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Message of reflection and planning from Father Burns

May 20, 2021

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Dear Saint Mary’s community,

As announced earlier this month, Mr. Leon Dixon will be joining Saint Mary’s on June 1 as vice president for inclusion and human dignity. Our strategic plan, Building a Future Full of Hope 2025, identifies the goal of increasing diversity and a greater sense of belonging. While progress has been made, we have more work ahead of us. We are fortunate to have the depth and breadth of experiences Mr. Dixon brings to support our commitment to build an inclusive culture that promotes and upholds the inherent human dignity of all. This work will require all of our efforts and the summer months will provide time for Mr. Dixon to meet with many areas and frame actions and a work plan for the academic year ahead.

Suffice to say that the past year has been fraught with pain, anger and, in some cases, despair. Issues have included a contentious election, socio-cultural challenges that have created splintered factions, violence, protests throughout our nation’s communities and the tragic loss of so many lives. Among these losses and close to home we recall the recent death of Daunte Wright and soon we will remember the anniversary of George Floyd.

Rarely has the value of and need for education been so evident nor the call to respect life so clarion. We are grateful to be able to educate students to enhance their critical thinking and analytical skills; we advocate and showcase productive debate and civil discourse; we support and welcome a variety of perspectives as we seek common understanding and the truth in all things, while embracing the inherent goodness of people. We do all of this in pursuit of peace and toward greater justice through education, in our Lasallian Catholic tradition. Our collective work is founded in truth, goodness, and beauty.

Before we all break for the Memorial Day holiday, I am reminded of the “Declaration on the Lasallian Educational Mission: Challenges, Convictions and Hopes” that was crafted last year by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The document states,

Societies and individuals are seemingly finding ways to overcome the many problems of an age marked both by inequality and injustice, as well as by means of making new inspirations flourish, of creating new commitments, and of facilitating a new spring. The power of hope once again launches the commitment of Lasallians to the human and Christian education of children, young people, and adults in whom we find the face of God and the best expression of what is deeply human.

The power of this kind of hope is alive and well at Saint Mary’s. We will make much progress, together in solidarity. God bless you and may the summer bring time for rest, reflection, renewal, and reinvigoration.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!


Rev. James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D.