Iona celebrates Catholic identity

Stacey Franciamore, Assistant News Editor

The Office of Mission and Ministry and the Faculty Steering Committee on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition sponsored “Catholic Identity at Iona College: Honoring the Past and Looking to the Future,” a discussion on Catholic identity at Iona with President Joseph E. Nyre, on April 30.


The event began with welcoming remarks by Dr. Christina Carlson, assistant chair and associate professor of the English department.


“This event is a great way to celebrate the year and look back on our accomplishments and all of the hard work we’ve done,” Carlson said.


Following the introduction was an invocation given by Dr. Michele Sampson-Nelson, the assistant vice provost for the department of Student Services, who led students, staff and faculty in a prayer that emphasized the value of Catholic higher education in the Iona community and society at large.


In a discussion led by Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, the director of Mission and Ministry, Nyre answered various questions exploring Iona’s Catholic identity, his time at Iona and what he envisions for Iona’s future.


Nyre highlighted that a major part of Iona’s Catholic identity involves debate and learning with civility.


“We should be open to having great debates and should be mindful of how difficult those conversations can be,” Nyre said. “To have the faculty teach students, instruct them in a helpful manner and talk about life’s big challenges is a sign of our civility and dialogue. We listen to one another. This is all critical.”


According to Nyre, the renovation of the Edmund Rice Chapel is a significant contribution towards Iona’s Catholic identity, and having the Christian Brothers present on campus is an accomplishment in itself.


“The presence of the Christian Brothers on this campus is a unique part of our Catholic identity and a significant achievement,” Nyre said. “Again, we’re a young college, and how we approach this is how we ensure that the Christian Brothers guidance is ever present.”


Nyre discussed his struggle in understanding what Catholic identity meant for him when he first came to Iona.


“It was Brother Novak who reminded me that Catholic identity rests in no singular person’s act, but rather our collective responsibility,” Nyre said.


Nyre also reflected on the challenges of maintaining Iona’s Catholic identity.


“Certainly, there are challenges in our faith right now,” Nyre said. “Our ability and willingness to enter into those conversations, talk about them and talk about how to go forward is also indicative of who we are and our commitment to learn.”


Nyre also discussed what he wishes he would have done differently during his eight years at Iona.


“Well, I’ll admit that if I could go back after the last eight years, I would look at the things I think could’ve done better, embraced more fully or had a more open dialogue about,” Nyre said. “One of them would’ve been the Ex Corde Ecclesiae. It’s the guiding document from Rome and tells us what a Catholic college or university is in the United States.”


At the conclusion of the discussion, Nyre offered advice to the ninth president of Iona.


“I know that this community will embrace the ninth president of Iona College,” Nyre said. “I know our strength stems from the quality of our people. I know we have amazing students, faculty and staff and alumni that come back and give in so many ways. I know that the next president won’t have to look hard, because it’s present wherever you turn, this sense of humility and kindness.”


The Faculty Steering Committee on Catholic Intellectual Tradition at Iona has led a series of presentations throughout the year and will continue to create an open dialogue between religion and culture and promote Iona’s Catholic identity.


The committee is already looking to the 2019-2020 school year. Procario-Foley recently received a grant from the Collegium and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities to organize a symposium for faculty and staff to discuss Catholic higher education and how to transmit its traditions.