The Last Word
Written by: Sister Beth Brosmer, OSF

The Last Word

Editor’s Note: On Friday, April 4, 2014, Niagara University formally inaugurated the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., as its 26th president. Representatives from Niagara, its alumni, the local community, DePaul and St. John’s universities, the Daughters of Charity, and the Vincentian community offered their welcome and best wishes during the event. Sister Beth Brosmer, OSF, executive director of Heart, Love & Soul food pantry in Niagara Falls, was one of the speakers. Her presentation follows.

Good afternoon. Greetings of peace to each of you, those who sit up front and those who sit in front of those up front, those who sit at the sides, and those who sit anywhere I’ve not mentioned, peace. We gather for an important occasion in the life of Niagara University, the inauguration of the university’s 26th president, Father James Maher.

This is also a significant moment for the students, faculty and staff of the university, and the residents of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, Western New York, and our neighbors in Ontario. For myself, I am honored to be the spokesperson for the community.

We welcome you, Father Maher. We welcome you as a community leader, as an educator, and as our brother. We are happy to have you among us.

Through the influence and guidance of the Vincentian community, Niagara University has thrived and given abundant witness to the legacy and tradition of St. Vincent de Paul. Quite literally, you stand on the shoulders of the many that have gone before you, your Vincentian brothers and the women and men who served with them at Niagara since 1856. These shoulders provide you with remarkable support and offer challenge on your inauguration day.

The residents of our city and county yearn for fresh and creative ways to address the serious social and economic needs experienced by our sisters and brothers living in poverty. The university, and you as president, are uniquely positioned to lead, inspire and call students, faculty, staff, and area leaders to work together, in order to renew, repair, and address systems and policies that perpetuate poverty and hold the community captive.

We look forward with anticipation to your leadership. We know you will be accountable to the Vincentian tradition, to the ancestors who hold you on their shoulders through their example and sacrifice.

Now, more than ever, we need the clarity and charity of St. Vincent in caring for the poor, and we need new St. Vincents birthed among Niagara students to be leaders in a world where so many people live in desperation without sufficient food, adequate education, housing, and personal dignity. We challenge you to lead Niagara in being a powerful force for good and to constructively push away roadblocks that allow poverty to hold our region hostage.

You are in the prime of your life. Spend your “prime-time” working diligently to serve the university, and to be a catalyst for change in the community; we need you. With St. Vincent as your inspiration, we pray that you take to heart his wise counsel to “never feel excused from the responsibility of working for the poor.” We promise to support you with our prayers, to challenge you with our questions, and to accompany you on the journey ahead.