Catholic University’s 16th President Installed at the Basilica

Courtesy of Zachary Lichter

By Zachary Lichter

On Friday, November 11, 2022, Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, the sixteenth president of the Catholic University of America, was installed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Professors canceled class for the historic event, classes later resuming at 12:10 p.m. Mass began at 10:00 am in the upper church of the Basilica. The Mass was live-streamed on the Catholic University of America’s YouTube channel and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN). The string section of the Catholic University’s Symphony Orchestra and choir provided music for the Mass. Marc Bryan Lilley, the Head of Musical Theater and Choir Director of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, along with Faith Foster, conducted the orchestra and chorus. Among the guests in attendance were Kilpatrick’s wife, Nancy, and his three children, Elisabeth, Zachary, Charles, and Alexandra, their spouses, and three grandchildren. President John Garvey, the fifteenth president, and Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton in New Jersey, the fourteenth president, were also in attendance.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington and Chancellor of Catholic University, was the celebrant. He was assisted by a transitional deacon from the Diocese of Worcester, Deacon Peter Bui, and a transitional deacon from the Diocese of Dallas, Deacon Cesar Garcia. Besides Bishop O’Connell, six other bishops concelebrated the Mass, including Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio of the United States, Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Bishop Kevin Sweeney of the Diocese of Paterson in New Jersey. Bishop Francois Beyrouti of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton in Massachusetts was also in attendance. There were also fifty-three priests that attended, including two Byzantine priests; Catholic University Chaplain Father Aquinas Guilbeau, the Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies Father Mark Morozowich, and the Dean of the School of Canon Law Monsignor Ronny Jenkins.

Mass began with Monsignor Walter Rossi, CUA Alumnus and Rector of the Basilica, giving the opening remarks. He welcomed Cardinal Gregory, concelebrating bishops, priests, Kilpatrick’s family, and the CUA community. Instead of the First and Second Readings, there was only the Epistle Reading, which was lectured by sophomore politics major and Student Government Association Vice President Maevis Fahey. One of the transitional deacons read the Gospel. Cardinal Gregory then gave a homily about how the CUA community is fortunate to have Kilpatrick as the new president of CUA. Cardinal Gregory talked about wisdom and how it’s important for universities to make men and women wiser. He also spoke about how Mary is the seat of wisdom and how he prays that Kilpatrick will be guided by Mary’s wisdom during his presidency.

After the Mass, sophomore chemistry major and math minor Elisabeth Walsh gave her comments.

“The installation of a president here at Catholic University is an event that defines the university for years to come in the president’s decisions and overall leadership,” Walsh said. “It’s important to attend to be able to actively participate in that change and all the things that will come from it. For the freshman, this event is even more special. These students are going to have President Kilpatrick the longest, and will grow with him as they both navigate their journeys through Catholic University.”

The Installation of President Kilpatrick began with the Call to Order from CUA Provost Dr. Aaron Dominguez. Dominguez acknowledged the board of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and bishops in attendance. He welcomed Kilpatrick’s wife, Nancy, and his children, Elisabeth, Zachary, Charles, and Alexandra, as well as their spouses and three grandchildren. He acknowledged Monsignor Rossi for his hospitality and President Garvey and Bishop O’Connell for their presence. Dominguez talked about how the U.S. Bishops founded CUA in 1887  and how it was opened in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII. CUA started as a graduate school for students studying philosophy, English, and various branches of theology. CUA would soon offer undergraduate programs in 1904. With CUA being the national university of the Catholic Church, he mentioned that CUA has always had a special relationship with the Pope and the Vatican. After Dominguez finished his Call to Order, he called Kilpatrick to be presented to the members of the CUA community with Victor Smith, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. 

Dominguez then called on Dr. David Walsh, a professor in the department of politics and a Presidential Search Committee member, to introduce Kilpatrick. Walsh summarized Kilpatrick’s career, discussing how Kilpatrick was the head of the chemical engineering department at North Carolina State University (NC State). He later became the founding director of the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center at NC State from 2004-2007. His next position was at the University of Notre Dame, where he was the Dean of Engineering from 2008-2018. He launched the first Ph.D. program at Notre Dame with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, later expanding into Brazil and Hungary. Afterwards, he became the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Kilpatrick has received numerous teaching and research awards, including the ASEE Regional Teaching Award

Smith then conducted the Charge of the President, as supported by the Apostolic Constitution. Cardinal Gregory asked President Kilpatrick to profess his faith and led everyone to recite the Nicene Creed. Kilpatrick also took the Oath of Fidelity, the promise he makes to the University and the Catholic Church. Smith then presented to Kilpatrick the symbols of Catholic University’s tradition of learning, the University Mace the academic gown of the president, and the Presidential Medallion and chain office. The mace contains the symbols at the center representing the nine schools at the time and also has the University’s coat of arms on top. The gown is gold and white, and the colors mark the founding relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. The Presidential Medallion and the chain office are made of pewter and are the symbols that the president’s office holds. The medallion was first worn by Clarence Walton, the first lay president, in 1969 at his inauguration, and has been worn by multiple university presidents to symbolize the tradition of continuity between them. Kilpatrick will wear the medallion at all official academic events.

Following the Installation, the crowd gave Kilpatrick a round of applause. During the Offertory, Nancy and the Kilpatricks’ three grandchildren presented the gifts. 

Following the Prayer After Communion, Kilpatrick addressed the CUA community. Kilpatrick began his address by thanking everyone. He wanted to ask two big questions: why do we exist, and what is the purpose of our university? He answered the first question by saying that our faith is why we exist and that we should never take our existence for granted. His answer to the second question is that it is a dialogue of faith and reason. Kilpatrick described how Catholics live in a world of confusion, and their questions need to be answered with scientific reason. Kilpatrick said that he had many meetings across campus within his first few weeks as President. 

“Some of the most difficult meetings were with students who revealed to me that they did not feel more welcomed on our campus,” Kilpatrick stated. “That was very hard for me to hear.”

Kilpatrick expressed gratitude to have his family present at the Mass. He also said that he was called to come to CUA because of his love for higher education and his Catholic faith. He concluded his address by saying that he hopes the university would grow throughout the next decade. 

“Within ten years,” Kilpatrick said, “we need to be a university of ten thousand students, undergraduate and graduate. At this size, we can be the vibrant university that we are called to be.”

After Mass, sophomore physics major and philosophy minor Nicholas Michalczyk gave his thoughts.

“In his speech, President Kilpatrick mentioned how reason is guided by faith,” Michalczyk said. “This is especially important to those of us who are studying the hard sciences because many people in the modern world do not understand the limits of the scientific method, and thus either idolize science or dismiss it completely.  President Kilpatrick affirmed the need to value every discipline in its respective place, which aligns with the mission of the Catholic University of America as a liberal arts institution.”

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