Message from the President
Dear Friends of DeSales University,
I write this letter for the President’s Report as my first year leading DeSales University draws to a close. What a year it has been! I have characterized these 12 months as listening, learning, and then leading.
But, before I explain the year, I first want to share nine simple words paraphrased from the writings of St. Francis de Sales. I recently found them to be evocative. “Faith makes us know God is infinite in goodness.”
The patron of our great University was unquestionably a prolific writer, and these words are not among his most famous. They are certainly not as popular as our students’ favorite DeSales’ maxim:
“Be who you are and be that well.”
Nevertheless, in this new quote, I find the gentle saint acclaiming the power of faith: “Faith makes us know.” Francis de Sales also wrote that “knowledge is the eighth sacrament.”
“Faith makes us know by an infallible certitude that God is, that He is infinite in goodness, that he can communicate Himself to us, and not only that He can communicate Himself to us, and not only that He can, but that He will; so that by an ineffable sweetness He has provided us with all things requisite to obtain the happiness of immortal glory.”
As a university, knowledge is a foundational goal of all we do here at DeSales. And here, it is faith that empowers us, especially our students, to know.
Thus, it was with faith in our students, faculty, staff, and alumni that I launched this year with listening sessions across our campus and University community. I heard about the delights of the DSU experience, the joys of teaching, the jubilation of accomplishments, the beauty of friendships, the compassion of service, the gratitude of our graduates, and the peace of praying. Not everything I heard was good news. I listened to stories about the challenges of finances, the devastation of losing trust in church leaders, and the anxiety around student loan debt. Yet, at every turn, I heard a deep faith in DeSales University and the people and relationships that continue to make it grow ever stronger into the future.
I learned as I listened. I grew in my understanding about the power of Catholic higher education within the larger context of our nation’s universities, which is especially helpful as we grow DeSales’ reach into the Lehigh Valley and beyond, including overseas. This context brings us the vast complexities of a rapidly changing landscape for universities that demands innovation in instruction, redesigned integration of technology, and a deep sensitivity to the panoply of personal issues that our students now face. Again, my faith in our students and the strong professionals who guide and teach them reassured me that we are fortified not just to meet the challenges before us, but to thrive through them.
And, after I listened and learned, I led. I alluded earlier to how DeSales University, located in the home diocese of Allentown, needed to address the pain and outrage of the now nationally discussed Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report that detailed the evil of child sexual abuse by clergy and the deficient response of church leaders to respond to it. As you know, this impacted our campus greatly. Consulting with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Board of Trustees, I made hard decisions in an effort to begin a process of healing. I am aware that some of these caused upset, especially the removal of the name of Bishop McShea from our student union building. While his name no longer marks our student center, his foundational role in our school’s history remains an essential part of our heritage. Here, too, my faith in the whole of our University community and your commitment to our school and the Gospel that grounds it gives me true confidence that healing is not only possible; it is now occurring and inspiring a new generation of believers and disciples in our church.
As you read this President’s Report, you will see how we have taken the words on faith from Francis de Sales and applied them to the various dimensions of our University’s life. From faith in our students and how they are learning to faith in your generosity and our efforts to fortify our legacy through planning, our story is dynamic and grounded in the values of our Catholic, Salesian mission, which has allowed this year to be so great and will make our future so hope-filled.
Thank you for your ongoing friendship and support of this sacred mission. We are grateful that you walk with us onto that promising horizon.
James J. Greenfield, OSFS ’84, Ed.D., President