Faith and the Mission of the U. of Dayton’s Fitz Center
By Bro. Brandon Paluch SM
Marianists strive to witness, form, and transform. We seek to bear witness to Christ, to form faith-filled leaders on fire for the Gospel, and to transform our world into God’s kingdom of peace and kinship. At the Fitz Center, our focus is on the latter two as we educate leaders who build communities. Just as Mary taught Jesus, we participate in Mary’s mission of forming servant leaders. We also work to realize Mary’s Magnificat: a total transformation of society. We seek to change, as Blessed Chaminade said, “the very structures” of society to “ensure a community of justice and reconciliation” like the kingdom described by Isaiah where lions and lambs are peaceful partners. Community building is an expression of Rev. William Ferree, S.M.’s teaching that to labor for justice means organizing for the common good.
Our particular approach focuses on assets, social capital, constructive public conversations, adaptive capacity, and a widely shared vision. With St. Paul, we affirm gifts, that each person and community is given a manifestation of the Spirit. Because our God-a Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit-is relationship, we highlight and value relationships. Like Mary who listened and questioned at the Annunciation, we balance inquiry and advocacy. Recalling Blessed Chaminade’s words, “New times call for new methods,” we learn together to adapt and change. And since Catholic Social Teaching calls us to family, community, and participation, we engage the talents of many to build a widely shared vision.
At Cana, Mary performed no miracle. She perceived a need, saw assets, and connected the servants to Jesus; and the waters blushed in His Presence. Like Mary, our impact in Dayton comes from connecting. At the Neighborhood School Centers, site coordinators have forged over seventy partnerships that support children with tutors and activities, assist families, and unite neighbors. Soon the RiverMobile will educate and excite local children while linking them with God’s creation and their hometown. And recently at a local Catholic school I witnessed one of UD’s theologians and her graduate students joyfully dancing Gangnam style with kindergartners as part of a service-learning experience. Perhaps these are the kinds of partnerships present in the Kingdom of God. At the Fitz Center, our mission is rooted in our Catholic faith and Marianist charism as we form and transform, educating leaders who build communities.