It has been a year of connection at St. Jerome’s University.
This past year marked the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Anniversaries provide us the opportunity to reflect on our past to come to a better understanding of our present so that we can position ourselves to build the kind of future we wish to leave for our children.
In a time where intolerance, violence, hatred, and fear permeate the media, universities offer a place of hope, creating space where diversity is valued, dignity of humanity is respected, compassion is extended, and fear is mitigated by education; creating space where all are invited, and more importantly, all feel welcome.
As we celebrated the 150 years since Confederation this past year, we took time as a country to reflect on our rich history that laid the foundation for building Canada into the nation we are today. We took time to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who welcomed early settlers to this great land and who supported them by sharing their knowledge and resources. Over time, this collaboration and partnership were the roots for the foundation that built a strong nation grounded in the values of dignity and respect for all.
As Canadians, we did not continue to value the contributions of our Indigenous peoples as we moved forward to build this country. The outcome is a matter of public record. As we stand at this point in time, it is important for all of us to acknowledge and come to understand our true history, and to work together to build a nation where all have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
We have had a long and varied history, as a country and as an institution. Over a century of events to reflect upon can turn the significant into minor, and the negligible into considerable. Generations of students have left their mark on four different campuses.
So how does St. Jerome’s University, an institution older than the country itself, mark a national sesquicentennial? By reflecting on the past, encountering the present, and planning for the future.
We are confronting the issues our country and her peoples have faced for centuries; connecting with our past, our present, and our future.
Canada’s 150th anniversary provided the opportunity to celebrate our shared values; our mutual achievements; and to reflect upon what it means to be Canadian. It gave us the opportunity to connect with the past.
It also let us explore both the contrasts and similarities found within our land and peoples: diversity and inclusion, youth and wisdom, reconciliation with humbleness and compassion, and reflection and understanding of our shared history.
This past year, our annual Feast of St. Jerome celebrated Indigenous peoples and their culture. We began the day with a sacred fire, and closed the event with a traditional men’s dance and women’s dance during the presentation of the Sweeney Award to our 21st Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Paul Martin, recognized for his work supporting Indigenous peoples.
We connected with our roots, through the Year with the Saint John’s Bible. The first hand-written, illuminated Bible since the origin of the printing press 500 years ago was displayed on our campus. It was especially appropriate given that our patron saint, St. Jerome, made a significant contribution to Christianity with his vulgate Latin version translation of The Bible.
Perhaps most importantly, we looked forward to our future, committing to Indigenous rights and reconciliation, and hosting the first Canadian Citizenship Ceremony on campus in conjunction with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship to welcome new Canadians into our fold.
We also continue to plan for our students’ futures, with the launch of our Library Renewal Project, and our continued partnership with Dana Hospitality. Both bring student wellness into the forefront, by supporting the health of the whole person.
The anniversary of Canada’s Confederation opened doors of connection here at the University, but most importantly, it offered us a chance to look forward to shape the next 150 years – and beyond – with the commitments we make today.
At St. Jerome’s University, we have bold ideas and aspirations for what Canada can be. It is only through courage, education, respect, and compassion that we will change the world for the better.
Dr. Katherine Bergman
President and Vice Chancellor