ather Don Farnan

Mar 30

I have had a few recent encounters with students, alumni, and friends of Rockhurst University that, I believe, will help shape my role there in upcoming years.  They all pointed to the value of friendships.  Perhaps, most explicit was the installation ceremony of new members in my fraternity’s local chapter.  Through it, I reminisced how that brotherhood embraced me when I was eighteen, allowed me to grow up in many ways, and provided a bond of friendships that have been long lasting.  The new group, having just completed initiation rites, felt a particular closeness to each other; and their big brothers who welcomed them expressed a filial love that runs deep.  Their strong connection reminds me of a phenomenon happening among some men in their thirties and forties who form small groups to hold one another accountable in areas of fitness, faith, and fellowship.  They have standards for staying in shape physically and, when they get together, they talk not about sports, weather, or the stock market, but about how they are doing as a husband, father, businessman, neighbor, friend, and man of faith, integrity, and dignity.

Periodically running into former college classmates, I am delighted to hear about the profound impact some of our professors made on them: teaching them how to think critically, value other opinions, reverence people from all walks of life, inspire service in their communities, and trust God’s guidance in their lives.  David Brooks, who visited Kansas City at Rockhurst’s invitation this week, encouraged students and others who attended his presentation to balance our desire for success with a desire to make a better society, to be soul-driven as much as we are ego-driven, to pursue a vocation more than a job, and to give our world more than we want our world to give us.  It is a good exercise for alumni to contemplate what we learned in college and how it has impacted us since.  He suggested that groups of college friends might do well to meet up annually in future years and collaborate on a project to help those in need.

Some Jesuit Universities around the globe have alumni groups that meet and join forces on projects that make communities better.  One such group is the Jesuit Friends and Alumni Network (JFAN); another is the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC).  It is my hope to rally alumni and friend of Rockhurst to participate in these or similar efforts through the university and do the same with other people of goodwill through urban parishes and other social agencies that are invested in the heart of our city.  I am a long way from college, and now in my later years of priesthood, but I hope I can spend the remainder of my life helping people to help other people.

As I think back on my college experience, it really wasn’t primarily about the exams, essays, presentations, or dissertations.  It was about sitting at the feet of wisdom and garnering insight from the experience of professors while making friends with other coeds who wondered and wandered as I did.  We were lucky at Rockhurst for the smaller class size and personal attention we received, different from large state university settings.  I recall having beers with Doc Sheeran in the TKE house basement debating politics, walking the quad with Fr. Rashford while discussing my future, sitting in awe as Sr. Rosemary shared stories that made epistemology relevant to life, and the numerous opportunities we were given to engage in our surroundings.  Like many of my peers, when I contemplate college days and consider how they impacted me since, I am most grateful for the relationships and core values that still guide me.

Graduation day is like Opening Day at the K: we stand at the threshold of unpredictable yet exciting prospects ahead. Spring Training in the church each year is Lent; it brings us to the times of faith that matter most. Similarly, college prepares us for the rest of our lives. I was blessed to be given such good training.