Regarding the War with Iraq

March 19, 2003

Dear colleagues and students:

As the clock ticks steadily forward today, it seems all but inevitable that we will soon be at war. While we should never abandon our prayer and efforts to shape a world of peace, and indeed intensify them at a time like this, we can take additional steps as a community to reckon with the impending decisions of our own government and that of Iraq, as well as the impact of these decisions on the people of Iraq, on our women and men in the armed forces, on our own families and friends, and on our country.

So, I am writing today to urge us to draw more closely together as a community, as we always do when a crisis disrupts our life together. As was the case in the days and weeks following September 11, we want our college to be a safe and peaceful space where differing viewpoints and perspectives can coexist peacefully. I write because I believe our efforts must be even more explicit and intentional at this time.

Our current political and economic climate will no doubt contribute to heightened anxiety among our students. I know you will be attentive to that reality in whatever way is appropriate for you. Of special concern are students who are far from home and students who may have family or friends who have been or will be deployed to the war zone. I am sure you also know that some of our colleagues have either been deployed or are about to be.

The College of St. Catherine treasures its tradition of thoughtful dialogue and actively encourages its students to participate in the civic life of this country. People -- students, staff and faculty alike -- may well have strong opinions about the impending war and will naturally express them. I encourage all to think about respectful forums where such exchanges may take place and where, I trust, the opinion of each will be acknowledged with respect.

People often ask me why the College does not take a public stand at a time like this. Here is why we do not. In contrast to the National Catholic Bishops who, as the Church's moral leaders, have taken a strong position opposing this war, a College is more appropriately a forum where respectful and informed dialogue on this very complex issue must continually take place. Because commitment to the integration of faith and reason is so ingrained in the fabric of Catholic colleges, at St. Catherine's we will stand for those principles implied in that commitment and thus offer a place for reasoned dialogue about matters of great consequence which, by their very nature, are construed differently by thoughtful and caring people.

Today, March 19, is the feast of St. Joseph, the patron of the Sisters of St. Joseph. It is a great feast for the Sisters and we join in their prayer for peace, as well as our own prayer of thanksgiving for their presence among us. And while the call to prayer at this time of crisis may seem pointless or remote, I encourage everyone in the College community to come to Our Lady of Victory Chapel or the lounge of Old Main in Minneapolis at 12 noon to 12:30 PM tomorrow, March 20, to continue our prayer together.

For our world and its people; for our country and its leaders; for our sisters and brothers who will be affected most directly by this war, whether American, British, or Iraqi; for the Sisters of St. Joseph and all for which they stand; and for our own community, that it may be a shining example of peace and love amid great diversity, let us beseech God most earnestly.

With every good wish that peace and tranquility may fill the heart of each and inspire the same in all and everyone encountered I am,

Sincerely,

Andrea J. Lee, IHM
President