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New HC president in ‘listening’ phase

Posted By January 21, 2012 | 1:32 am | Local

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – As the 32nd president of the College of the Holy Cross assumed office last week, he spoke of spiritual and intellectual formation for members of the campus community, and the possibility of acquiring a retreat house nearby.
The college is planning a capital campaign to support its Catholic and Jesuit identity, provide scholarships for students and resources for faculty and staff, and help upgrade the physical plant, Jesuit Father Philip L. Boroughs, 62, told The Catholic Free Press Tuesday, a day after taking the helm. The college’s Board of Trustees elected him last May to succeed Jesuit Father Michael C. McFarland, who retired.
“The Holy Spirit has been alive and well in this community since 1843,” Father Boroughs said, when asked about his vision. “I as the new president need to make sure that I understand that and that I can then discern how God is moving us now. I just want to be respectful of the traditions, the culture and the experience of the people that are here.”
Part of entering any culture is listening to what’s being done, said the new president, who has been on Holy Cross’ Board of Trustees since 2008. He spoke of inquiring about the hopes of members of the college community.
“There’s more ownership when there’s a collective discernment process,” said Father Boroughs, who received his doctorate in Christian spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Calif., in 1989.
“I do hear from our faculty, ‘How do I balance the variety of responsibilities that I carry?’”
He spoke of Jesuits seeing themselves as contemplatives in action: their prayer and discernment helps them recognize God in their action, and their action helps them find God in new ways in their prayer and see him at work in the world.    Asked about Holy Cross’ Catholic nature, Father Boroughs, who was vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University from 2003-2011, pointed to efforts already under way.
He spoke of “exploring global Catholicism” at the renamed Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. This new scholarly initiative is being launched at the center, which was established in 2001 and sponsored interdisciplinary conferences and lectures about meaning and morality. Last semester the outgoing president’s name was added to the center’s name.
At Holy Cross there are many religious opportunities for different audiences, including Masses, prayer services and lectures, Father Boroughs said. Some students enter a service program and that leads into a retreat. There is a theological component in the education. And the college sponsors and participates in events of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Father Boroughs, who was rector of the Jesuit community at Seattle University and taught there and at Gonzaga University, said Holy Cross faculty and staff from a variety of religious traditions found a pilgrimage to Spain meaningful, as it enabled them to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits.
“Who are the carriers of the mission of the college?” he asked, and answered that they are not just Jesuits, but faculty and staff, and alumni who carry that tradition beyond the campus.
“We’re exploring the possibility of acquiring a retreat house,” for students, faculty, staff and alumni, within reasonable accessibility of the campus, said the priest who raised funds to develop and endow Georgetown’s Calcagnini Contemplative Center, now under construction. He declined to give details, but said this is among projects toward which Holy Cross’ capital campaign is directed.
The campus’ physical plant is another target of the campaign, he said. Holy Cross is considering improving athletic, recreational and some academic facilities. Also coming under the campaign are scholarships and resources for faculty and staff – from support for research to ensuring a living wage.         “Tending to scholarships will be a very important part of our strategic plan,” Father Boroughs said, speaking of making the college accessible to a wide variety of students in the face of increasing costs.
Asked about addressing moral issues, Father Boroughs said he has not yet gotten into the specifics. The college already offers ethics classes and service programs, called “community-based learning,” he noted.
He focused on these service programs when asked about relationships between the college and the surrounding community, which both complains of student drinking and benefits from student volunteerism. Some agencies would find it a challenge to operate without the service Holy Cross students provide, he said.
“Kids make mistakes; we all make mistakes,” but students’ overall contribution to the city and the broader community has been extraordinary, he said.
“The whole institution is committed to educating the whole person,” intellectual, spiritual, moral and social, Father Boroughs said of Holy Cross. Speaking of academic life, he said, “We focus on the liberal arts and we focus on the student-teacher relationship.” He said students have said they never had a bad teacher there.        He praised Father McFarland for extraordinary leadership for the Catholic and Jesuit nature of the college and the quality of its academic life, and said it is humbling and exciting to follow someone who set standards so high and accomplished so much.