Bishop O'Connell enjoys conversation with CUA president, Dr. Peter Kilpatrick.
Bishop O'Connell enjoys conversation with CUA president, Dr. Peter Kilpatrick.
The Breakers in Spring Lake was the perfect setting for an end of summer gathering of New Jersey alumni/ae of The Catholic University of America the evening of Aug. 30.  Some 130 men and women from across the state registered for the Cardinals (CUA’s mascot) at the Shore event this year with a special purpose in mind: to welcome CUA’s new president, Dr. Peter Kilpatrick.

Accompanied by 2021 graduate from the CUA School of Canon Law, Father Jean Felicien, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., CUA’s 14th president and himself a double alumnus, opened the evening’s activities with a prayer and enthusiastic remarks about his “second successor.“

PHOTO GALLERY: CUA Alumni gathering in Spring Lake

“Let us pray for our national Catholic university,” Bishop O’Connell began, “so important to all Catholics in the United States as the place where ‘the Church in our country does its thinking’.”  Asking God’s blessing upon the university community, all its alumni/ae and its students, especially those from the Garden State, Bishop O’Connell continued, “we pray for our new president, Dr. Peter Kilpatrick.  Give him the grace and wisdom he needs to lead our university to even greater heights for our Church and American society.”

This alumni/ae event coincides with the Labor Day Weekend’s annual National Collection for the Catholic University of America. Though there are many other Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S., only CUA is the subject of a national Catholic higher education collection because of the pledge that dates back to its founding. When the U.S. bishops approached Pope Leo XIII for permission to establish a “national Catholic university,” the Holy Father asked for their commitment to provide financial and moral support for the institution.  The bishops accepted that condition and founded CUA in 1887.  Their promised commitment continues to the present day and annually provides several million dollars in much needed support for the national university of the Church in this country.

Bishop O’Connell and President Kilpatrick both gratefully noted in their remarks that, over the years, the Diocese of Trenton contributes the largest amount to CUA of any U.S. diocese. They also noted that the Diocese of Trenton annually sends the largest number of students to CUA, many of whom benefit from the proceeds of the collection through scholarship assistance.  The alumni/ae of the New Jersey Dioceses of Trenton and Camden recently contributed over $1 million to CUA’s capital campaign “Light the Way.”

“Providing the highest quality Catholic higher education,” Bishop O’Connell reflected, “is so hugely expensive today.  And it’s not going in the other direction.  Every contribution makes a difference.”  He added, “President Kilpatrick is the right person at the right time to lead CUA forward.”

The evening’s emcee, New Jersey CUA alumnus Steve Westhoven, provided highlights of the many accomplishments of Bishop O’Connell’s 12-year tenure as president of CUA (1998-2010), which included: construction of a student center and three new dormitories; renovation of many existing buildings; steadily increasing undergraduate enrollments; the acquisition of 50 additional acres of property for future use, and planning for multiple improvements in the northeast Washington neighborhood “to name a few.” 

Westhoven then introduced Dr. Kilpatrick, noting that he came to CUA from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where he served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Westhoven went on to say that President Kilpatrick, who also taught at Notre Dame University, has an impressive background as “an accomplished administrator, educator and scholar.” An engineer by academic profession, he holds 12 patents and has a lengthy list of scholarly publications.

“I am so happy to be with you here ‘at the Jersey shore’ tonight,” the President began. “I look forward to meeting each of you.”  Acknowledging Bishop O’Connell’s presence and presidency, Dr. Kilpatrick shared his intention to continue to build upon his predecessor’s legacy and “greatest contribution” to CUA, “the restoration and strengthening of its Catholic identity and mission.” 

He then shared some impressions of CUA and outlined some plans for his administration.  “Of all the universities where I have served or visited, I have never been in a place where the sense of community is so strong, so warm and welcoming.”  President Kilpatrick described his plans to share the CUA story all over the country. 

Spirits were high during the two-hour event as “old CUA friends” got reacquainted or made “new CUA friends.”  Several of the alumni/ae noted that their children attended or are currently attending the university.  “They loved/ love it” was a common theme.

CUA’s Vice President for Advancement Scott Rembold, Executive Director for Alumni Engagement Chris Johnson, Dean of the School of Engineering John Judge and several other members of the university’s administration were on hand to greet the alumni/ae present.

A new clergy appointment in the Diocese of Trenton also has CUA connections. Conventual Franciscan Friar Father Robert Schlageter has been appointed pastor of St. Peter Parish in Point Pleasant.  Father Robert was CUA’s Director of Campus Ministry and University Chaplain during Bishop O’Connell’s entire presidency.  “Father Robert was an amazing, omni-present priest chaplain.  He was the ‘soul’ of CUA’s spiritual life,” recalled Bishop O’Connell. “I could not imagine life at CUA during my tenure without him.”

Offering his enthusiastic encouragement to Dr. Kilpatrick, Bishop O’Connell shared with him and the alumni/ae, “My years at Catholic University were among the happiest of my 40 years as a priest.  I hope they are as wonderful for you.”