Faithfulness as a compass

By Carolyn Y. Woo | Winter 2012

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Stay faithful. Fatih will never fail you. For the abundance of blessings we have received, I can only conclude that God honors those who try to honor Him.

Every morning on my drive to campus, I recited the rosary along with a recording of Father Ted Hesburgh, following the same routine of intentions and devotions. A short petition precedes the fourth decade: that the Mendoza College would be mindful of our blessings and stay faithful to our mission.

As I wind down my professional ministry at the College, I have delivered various talks and penned different essays. It seems like everything has been said, except for one message. And indeed, upon reflection, it’s my most central one, implicit in all the others: I fervently hope that faithfulness will continue to be job one for the College as it welcomes a new dean and starts its next chapter.

I am convinced beyond doubt that the progress we enjoy comes from the blessings of God and His Mother as a result of our explicit desire to put the Notre Dame mission foremost in our approach to business education. Our work is multiplied by the Holy Spirit, despite our often feeble, distracted and imperfect actions to honor this mission.

What is this mission to which we stay faithful and for which we invoke God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and His Mother for assistance? Our mission, weaving through everything we do, calls us to cultivate holiness in ourselves and express this in our care for others because God is in and with us. He is love, and at Notre Dame, we proclaim that He is real.

We believe that our work to integrate faith with reason, as well as success with virtue, is made possible because we do not take this on by ourselves. We undertake our mission by the grace of God, who empowers us to transcend self-interest, do the right thing despite personal sacrifices, put aside injuries, recognize our own flaws, and seek forgiveness.

Fortunately, God’s magnanimity never depended on our efforts, and we have succeeded beyond our most optimistic hopes, in spite of our inadequacies. We have met challenges of resources and capacity, given our relatively small faculty of about 110 who serve a large and growing student body of 2,500 across five undergraduate majors and four graduate programs. We have worked to innovate our curricula, adding coursework that instills in students our central message that business can be a powerful force for good. And we have persisted and thrived, even when almost insurmountable obstacles impeded us, such as when we introduced our Executive MBA program in Chicago right after Sept. 11, 2001.

We have seen amazing results, in our rankings, our enrollments and our benefaction. But most significantly, in our people—the students, alumni, faculty and staff—who take the Notre Dame mission forward to influence lives for the better.

In my first meeting with Father Hesburgh as a new member of the University he loves so much, he wasted no time to impart the advice to me that he must have given to all new people. It was the only advice that mattered to him, because it carried him through countless challenges. He gave me three simple words: Come, Holy Spirit. 

I can tell you that the Holy Spirit comes through, over and over again.

In education, our mission invites us to develop our students’ intellect along with an adult faith that prepares and inspires them to take on complicated issues in a culture that may not share nor reward their values.

Most other business schools would have difficulty making the connection between this mission and the metrics that drive rankings, reputation, noteworthiness, leadership and other proxies that seem to reassure us that we matter. These should not be sufficient nor foremost for the Mendoza College of Business, which has the privilege to sustain and add to a heritage that aims for something far greater:

• To offer an education in which the “hands and heart are engaged as much as the mind” (Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, C.S.C., founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross)

• To give students “the vision and the practice of serving the nation’s needy” (the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus) and 

• To recognize that “the primary function of commerce is service to mankind” if it embraces “a code of ethics based very largely on divine principles” (Cardinal John F. O’Hara, C.S.C., president emeritus, founding dean, Notre Dame College of Foreign and Domestic Commerce).

So in this last entry, there are only two words that matter, even if you forget everything else: Stay faithful. Faith will never fail you. For the abundance of blessings we have received, I can only conclude that God honors those who try to honor Him. For the Notre Dame mission, there is no worthy substitute.