Christendom College began celebrating its 25th Anniversary year with many festivities over the weekend of September 13-15, 2002.
Opening its doors to 26 students and five faculty members in 1977, Christendom College, now in its twenty-sixth academic year, has over 350 undergraduate students, 180 graduate students, and more than forty faculty members.
On September 13, the College community gathered in the Crusader Memorial Gymnasium to attend an Academic Convocation at which Jan Cardinal Schotte, Secretary General to the World Synond of Bishops, was given an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, and US Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson was awarded the College’s Pro Deo et Patria Medal for Distinguished Service to God and Country.
“[O]ver the years, it has been a pleasure to have followed the growth and development of Christendom College, by reputation from its foundation and in more recent years through various visits and continued contact,” began His Eminence. “When on 15 May 1993 you awarded me the Pro Deo et Patria Medal, I felt that my bonding with Christendom College was solidly certified. And then, on 8 April 1995 you honored me by inviting me to consecrate your campus Chapel of Christ the King and have preserved the memory of that event in a permanent display at the entrance of the Chapel. What more could one desire? Today’s academic honor places me even more in your debt.”
The Cardinal continued his talk by explaining that there are many Catholic colleges and universities today which do not clearly proclaim their Catholic identity, all in the name of keeping up with the times. “At this milestone of 25 years, we gather to commemorate how [Christendom College has] remained solidly committed to the true vocation of a College and its distinctive Catholic identity.”
“As an honorary doctor of Christendom College, I pledge you my prayers for the enduring fidelity of your institution to its Catholic identity and mission. Wear that badge proudly and strive always to share its saving message, all for the glory of Almighty God,” concluded Schotte.
Following Schotte’s address, Ambassador Nicholson was awarded the Pro Deo et Patria Medal by Christendom’s President, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell. “It makes me very proud to receive this award from you because I now know who you are and what you stand for,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson, a decorated military veteran, was appointed Ambassador to the Vatican by President George W. Bush on August 10, 2001, and presented his credentials to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, on September 13, 2001. Prior to being appointed an ambassador, Nicholson was the Chairman of the Republic National Committee. Nicholson’s tenure as Chairman was marked by record fund raising and flawless adherence to the rules and ethics, and culminated in the history making victories of the 2000 elections. Under Nicholson the Republican Party won the Presidency, the Congress, a majority of Governorships, and state legislatures, a feat not done by Republicans in nearly fifty years.
The highlight of the celebration weekend was the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Benefit Gala Dinner Dance held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia, on Christendom’s actual anniversary date, September 14.
The event was attended by an astonishing 560 of Christendom College’s faculty, staff, students, benefactors, and guests. Warren Carroll, Kristin Burns, Jeffrey Mirus, Raymund O’Herron, and William Marshner, the original five founding faculty members, were in attendance, as were many of the original board members and benefactors. Although not in attendance that evening, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, served as the Chairman of the Honorary Dinner Committee for the event.
Emceed by EWTN news anchor, Raymond Arroyo, the evening included a ten-minute video presentation of the history of Christendom College, with remarks given by Board Chairman Donna Bethell, Founding President Warren Carroll, Jan Cardinal Schotte, Ambassador Nicholson, and College President Timothy O’Donnell.
In his remarks to the guests, Ambassador Nicholson was pleased to read a congratulatory letter from President George W. Bush, and Cardinal Schotte read a telegram from the Holy Father in which His Holiness imparted the Apostolic Blessing on the College.
On Sunday morning, Jan Cardinal Schotte celebrated a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at Christendom’s Chapel of Christ the King during which he told the congregation that “on this Silver Anniversary of Christendom College, our thoughts turn to the legacy of the founders, staff members, benefactors and alumni who through their dedication and selfless activity have seen to it that they have been a source of good, like leaven in the dough. (cf. Lk 13:21; 1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9) not simply in the College community but in the Church and the world. In relation to others, the individual cannot be isolated from the future, for all our actions and failings leave a trace in the life of others and in society as well as in the Church.”
The weekend concluded with a spectacular fireworks display and a dance at the College, featuring the seventeen-piece swing orchestra, For Dancers Only.
The College has plans for many more anniversary celebrations throughout the rest of the year, and it hopes to conclude the year-long celebration on September 14, 2003, by dedicating the new 39,000 sq. ft. St. John the Evangelist Library.