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“An Idea of A University” | 2019 Academic Address

On Monday, October 7, 2019, the Very Reverend Thomas A. Baima, Provost of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, delivered the annual Academic Address to the faculty and students of Mundelein Seminary and the University Institutes. Father Baima used the occasion of the upcoming canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman to challenge the university community to deepen their understanding of the role of knowledge (intellectual formation) in the shaping of priests, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers, catechetical and lay leaders.

Exploring the relationship of knowledge to ministry, Father Baima argues with Cardinal Newman that knowledge is an end in itself, and should not be viewed for its utility. The university was invented by the Church, with a spiritual purpose. No matter how far secularized universities may have departed from this idea, a university of the Church must work from the premise that knowledge is participation in the Divine Logos—the incarnate Word—Jesus.

Also, with Cardinal Newman, Father Baima offered the audience a tour of the similarities between Newman’s time and our own. Because of these similarities, Newman offers us both hope for the present day and wisdom on who to face the challenges of the 21st century. As in his day, we face real issues of credibility. So, a new kind of apologetic is needed. The challenges of the day have their origins in philosophies and theologies born two hundred years ago. Christianity has the answers the world needs to confront these challenges, but too often we lose our nerve, or fail to offer the riches of the Christian tradition in response.

Father Baima explained the mission of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in terms of Cardinal Newman’s own Idea of the University. He also argued that Newman’s thought and life offer us hope for our future, such that we might experience a Second Spring for Catholicism in America.

The Academic Address is an annual public lecture by the chief academic officer. Father Baima’s lectures and contributions can be found on the Provost’s Page of the Academic Affairs website. https://usml.edu/news-academic-affairs/deans-page/