SBU Hosts President of Northern Ireland College

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — The Father Mychal Judge Center at St. Bonaventure University here hosted the president of a Northern Ireland college this week as the two institutions deepened their relationship and strengthened opportunities for collaboration. 

The event was the first of a series of campus lectures, sponsored by the center, which is named for the late Mychal Judge, OFM. Mychal was known for serving the disenfranchised and promoting reconciliation. He tragically died on Sept. 11.

The program is part of the goal of the center: to offer service and study abroad, connecting St. Bonaventure with its roots in founder Nicholas Devereux’s native Ireland. 

Peter Finn, (shown in photo) president of St. Mary’s University College in Belfast, gave lecture on Feb. 16 called “Reflection on Leadership of a Catholic Higher Education College in Northern Ireland.” 

Finn, appointed head of the college in 2008, has been responsible for several innovative developments at the institution, which celebrates 110 years in 2010, according to a recent SBU news release.

Ecumenical Vision & Collaboration
He recently expressed pleasure at being part of the SBU partnership.

“It is clear to me that they, too, have a mission, and that is to give expression to the ecumenical vision of Fr. Mychal Judge through student learning and service programs. I believe that goal is to be highly-commended, and I am very pleased to be associated with it,” Finn said.

“As a citizen of a state in the so-called developed world, I believe that our compass for following the right path in life can be steered by value systems which can lead us in the wrong direction or prevent us from knowing which way we should go. Fr. Mychal’s heritage of love, peace and reconciliation provides a path for us to follow, based on a life modeled on Christ, and one that reflects the goodness of God.”

While on campus this week, Finn is meeting with St. Bonaventure faculty and staff who are working to develop relationships, research projects and curriculum connections to St. Mary’s. 

Last summer, a group from Bonaventure traveled to Northern Ireland to develop contacts at St. Mary’s and Queen’s University, among others. Photos of Queens College can be found on the Facebook page of Fr. Mychal Judge Center at St. Bonaventure University, that also features other photo albums titled “Derry,” “Murlough Bay” and “Northern Ireland.”

“By establishing exchange programs with universities and forging relationships with Northern Ireland retreat centers and Franciscan friars in Dublin, the center will provide unique opportunities for students and faculty to engage in study abroad opportunities that integrate reconciliation studies, service learning and reflection, according to the Winter 2009 issue of Good Works, the newsletter for St. Bonaventure University’s Center for Community Engagement.

In establishing the Judge center, St. Bonaventure recognized the strong Irish heritage of Devereux, the centuries-old contributions of the Franciscan friars in Ireland, and the university’s long-standing commitment to servant leadership and social entrepreneurship.

The CCE was established last fall, one year after the Judge Center was created.

Two Centers, One Mission
Both are centers within the Franciscan Mission office, much like the Franciscan Center for Social Concern, said Larry Sorokes, SBU assistant vice president for Franciscan mission.

“The CCE is brand new, and is intended to be the umbrella organization that coordinates and manages all SBU service programs, service trips, non-profit internships, and programs like the Warming House and Bona Buddies,” said Sorokes, who works with F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU vice president for Franciscan mission.

Because the Judge Center will include service trips and internships, a collaborative relationship exists between the two centers. The Judge Center is focused on academics, cultural programming and service, as it relates to reconciliation in families, communities, and nations, and on the study of the Irish peace/reconciliation process, Sorokes said.

Being part of the Mychal Judge Center has been very satisfying, said Sorokes. “Coming back to my alma mater and working within the Franciscan mission has been tremendously meaningful for me. To be able to create rich academic, cultural and service programs for our students and faculty — both here and abroad — is highly rewarding.” 

He added, “Since coming to SBU in 2008, I’ve met so many people whose lives were touched by Fr. Mychal. I’m honored to play a small part in keeping his memory and his work alive by developing authentic programming in the areas of reconciliation, restorative justice and community-building through the center.”

 Jocelyn Thomas is communications director for Holy Name Province.