Monday, September 5, 2011

AFCU-SBU Liberal Arts Conference 2011: Spaces and Places

There was so much to learn while we were at St. Bonaventure University for the AFCU conference. However, there was also so much to see. This was a big campus, a beautiful setting and it was oh so Franciscan!

Each night after dinner we had a social at the Thomas Merton Center. It was a great way to unwind, to plan implementation and to get to know new people.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: A Social at the Thomas Merton Center

We ate in the Hickey Dining Hall. This was considered the regular, nothing special hall. Well, I was impressed with it!

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Dining Hall

I walked over to the Reilly Center. I wanted to visit the sports complex again. I would love to see a basket ball game here. The excitement, the noise, it must be wonderful.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Reilly Center II

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Reilly Center

While on campus the Franciscan Institute had a sale on their publications. While the Institute is hosed in the library their inventory was kept at a place known as “the Crypt.” I suspect our gas mileage was lower driving home because we all bought so many books.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Campus by the Crypt

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Outside of the Crypt

Our conference was initially headquartered at the R. Jones Trustee Room in Doyle Hall. Next to it was the chapel. The chapel reflected a time when each priest said Mass and so there were individual altars. The mosaics were colorful and wonderful to just gaze at. Unfortunately I could nevfr get in to video with the lights on. Even dimmed it is a beautiful space for worship.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: SBU Chapel

That was our July trip. The challenge now is to apply what we learned to our own discipline. The challenge is for the various schools that make up the AFCU to support one another. It was a great conference and I hope there is a follow up. We can do this.

AFCU-SBU Liberal Arts Conference: An Early Morning Walk to the Cemetery

We listened, we studied, we learned. We also laughed, ate, drank and made new friends. And I walked. One of my walks along the river was a quiet moment of looking, seeing, and appreciating a simple creature.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Life Beside the River

On our last morning I got up early and walked to the cemetery. Along the road were blossoms that were quietly waiting to be appreciated.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Blossoms on the Side of the Road

When I finally got to the cemetery it was almost too dark to see the Grotto. I could se it but I could not film it proprerly. This is just a hint of how stunning it was.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Cemetery Grotto

The cemetery had tombstones from the 1800s. It connected you to the land and the people. This was another dimension of community we often forget. Best of all, no vampires!

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: A Walk in the Morning to the Cemetery

On my walk back to the campus there were more plants awaiting my attention. The campus we beginning to wake up, that was good, I was ready for some coffee.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Walking Along the Road

AFCU-SBU Liberal Arts Conference 2011: Rare Books Collection

By the third day of the conference we are all attending breakout sessions. That took us to another part of the campus. It also helped us individualize our training. We were learning a lot. In the morning I attended a talk by Sister Carney the president of SBU. I went to her talk because I was interested in Clare. I also went because Margaret had been one of our guides on our pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome. It was good to see her again.

Still, as interesting as the talks were the campus kept calling us to her. After lunch we had one of our most interesting tours. We got to see the Rare Books Collection. The library is a beautiful, formal library. There are stacks, alcoves to read in and pillars at the entryway. The Rare Books Collection is in a separate but connected building that is climate controlled.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Father Joe and the Library

The following is a collection of video clips from the tour. Two things are clear, it is an impressive collection and I am not a movie maker! I should edit and remove some of these clips however, the tour was important to many of the members. I have no idea which clip best illustrates what the participant wanted to see or remember. So for better or worse here are all of them!

When we began the tour we did not know we were entering a separate building. The books on display would have been enough to keep many of us happy. However, that was just the beginning.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Entering the Rare Book Collection

The books were from different centuries and even different collections. When a college with a Franciscan book collection had to close it ‘s doors it would send its collection to SBU. They knew the books would be cared for and valued. The result is one of the largest collections in the United States and a center of scholarly research whose reach is worldwide.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Rare Book Collection and Still More Books

The climate control, the security precautions and the restoration programs all reflected just how important and special this collection was.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Rare Book Collection Climate Control

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Stacks of the Rare Books Collection

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Rare Books and Dr. Spath

Dr. Spath provided a casual and yet useful tour. It was clear he was a man who was happy with his job. Joseph Campbell would have described Dr. Spath as a man who followed his bliss.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Rare Book Collection Tour

I think we all left the tour wondering if we would ever have occasion to use the resources the collection had to offer. I suspect we were trying to find a way to integrate and apply the treasures of this collection to our own disciplines.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Rare Book Collection

So, that was our tour. It was wonderful and yet it was just a pause in the conference. It was time to go back and learn more.

AFCU-SBU Liberal Arts Conference 2011: A Small Town Church

Many members of our group would get up early and drive into town to attend St. Bonaventure Church for morning Mass. The town was tiny, the church simple and yet, it was such a nice setting for worship. The people were friendly and inviting. The priest was a Franciscan who was always happy to see other members of the Franciscan family.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Outside of St. Bonaventure Church

The inside of the church was deceptive (in a good way!) The outside appeared simple. The inside of the church was beautiful. It was easy to see why so any people made the trek each morning for Mass. Sure it was a sign of devotion but it was also reflective of people who appreciated how special their church was.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: St. Bonaventure Church

I only attended Mass once in the Morning. Others in our group went daily. They knew how to start the day off right!

AFCU-SBU Liberal Arts Conference: A Walk in the Fog

I normally get up very early on trips. This allows me to get in some exploring before we get to work. I was less driven at SBU to get up so early. I had been here before. Still, I did want to walk along the river early in the morning.

Six years ago I was walking along the river when I encountered a young “moose” standing in the river drinking. When it saw me is casually galloped away, lifting it’s heavy hoofs and splashing in the water that was spotted my sun light that peeked between the tree tops. The animal did not have antlers or I cold have know immediately if it was a moose or a caribou. It did have a hump and a shovel mouth and it was large and ‘lunky” looking. So I called it a moose. I was teased for what seemed for ever since there are no moose in this area. However, when I called Natural Resources they told me it was a cross between a European Red Deer and an Asian Deer that is raided in the area. They are smaller than moose and bigger than caribou. They are also the only animal that has the shovel mouth when young. So I walked hoping to see another miracle in the morning.

I was not disappointed. What I found was a fog so thick I could only see a few feet ahead of me. I had also never seen a fog disappear so quickly. By the time I was ready for breakfast there was no indication that the campus had been hidden in fog. It was a time of quiet and solitude and I loved it.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: A Morning Walk in the Fog

After slowly and carefully making my way to the river path I watched the fog lift. The path was revealed and I felt like I was on my way to Middle Earth. It was a nice way to begin a day.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: A Morning Walk by the River

As I walked along the river on my way to breakfast my eye caught a spider web glimmering in the morning light. Upon closer inspection I discovered a whole world of beauty and architecture. It was not a moose but it was wonderful. Morning walks are almost always magical if you allow yourself to see!

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Web of Life

AFCU-SBU Liberal Education Conference 2011: The Quick Art Center

Our conference was serious. We were being called upon to be innovators of higher education and at the same time to be guardians of a precious treasure, our Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. We were presented with models of education, research history. Still, during breaks thee was time to be explorers!

I wanted our group to make sure they spent time in the Quick Art Center. The last time I was here the curator had been a fellow pilgrim with me at Assisi. She gave us a great tour. I wanted our group to see how wonderful SBU’s art collection was. However, in fact our group did not need any prodding from me. They were all natural explorers.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Quick Art Center Entry

The Art Center had some special collections. My undergrad degree was in Political Science/Asian Affairs so I was very happy to see the exhibit on Chinese art.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Chinese Collection

I also liked the African Art Exhibit. There was a lot to be seen from a vast continent and yet it was not a large room. The use of space allowed for ‘traveling” through space and time.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Quick Art Center African Collection

The Permanent Collection was far more formal and far more European/Western. I liked it but I am not an artist or art historian. I was drawn to the other exhibits.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Quick Art Center Permanent Collection

The first floor was simply an excellent way to be introduced to the building. It was a magi door. Outside was hustle and bustle, the race for knowledge and a degree. Once you cross the threshold you entered a quiet place that stimulated the senses and demanded your attention. I loved this space.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Regina A. Quick Art Center 1st Floor

AFCU-SBU Liberal Education Conference 2011: The Beginning

St. Bonaventure University in Western New York sponsored an Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU) symposium on “Liberal Education and Franciscan Pedagogues” from July 25 to July 28th. The University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne sent an impressive delegation. It has lead by the Dean of the School or Arts and Science, Matt Smith. The team included Earl Kumfer, Trish Bugajski, Connie Collins, Dan Torlone, Sister Anita Holzmer , sister Mary Govert and myself. We were the largest delegation at the conference. I think an objective evaluation would also reveal we were the must fun and the best looking as well!

It was a long drive. Once we got to the university and got our rooms we had a little time to wind down before the opening of the conference. I immediately took a walk along the shore of the Allegheny River. The campus is large, over 500 acres. It is framed by low mountains and the river. Forty five minutes away the school also has a mountain retreat. It is a beautiful setting.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: First Afternoon Along the River

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Walking Along the Allegheny River

Behind the sports complex and across the river , on the side of a hill/mountain is “Merton’s Heart.” This is where Thomas Merton went to meditate when he was at SBU. For a man who was rejected by the Franciscans (to be a friar) and became a Trappist, his influence on the campus is substantial. I always feel happy looking at “Merton’s Heart.”

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: SBU Merton's Heart

With the little bit of time we had we did a little exploring of the campus. I had been to SBU for their AFCU Symposium six years ago. It was like visiting an old friend. I loved the buildings, the open spaces, the library.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The SBU Campus

I always liked spending a little time at the Oratory. It was one of the many ways you knew you were at SBU.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Oratory

Inside the Oratory was a quiet place of meditation. You were cut off from the busy campus. It was a place of meditation

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Inside the Oratory

However, as I stated, it was a brief time to explore. At 4:30 the conference began. The first presentation set the tone, “Liberal Education in the 21st Century: The Challenge and Opportunity.”The talk let us know what would happen to schools that did not meet the challenges of distant learning, a move toward professional school education or government funding that was often gong to for-profit schools. It also highlighted what we as Franciscans had to offer that was of value and different. It was food for thought.

And so went then went, had had some food at Hickey Dinning Hall. Finally we had drinks and conversation at the Merton Ministry Center. It was the beginning of a productive and four weeks.