We all began with the document, Marianist Educational Associates: Statement of Direction by the Board of the Association of Marianist Universities, which remains a foundational document for us.
It begins with a brief history of the founding of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States. In almost all cases, these institutions of higher learning were founded and sponsored by various religious orders of women and men in the Catholic Church. Each order imbued the institution and its daily life with the Catholic intellectual tradition and its own “charism and deep story.” Since Vatican II, various religious communities have sought to nurture collaboration with laity and with the growing engagement of the laity in leadership in all parts of the Catholic community, religious and lay work together on every level of the university communities.
As the sponsoring religious communities have become smaller with fewer religious available to work in the universities, we are facing a future when the religious charism and deep story will be primarily a tradition that is remembered, rather than a living reality that calls us to participate in a mission and identity greater than ourselves. History has shown that when the university loses connection to the sponsoring community, it is not long before the other aspects of the university’s identity assert themselves and the religious mission and identity are lost.
The Marianist Educational Associates program is meant to be a response to that impending reality. Interestingly, the beginning of the deep story of the Society of Mary is found in its relationship with the laity. Fr. William Joseph Chaminade formed the lay groups first, believing that through them the church could be reformed in post-revolutionary France. Out of these groups, the Daughters of Mary and the Society of Mary arose. The MEA program is a response that reaches back to the founding charisms of the order and is the right thing to do, even if we were not faced with an impending reduction in the numbers of religious available to our university communities.