SBU President Sr. Margaret Carney on Franciscan Values.
Bonaventure looked for ways to incorporate Greek philosophy, a prevailing part of 13th century education, into the Franciscan life. A professor of theology, he tempered the Greek emphasis on observation of the natural world with a sense of awe for God's creation.
Today, the same spirit of inquiry encompasses the entire St. Bonaventure community. On campus, faculty and students are encouraged to take an active role in their own education -- to penetrate the surface and look beyond. Our integration of curiosity and wonder stretches far beyond the borders of our campus, touching the lives of our alumni, benefactors, and our local community.
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St. Francis of Assisi felt that knowledge for its own sake was a form of vanity. He believed learning in a disconnected academic community was quite meaningless. Bonaventure agreed, and took steps to redefine the academic life to fit the Franciscan ideal. By uniting knowledge and love, Bonaventure furthered the teachings of St. Paul (Corinthians 1:13:7-8).
"Though I may speak with tongues of fire and have the gift to all inspire, and have not love, my gift is in vain."
At St. Bonaventure, we agree that knowledge for its own sake is vain and in vain. We believe, as did Bonaventure, that knowledge should lead to a fuller, more contemplative life. Since our founding in 1858, our professors have remained committed not just to helping students learn, but helping them learn to live good lives. Through small classes and a close community, faculty members become much more than lecturers. They become involved in students' daily lives.
St. Francis spent much of his time in reflective prayer. Many of the revelations he received were in direct conflict with his culture. Such was the case with the of women in the Franciscan order. In medieval times women held very little power within the Church. St. Francis set a new precedent by giving women an active voice in the Franciscan order.
One of his most devoted followers was a woman named Clare who exposed and challenged assumptions that had been handed down for generations. Today, Clare serves as a role model for St. Bonaventure students and faculty members.
In our Clare College core curriculum all first-year undergraduate students analyze their world through different disciplines. By studying, for example, the ways mythology and science, politics and the arts converge to create our own society, St. Bonaventure students develop the critical ability to examine the beliefs and assumptions that shape their lives today.
Franciscans live their lives focused on God through a life of service and poverty. It's no wonder the Franciscans who call St. Bonaventure "home" have such a strong influence on our students' lives.
Eighty percent of our students make time to volunteer with local service organizations. Student volunteers with University ministries have helped housing projects and day care facilities for underprivileged children in their missions. Other students adopt little brothers or sisters in the Bona Buddies program, serve as EMTs on our own Medical Emergency Response team, or serve food in the Warming House, the oldest student-run soup kitchen in the nation. Faculty, alumni, and families from nearby Olean work side by side with our students. Other members of our extended community volunteer in their own hometowns throughout the nation.
The spirit of St. Bonaventure isn't confined to our campus community. Instead, it's a part of each person who has been touched by our community -- whoever and wherever they may be.
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