President Larry Hostetter: Brescia University and Caritas
Brescia University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution founded in the Ursuline tradition of personal and social transformation through education by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in 1950. Its origins are in Mount Saint Joseph Junior College for Women, established at Maple Mount, Kentucky in 1925. Between 1925 and 1950, coeducational extension courses in Owensboro led to the creation of a second campus and, after 1949, consolidation of the two campuses at the present site of Brescia University. In 1951, Brescia began operating as a four-year college. Directed to academic and moral excellence in a student-centered environment, Brescia offers undergraduate and graduate programs that serve students who seek success through rewarding careers and service to others.
In the Gospel of John 15:12, Jesus says: “Love one another as I have loved you.” From the Gospel of Matthew we know that this command is second only to the greatest of commandments, which is to Love God with all of our Heart, soul, and mind (Mt. 22:37). The implication for Catholic higher education is obvious: we must make sure that this fundamental Christian value is nurtured and strengthened in the lives of our students. We recognize that every student is uniquely created in the image of God. We believe that individualized attention will assist our students to develop their intellectual capacity and to encourage growth in their character and moral virtue. We take pride in knowing our students, not as a name on a roster, but as a child of God who possesses the talent and abilities to build a successful career, to nourish strong families and make a difference in the lives of others, the life of the Church, and the life of their community.
Brescia University is focused on producing servant leaders whose lives exemplify leadership capabilities balanced with the responsibility of service. It is what we call the Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred; Devotion to Learning; Commitment to Growth in Virtue; and Promotion of Servant Leadership. The Latin word for love is Caritas and the effort to find meaning in this call to love is often called “Caritas Theology.”
In 2015, I attended a conference at the Vatican on the theme of Caritas. Afterwards, I was invited to find ways to include Caritas Theology into our Social Work curriculum. While Caritas Theology has a long history in Europe, there has not been a significant presence in U.S. Catholic Higher Education. Brescia was happy to embrace this effort but because the call to love is universal we decided not to stop with our social work program but to look for ways to integrate the notion of Caritas into the broader life of our University.
Caritas theology has become a central part of Brescia’s mission and we are guided by three overarching outcomes: Identity. Our students will discover and understand their Christian identity in their vocation to love. Knowledge. Our students will gain theological knowledge about the meaning of the vocation to love. Action. Our students will act on this vocation to love with service. These outcomes will frame all of our efforts that shape our Catholic identity, including the regular celebration of the sacraments, our required theology and philosophy courses, and the numerous campus ministry events.
In all these ways, we are attempting to be faithful to the command to love God and neighbor. Thus, caritas is the overarching principle for our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. The Caritas Center seeks to implement and expand the vision of Brescia University’s strategic plan for Caritas as a guiding principle infused through the university mission, in its programs, operations, and outcomes. It also seeks to network locally, nationally and internationally to bring this vision to life beyond our university community.
We truly believe that through education, lives are transformed and through those lives, the world becomes a better place.
Father Larry Hostetter, President