A Word of Welcome to 70 New Students, Eight New Faculty Members, Returning Students, Faculty and Non-Teaching Staff It is an honor and a privilege for me to welcome you all to Hekima University College. This year, as we begin the 40 th year, hence HUC @ 40, we are fortunate to welcome a sizable group of students in the school of theology and in the Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations.
We are honored to welcome our new students and the new faculty to HUC. We are happy to welcome Rev. Prof. William O’Neill, from Santa Clara University and Jesuit Refugee Services, Rev. Prof. Dominic Irudayaraj from the Biblical Institute Rome, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Foro, Rev. Dr. Stephen Eyeowa, Rev. Frs. Francis Anyanzu, Norbert Litoing, Eric Kambale, and Francis Aziza. We thank you for your generosity and willingness to serve at HUC. We welcome back all our faculty, staff and students. Make HUC your home away from home. Remember “home is [more than] where you were born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease” (Naguib Mahfouz). It is our hope that each of you will help us to make this academic community a place where people will not want to escape. To do so, let us tie our lives to a greater goal, not simply to particular people or particular objects. In that way, we will move Hekima from better to best. In that way, we will remain focused and not lose ourselves in empty detractors or useless distractions. We are reminded, in the words of St. Maximillian Kolbe that “the deadliest poison of our time is indifference.” HUC will be a home if you fight the poison of indifference in you.
HUC: A Center of Excellence in Formation, Research, and Intellectual Scholarship HUC is part of the Ignatian heritage. When St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) arrived at the College of Montaigu of the University of Paris in 1528. He was thirty-six years old. His heroic resolve to further his education was the result of his spiritual conversion at Manresa in Spain in 1521. At the heart of studies in the Ignatian tradition is a resolve to be morally, religiously, and intellectually converted. Let us remember this: "There is a danger that the knowledge of theology and scripture may pass from the minds of professors into the minds of students without passing through the hearts of either. Unless it finds a place in their hearts, the message of the gospel may be preached, but it is not going to be lived." (Thomas Keating a Trappist Monk)
The first fully constituted Jesuit college was founded at Messina, Sicily, in 1548 and from the beginnings of Jesuit schools, Jesuit college have sought to be centres of excellent formation, research and intellectual scholarship committed to offering a high-quality, integral, and contextualized educated founded on the finest traditions of the Jesuit humanistic and scientific heritage.
The basic originality and flexibility of the Jesuit system of studies is known not so much from the fourth part of the Constitutions on “Formation of Our Members after the Novitiate,” as from the basic Jesuit principle of choosing the greater good. There are many goods to be done, but an intelligent choice must be made for the good which is most universal and most beneficial. There are no principles deeper than this in Jesuit education, “to the greater glory of God”
Celebrating 40 Years of the Jesuit School of Theology and 20 Years of Peace Studies and International Relations For 40 years, HUC has grown and has chosen the greater good. Some of our professors come here and stand in front of only 20 or 30 students. Certainly this doesn’t make them famous compared to someone who stands in front of 1000 or 2000 people in a parish, but these professors make an impact for generations. From a modest beginning in 1984, our Jesuit School of Theology remains open to other congregations that seek excellent formation for their men and women. As a result, fifteen religious congregations participate in the mission of Hekima. HUC also offers ecclesiastical degrees awarded by the Jesuit Faculty of Theology of the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar in the name of the Holy See.
The call for peace and justice remains an urgent need in Africa. Poverty, the plight of refugees and migrants, the cry of Mother Earth, poor leadership and governance, the recent coup d’états in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and who knows what comes next. The cry of women in Eastern Congo, the fighting in Sudan, the fragile independent South Sudan, all are but an example of poor leadership in Africa. Our Program in Peace Studies and International Relations is therefore a response to this need. I am pleased that we have two women from the war-torn part of Cameroon who received scholarship from HUC to pursue Master’s Degree in our Peace Studies and International Relations. You mark the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations in a special way. We are indebted to the work done by the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa. This Institute remains a distinctive contribution of the Society of Jesus for years to come.
Biblical Dimension of the Number 40
40 Years of Hekima! Why make a big deal out of 40? The late Rev. Prof. Laurenti Magesa was not known to be someone noted for, or attracted to, flamboyant/showy celebrations. Yet when it came to his 40 th anniversary of priesthood, Prof. Magesa wanted to celebrate it in a special way. He did not know what the future held. The then-Rector of the Jesuit community, Rev. John Ghansah mobilized resources including a bus and accompanied Magesa to celebrate the 40 Years of his priesthood. It was a testimony that Prof. Magesa lived with caring people. Magesa did not live to see his 50 th anniversary. In his final remarks to some of us, he said this: “It is important not to be a burden to yourself as a priest, doing things simply out of duty. This will eventually crush you. But even more important: try not to be a burden to others on account of your own discontents in life.”
Why do we make a big deal out of 40? Figures we come across in the Bible often bear only symbolic meaning. Thus when we come across the figure 40 or multiples of it, it may not be the same 40 we use in money. It stands for a symbolic period of time, which may be short or long” (Fernando Armellini, Celebrating the Word. Nairobi: Paulines, 2009) Who would naively believe that Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain without touching food or water (Ex. 34:38); we can say the same about Jesus (Mt 4:2). Then we have also the 4000 given for the number of men (not counting women and children!) who witnessed the multiplication of bread (Mk 8:9). 40 stood for a period of preparation (without specifying the length) for a greater event.
For instance: the flood lasted forty days and forty nights …; the people of Israel spent forty years in the desert … the inhabitants of Nineveh did penance forty days …, Elijah walked for forty days and forty nights; Moses and Jesus fasted for forty days and nights to prepare for their missions.
I hope you see why we are making a big deal out of 40! The last 40 Years of HUC have been a good period of preparation. Rev. Dr. Stephen Eyeowa, in his prayer for HUC@40, writes:
“We wandered through the past 40 years, tested like your chosen people and tried like your beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Even when our weaknesses and failings have become great enough to attract your wrath, like the faithful spies, you reveal that the past years are only a glimpse of the greatness ahead. Trusting in your faithfulness, therefore, we pray that this celebration will not end our reign like the three successive Hebrew Kings. Rather, may we embrace the Mosaic wisdom, experience the Davidic victory, and like Christ, ascend into an eternal glorious future.”
HUC Moving from Better to Best
We recognize that Hekima has strengths and weaknesses. We celebrate both as we seek to improve. The last four decades have been a time of preparation. Out of twenty members of the faculty in the Jesuit School of Theology, sixteen are former students of HUC. Even our inaugural speaker (Rev. Dr. Ludovic Lado SJ) is a former student of HUC. It is now time to Go Further Still: Moving from Better to Best.
The shifting demographics in global Christianity are but an indicator that the future of Christianity is in the global south. I read this as a divine opportunity (Kairos) for HUC. Our desire in collaboration with faculty, staff and students, above all our trustees and university council, is to make HUC a center of excellence in theology and peace studies. Sooner or later, more and more schools of theology in the Global North may close. Perhaps HUC will become the best alternative for the English Speaking World.
As we are about to start the new academic year and as we look to the future, let me challenge our faculty, staff and students. “Imagine you are on your deathbed and around your bed are the ghosts of your unfulfilled potentials, the ghost of the talents you did not use, and they are standing around your bed, angry, disappointed, and upset. They say: “we came to you because you could have brought us to life, but now we have to go to the grave together. So I ask you today, how many ghosts are going to be around your bed, when your time comes …” Africa with all its problems needs your help and it is time to get prepared… so what are you going to do with what HUC offers you? To achieve results, let us work as a team. The ideal set by the deliberation of the first Jesuit Fathers remain something to put into practice daily:
Should we have a mutual understanding so that those who are sent from our midst will still be the object of our affectionate concern as we will be of theirs, or should we have no more concern for them than for others who are strangers to our fraternity? After much discussion we came to a decision in the affirmative. Since our most merciful and affectionate Lord had seen fit to assemble and bind us to one another—we who are so frail and from such diverse national and cultural backgrounds—we ought not to sever what God has united and bound together. Rather, with each passing day we ought to confirm and strengthen the bond of union, forming ourselves into a single body. Each should have a knowledge of and a concern for the others, leading to a richer harvest of souls; for spiritual power, as well as natural, is intensified and strengthened when united in a common arduous enterprise far more than if it remains fragmented in many parts. “The Deliberation of Our First Fathers,” trans. Dominic Maruca. Woodstock Letters, 95.3 (Summer 1966): 325–333. https://jesuitportal.bc.edu/research/documents/1539_deliberationsofourfirstfathers/
The future of HUC is bright. You are starting the new academic year when our whole campus will soon be on solar energy. This is a response to the cry of Mother Earth; it is a response to the invitation of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ and to the University Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus.
As part of HUC@40, most of our buildings have been renovated and equipped with modern technology. We have planted more than 250 palm trees around the campus. More work will be done soon on our Tarimo Students Common. We desire to leave this place better than we found it.
We are working hard to found an endowed chair which will strengthen scholarship in theology and peace studies. We will host major conferences and lectures and we have invited seasoned professors who will mentor our junior faculty who are working on new publications.
We are looking forward to acquiring more land and property for HUC. We are grateful to Fr. General Arturo Sosa and our Major Superiors, who have been supportive in this regard.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). We are undertaking an evaluation of the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan so that we come up with a new vision for HUC that responds to the pressing needs and offers hope for growth in the future. We are reminded of the words of the first African woman president, Ellen John Sirleaf of Liberia, “Let your dreams be bigger than your ability to achieve them.”
Collaborations with Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus Collaboration with the Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus is to our advantage and we implore that God will grant us the Good Spirit to collaborate more. Expanding our horizons beyond Africa will remain another strategy. What I ask you all is that we recall the Ignatian words: “the enemy of the human nature does not like people to work harmoniously together. This enemy thrives when people tear each other apart or cease to celebrate one another in their
diversity of talents”.
We want to continue encouraging research and publications by our faculty and students. Our leadership will do what we can to support you so that you groan when you have to leave HUC.
Welcome to HUC! The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Num 6:24-26.)