ACU more than just a university

ACU-photoThe breadth of activities universities are actually engaged in often surprises many people. They are often of the view it is simply the next step on from primary school and secondary school.

Universities are qualitatively different to schools – this is especially the case for a Catholic university. This particular Catholic university prides itself on transforming lives.

First and foremost, a Catholic university is a faith community. Our students and staff are of all faiths and no faith, yet they are joined in a common mission – one which lies at the heart of the Gospel and the heart of the Church.

Of course we teach courses and we bring our mission as a Catholic university to bear on what and how we teach. However, like all human and all faith communities the core work is given greater life by the culture within which the learning or research takes place. ACU creates opportunities for its staff and students to engage their cultural, emotional and spiritual dimensions as well as their intellectual capacities.

Examples of this can be seen in small ways in the meditation groups run on our campuses or the opportunities for participation in liturgy – whether in our small regular weekday Masses or in major liturgical events like the beginning of the Academic Year or at Graduation Masses. It can also be seen in the support offered to students and staff by Campus Ministry – from ‘drop-ins’ for coffee or through opportunities to explore and renew faith in discussion groups.

At the Canberra Campus one really significant example, in collaboration with the Archdiocese, is the ‘Guinness and God’ program, which runs every month at a local pub. It is an opportunity to explore issues of community interest or topical issues with an expert address, followed by questions.

In 2015-2016 speakers included Archbishop Christopher, Genevieve Bryant, Monica Doumit and myself speaking on topics like virtue, Catholic approaches to disability care and the place of music in Catholic life. In early June there will also be a panel discussion on the purpose of Catholic Education.

ACU is engaged in these activities because we know that our students and staff have lives beyond the halls of learning and our community has a place in exploring them together.

Community engagement is the living expression of the mission of ACU that is perfectly articulated by the Clemente Program. This program engages people who live on the margins of society. For well over a decade ACU has made available academic courses and programs to those who are homeless or suffering from mental health or physical health issues that would usually make university study difficult to impossible. In this we partner with the St Vincent de Paul Society in a fruitful relationship that brings tangible benefits to those who are too often excluded from society bringing substantial benefits to our community as well.

By Professor Greg Craven, ACU Vice-Chancellor