The mission of Madonna University, a Catholic institution of higher learning, is to instill in its students Christian humanistic values, intellectual inquiry, a respect for diversity, and a commitment to serving others through a liberal arts education, integrated with career preparation and based on the truths and principles recognized within a Felician Franciscan tradition.
Madonna’s mission receives its spirit from these Franciscan Values:
In 1937, Madonna University (then known as Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Junior College) was established by Mother Mary DeSales Tocka and her council in the Felician Central Convent in Livonia, with a first year enrollment of 18 Sisters.
Madonna University instituted master's-level programs in 1982 and became a university in 1991. A leader in nursing education at the state, regional, and national levels, Madonna’s College of Nursing and Health launched the University’s first doctoral program – the Doctor of Nursing Practice – in 2009. Through this growth and development, the institution has become one of the nation's largest Franciscan universities with a combined undergraduate and graduate student body of approximately 3,000 students.
The Madonna University seal, used on official documents, consists of the shield placed within a circle bearing the name of Madonna University and the founding date, 1937. The shield, designed by Sister Mary Angeline Filipiak, CSSF, consists of two ordinaries (geometric design elements). On the chief (the bar at the top of the shield) of red lies an open book, the symbol of learning, signifying that liberal arts education is the aim of Madonna University. Across the pages of this book are inscribed the words Sapientia Desursum (Wisdom from Above), symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the source of all knowledge. The red of the escutcheon (shield) stands for the love of God, the aim and crown of all learning. The pierced Heart of Mary with a host symbolizes the adoration of the Eucharist through her Immaculate Heart. It is also the emblem of the Felician Sisters who conduct the University. Embedded in the heart is the Franciscan crest consisting of a cross held up by the pierced hand of Christ and the stigmatized hand of St. Francis of Assisi, who also is the patron saint of the Felician community.
The blue and gold are the University colors symbolic of its ideals: blue for loyalty to God through Mary, to country, and Alma Mater; gold for oneness of purpose and unified strength of the University community in perpetuating Catholic humanism.
The emblem of Madonna University portrays the philosophy and ideals that permeate the educational structure of the institution.
The foundation of Madonna University can be traced to 1855 in Warsaw, Poland where a young woman named Sophia Truszkowska, formed a religious order dedicated to caring for the poor, homeless, sick, and the elderly. Known as the Felician Sisters, this small group of women dedicated themselves to helping their community through the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. The first Felician Sisters arrived in the United States in 1874, settling in a Polish community in Wisconsin to establish schools for the community’s children. By 1880, the Felician Sisters had expanded their efforts into Michigan, administering schools in both Bay City and Detroit. As the Felician community grew, so did the need for an institution of higher education to prepare Felician Sisters as teachers.
Madonna University exemplifies the fine tradition of Catholic and Franciscan scholarship that has contributed significantly to the intellectual and professional development in our society. With alumni on every continent except Antarctica, Madonna University graduates apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful service around the world – improving the lives of others, while excelling in their own professions.
When Rabbi Israel the great, saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go to a place in the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.
Later when his disciple, Rabbi Magid, had need to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.” And again, the miracle would be accomplished.
Still later, Rabbi Moshe, an order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: “I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel, the Lesser, to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient.
God made man [sic] because he loves stories.
~Elie Wiesel, The Gates of the Forest, 1964
Everyday events became stories to tell children, scribes and priests told stories of religious affairs, and leaders told heroic tales of their adventures.
We engage with others through stories, and storytelling is a lot more than just a recitation of facts and events. As human beings, we are automatically drawn to stories because we see ourselves reflected in them. We inevitably interpret the meaning in stories and understand ourselves better.
Every culture has stories to tell. These stories form the basis for how we think about the world and live our lives. Stories provide a timeless link to ancient traditions, legends, and myths. They also connect us to universal truths about ourselves and our world.
Through stories, we share passions, fears, sadness, hardships, and joys, and we find common ground with other people. They create connections with others. It is through stories that we experience rich emotions and feelings of joy, sorrow, hardships, and failures. We learn about behaviors and consequences.
Stories make us human. There are a great many lessons to be learned from stories.
Adam and Eve
Jonah and the Whale
Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.
And God said: let there be light . . .
And Moses said: Let my people go . . .
And Mary said: let it be done unto me . . .
And Jesus said: l am the way. . .
Moving ahead, we have stories of St Francis and St Clare. We have stories of Blessed Mary Angel, Fr. Honorat and the early sisters. Of the Sisters crossing the ocean to begin anew in North America. We have the stories of the founding of each of our ministries.
In this Mission and Heritage Week we hope to recall and share many of these stories. We also hope to share our own stories: our family backgrounds, our traditions, our values, and our struggles and hopes. We are our stories. They contain our Hope.
The great story has been told: God so loved the world that he sent his only beloved Son to make our human life sacred and valuable. So, too, the stories of Sts. Francis, Clare, Felix, Bl. Mary Angela, S Samuela and the Felician Sisters offer us wisdom and purpose. And we have our own stories, those of our ministries and ourselves. So let us pray:
Help us to know and believe that you love us more than we can ever know.
Help us to see in the multitude of our stories
Our connections with our past and insights for today.
Help us to embrace these stories with reverence.
We are not alone in our struggles and our triumphs.
We are a part of Your ever-unfolding story for the world.
Through Jesus Christ, your Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Where there is no vision, the people shall perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
It is hard to live into the future without a vision of what it might look like. True, we are often confronted by realities not of our own making, by obstacles that seem to derail us from our path. God sometimes works that way! And yet, dreaming and visioning are still important, even necessary, if we are to move forward with a sense of purpose and direction. Without a vision we are like the Israelites wondering in the desert
Visioning is as integral a part of the spiritual life as it is a part of our personal and professional life. The scriptures offer numerous examples of God’s will and his presence becoming known in a vision. From the Book of Joel we read:
I pour out my Spirit on all people:
Children will prophesy,
Elders will dream dreams,
And young people will see visions. (2:28)
Indeed, to be “in touch with” God, is to be open to his inspiration, to moments of insight and direction. This may require waiting patiently but with sure confidence. God will appear in some manner to lead us toward his will for us. To this point a passage from Habakkuk reminds us:
The vision awaits its appointed time;
It hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
It will surely come; it will not delay. (2:3)
In a seeming contradiction, sometimes the vision comes by way of hindsight. Only after the fact do we really see and understand where we have traveled. By living in faith, we journey inch-by-inch, step-by-step toward a goal that only becomes clear in its fulfillment; and, at which time, we look back and recognize that it was always available to us if only we had eyes to see it. Such is demonstrated in Luke’s famous Road to Emmaus story:
After the two disciples had journeyed for much of the day, they had reached their home, while the stranger appeared to be going farther. The disciples persuaded the stranger to stay with them, and... “When he was at the table with the disciples, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem... and told [the other disciples] what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.” (24: 30-35)
The life of St. Francis offers numerous examples of the integral role of visions. His biographer, St. Bonaventure, tells us: “He had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the forsaken country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified said to him, ‘Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.’” Likewise, Francis received the stigmata in the midst of a seraphic vision. “Pondering what this vision might mean, he finally understood that by God’s providence he would be made like to the crucified Christ not by a bodily martyrdom but by conformity in mind and heart. Then as the vision disappeared, it left not only a greater ardor of love in the inner man but no less marvelously marked him outwardly with the stigmata of the Crucified.”
The ordinariness of visions is at the heart of all our actions. Pope Francis reminds us:
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they see as good. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
The very famous story of the Three Stone Cutters is built around the importance of having a vision:
A traveler came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what these workers were doing, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, "What are you doing?" Without the slightest hesitation, the worker replied, "I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones." Still unclear of the workers' task, the traveler approached the second worker and asked the same question. To this the second worker explained, "I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones to earn money to support my family." Perplexed by the two different responses, the sojourner approached the third worker and asked, "What are you doing?" Stopping for a moment, the worker stared at the stone in his hand, slowly turned to the traveler, and said, "I am a stone cutter and I am building a cathedral!"
All three men, performing the same task, each had a very different vision of what they were working toward. How does our vision help us to understand our work?
The reflections which will follow for our Mission and Heritage celebration will offer different understandings of the importance of VISION in the lives of our forebears: Bl. Mary Angela, St. Francis, St. Clare and the two chief confessors and advisors of the Felician Congregation, Fr. Honorat Kozminski and Fr. Joseph Dabrowski.
We close now with two additional vision quotes to spur us into thought and creativity:
"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." (Helen Keller)
"Vision without action is a daydream. An action without a vision is a nightmare.” (Japanese Proverb)