the Great Catholic University (JPCatholic) and our vision for our future.
In his apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul the Great reflected on Catholic universities, which are “born from the heart of the church.” The wide-ranging document covers the vocations and purposes of different types of Catholic universities—covering technological development, scientific research, professional training, social justice, cultural inquiry, general education, and many more—but all operating with a love for and obedience to the Church. Among these many and varied roles—what is JPCatholic’s role, as a Catholic university providing professional training in the creative arts + business innovation?
My reflection starts with a recognition of how richly God has blessed our university community in the pursuit of our collective mission to form students ready to Impact Culture for Christ. I have a profound gratitude for the significant legacy of our beloved patron saint and I am awestruck by the creativity and innovation of our students, faculty and staff.
The story of JPCatholic is a profoundly providential one. In the year 2000, I felt called to create a radically different kind of Catholic institution, where artists, creators, innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs could master their craft and profession, while steeped in a Catholic environment providing the opportunity to encounter Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This was undeniably an audacious goal and it is staggering to reflect on how far we’ve come in achieving this vision. Praise God.
As we look to the future, JPCatholic aspires to be a truly great Catholic creative arts university. I had the opportunity to tour creative arts institutions across the country this past summer. I was struck by the enormous cultural impact of these universities as a result of the widespread presence of their talented graduates within the creative industries. It was clear that their impact is often negative, as the state of our culture would attest. The imagination and perception of reality among their graduates has not been rooted in the ultimate Truth of Jesus Christ, and my exploration of the art produced at these institutions often revealed the darkness at the heart of their students’ creative vision.
In considering JPCatholic’s place as a Catholic creative arts university, and comparing our goals to universities that lack the moral guidance of the Catholic church, I am deeply grateful for St. John Paul’s guiding vision for the Catholic university. Our vision will never be realized solely by copying successful secular models, if we forget the crucial foundation provided by Jesus Christ and His Church. We want to have the same impact on the world that other creative arts universities have, while “proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished” (ECE, 4).
Three essential components to accomplishing our vision, which will form the core of our focus in the coming years, are: :
- Our Catholic Identity and Culture
- The Catholic Intellectual Tradition
- Expanding our Creative Arts + Business Innovation programs, faculty and students
1. Our Catholic Identity and Culture
Central to our founding vision is our continued, strong and unwavering commitment to our Catholic Identity. Accomplishing our mission of Impacting Culture for Christ depends on knowing Christ, as a person, revealed through His Church. Without Christ at our center, we can accomplish nothing. In Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. Pope John Paul II said that Catholic Universities gave him “a well-founded hope for a new flowering of Christian culture in the rich and varied context of our changing times, which certainly face serious challenges but which also bear so much promise under the action of the Spirit of truth and of love” (ECE, 2). JPCatholic shares this hope for a rebirth of Catholic culture, guided by the Holy Spirit. Building a strong, dynamic Catholic culture on-campus will continue to be a focal point for us in the future.
2. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition
A tight integration of the Catholic intellectual tradition with the Creative Arts and Business Innovation is essential to accomplishing our mission and to facilitating an intellectual encounter for our students with Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. It is this encounter, within our strong Catholic faith environment, that is so essential to the formation of the creative imagination, vision, and decision-making of our artists and innovators, our leaders and entrepreneurs.
Ex Corde Ecclesiae states that theology “serves all other disciplines in their search for meaning” and has a “specific importance among the academic disciplines” (ECE, 19). Theology provides “a vision of the human person and the world that is enlightened by the Gospel, and therefore by a faith in Christ, the Logos, as the centre of creation and of human history” (ECE, 16). At JPCatholic, our theology and humanities core reflects the rich, two-thousand-year-old tradition and scholarship of the Catholic church and western civilization. Our mission to evangelize our culture must be underpinned by this “faith in Christ, the Logos.”
3. Expanding our Creative Arts + Business Innovation programs, faculty and students
The vision for the future is exciting—building on our strengths and expand more broadly in the critical intersection of creative arts and business innovation. We will continue to nurture the creative imagination of our students with artistic and technical mastery across a broad range of the creative disciplines.
By 2025, our students will have the opportunity to explore and create across multiple artistic disciplines—the cinematic arts (film, broadcast media, digital media, animation, gaming), the visual arts (illustration and sculpture), design (graphic, fashion, environment, set and costume), the recording arts, the performing arts (stage and screen), and the humanities (literature, creative writing, and poetry).
The richness of our learning experience comes from a dedicated Catholic and Christian faculty coupled with our learning resources (labs, equipment, and facilities) and a student culture of doing (producing, designing, making). The Catholic faith environment promotes the spiritual and human maturation of our students and a missionary spirit promotes service to the surrounding community and the wider world.
From our inception, JPCatholic’s mission has been engagement with our culture in the areas of media and business, guided by the light of Jesus Christ. On our patron’s feast day, I am incredibly grateful to his guidance laid out in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and JPCatholic will continue to develop our strengths as a great creative arts + business innovation university. In building up our programs, facilities, faculty, and students, we will develop our specific vocation within the framework of great Catholic universities, and hopefully continue to always Impact Culture for Christ.
St. John Paul the Great, pray for us.