Celebrating 50th Anniversaries

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This past weekend, Anna Maria College celebrated its annual Reunion Weekend. The highlight of this weekend every year is the recognition of our 50th anniversary class … this year it was the class of 1962. These women have lived extraordinary lives and provide a living history of this special College.  As they share their stories of their lives at AMC and the decades after graduation, one is provided with a unique perspective on the changes in the world that they have experienced.

As I reflected on my time with the Class of 1962 and all of our alumni/ae, I was reminded of the fact that these golden anniversary women graduated in the same year that Vatican II was convened. Just a few days ago on October 11, 2012, the Catholic Church commemorated the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. These women have lived the experience of the evolution of the Church… and there have been many changes.

One change that really extends beyond the Catholic world is the impact Vatican II has had on ecumenism. As Fr. John O’Malley from Georgetown reminds us,

“Before the council, Catholics were not only forbidden to pray with those of other faiths but also indoctrinated into a disdain or even contempt for them. (This was, of course, a two-way street.) Now, for the first time, Catholics were encouraged to foster friendly relations with Orthodox and Protestant Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims, and even to pray with them. The council condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and insisted on respect for Judaism and Islam as Abrahamic faiths, like Christianity.”

When Vatican II was convened by Pope John XXIII, it was the largest gathering of Catholic leaders to ever take place. When the 50th Anniversary Mass took place on October 11, 2012, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, were invited to attend.

Fr. O’Malley attributes this clear movement towards openness and ecumenism in the past twenty-five years to the life experience of Pope John Paul II. He suggests that Pope John Paul II’s experience as a Vatican diplomat and papal nuncio helped him to more fully understand and appreciate the “goodness as he found it in people of other faiths and no faith.” O’Malley concludes that this led Pope John Paul II to focus on reconciliation most notably with Jews, but also with Muslims.

While Pope Benedict XVI is more remembered for his ill advised comment about Muslims in 2006 just months after his election, his address at a mosque in Amman, Jordan in 2009 and his visit to the synagogue of Rome in 2010 reflect this same openness to others and a spirit of reconciliation.

Vatican II served as the genesis for many important developments in the Catholic Church. Over the past five decades, there have been significant reforms in the way we worship and celebrate Mass, the opportunities for all people to participate in Church leadership, and a more widespread commitment to education. These changes have really impacted Catholic colleges and universities as we welcome people of all faiths and traditions into the common search for truth.

This past weekend, the Class of 1962 shared their impressions of the changes in AMC over the past decades. But they also shared their experiences of increased opportunities for women and the evolution of the Church they love.

The Catholic Church is not perfect and there is still much to do to achieve the vision of Vatican II. But just as Reunion Weekend celebrates the lives and accomplishments of our distinguished graduates, it is right and appropriate to say, “Happy 50th Anniversary.” 1962 was a very good year!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)


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