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Message from the President

by James J. Greenfield, OSFS, President Jan 1, 2021
Father Jim Greenfield

“Let the world turn upside down, let everything be in darkness, in smoke, in uproar—God is with us.”

St. Francis de Sales

Dear Friends,

When Francis de Sales wrote these words, his world and the church he loved were turning upside down. Christians were killing Christians, states were not protecting their citizens, and light was hard to see for the darkness. Smoke and uproar abounded.

While more than 400 years have passed since he penned these words, we could easily use these descriptors to represent our experience today. Indeed, we know darkness and uproar: the pandemic, racial turmoil, national politics, intramural church tensions, fires in the west, hurricanes in the southeast, economic challenges, unemployment, and COVID-related stress and anxiety. And, this list doesn’t even include any difficulties in our personal lives.

Yet, Francis de Sales’ message concludes with four words of hope and reassurance: “God is with us”! We may remember from Matthew’s (1:23) Christmas reading: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Here, Francis is quoting Matthew quoting Isaiah.

With the death and illness of too many from the coronavirus, unprecedented natural disasters in fire and water, and social upheaval, some have called the amalgam of these events biblical, pointing to their plague-like nature. Francis didn’t. Nor did Joseph who heard the reassuring words of an angel in the dream that would predict the upheaval of his life in the virginal conception of Mary. We have cause to believe that throughout the many moments of distress and anxiety for Mary, Jesus, and himself, he returned to those four words of the Jewish prophet he likely knew well: God is with us.

These words reassured Francis during his turmoil, too.

And, we at the University bearing his name have turned to them again and again since March. In our planning and pivoting, doubt and distress, exhaustion and exhortations, we kept remembering: God is with us.

In this President’s Report, you will see the results of our trust and cooperation in our students, in one another, in you, and in the amazing grace that God has provided. I suspect that you have heard at least one of our community say, “We are ready for anything.” These words became a mantra to inspire us to pivot and plan and repivot and replan in the face of the seemingly countless challenges we have faced.

At first glance, these pages may look like the story of coping with COVID, but they accurately depict the story of the DeSales University commu­nity’s faith. Our mission, enrollment, student life, academics, giving, and athletics sections, discussed herein, are each a facet of the faith we share that God is with us.

We thank you for your faith in us. In return, and on behalf of our resilient and ready-for-anything students, I assure you of our prayers that you, too, experience the promise of Isaiah, the prophet; Matthew, the evangelist; and Francis de Sales, our namesake and patron…the promise that God is with us always.

James J Greenfield OSFS
James J. Greenfield, OSFS ’84, Ed.D.