Distinguished Alumnus Award conferral speech given at the 1995 Alumni Reunion
It is not
unusual for a bishop to be recognized and applauded. So, as I prepared this introduction for the
third recipientof the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award, I asked
myself, what truly distinguishes the life and work of Archbishop William
Borders? For this award is not given for
title or position. Nor is it given for
any form of early achievement. Rather,
it is given for who someone is, more
than what he has done. As defined, the
award recognizes an individual’s service to Saint Meinrad and the Church and,
more importantly, a person’s exemplification of Gospel values in his life and
work of seminary formation today, one of the challenges we face is convincing our
students that we all must be forever open to learning and to growth through our
experiences and the problems and opportunities God brings to our lives. I think the essence of Archbishop Borders is
that he demonstrates in his life and work that he has grown and learned – from
his God, from his parents, from his teachers, from his flock. He is a shining example of the type of
collegiality that is so necessary in today’s Church. In his own words, "Collegiality used to be a
concept foreign to the Church, but for me, it came from conviction and natural
inclination. I’m convinced that no one
person knows all the answers. In
process, we learn so much.”
been a great number of learning experiences in the life of Archbishop Borders,
and he has grown with each of them. He could have stayed in Indiana
instead of transferring to New Orleans,
but there he grew in his understanding of a broader and more diverse Church.
He didn’t need to volunteer to be an Army chaplain
and narrowly miss being killed by a German sniper in Italy in 1944. But he learned to deal with the pain of
seeing vibrant young men die in war. And
he learned to listen. In his own words,
"If only the army superiors had listened to their soldiers, some terrible
mistakes could have been avoided!” Years
later, he took that lesson he had learned and emblazoned it across his coat of
arms: "Auscultabo Ut Serviam” – "I will listen that I may serve.”
chaplain of the Newman Center at Louisiana
he didn’t need to spend a summer with
the Indians in Guatemala
to better serve his Hispanic students.
But he learned a special compassion for the poor and demonstrated that
throughout his ministry. He later became
what Baltimore Magazine called the "king of the soup kitchens.” During his term as Archbishop of Baltimore,
The Catholic Charities budget grew from $2.5 million a year to $33 million, and
its staff grew from 200 to more than 1,000.
And he regularly visited the legislators and government administrators
on behalf of the less fortunate.
was given his first pastorate in 1957, he didn’t need to end the segregation in that Louisiana church, when other churches in the
South had separate pews for blacks and whites.
But the compassion he had learned for the neglected and the
marginzalized gave him the courage to do just that.
he became the thirteenth Archbishop of Baltimore, he didn’t have to pursue his course of championing
the rights of the poor and of women. But
he never overlooked his responsibility to lead – whether in school
desegregation, or equal housing, or health care, or women in the Church. His great faith sustained him. Again, in his own words, "I believe if you
are called to work in the Church, God’s Providence
gives you the resources.”
Borders grew up in Washington,
Indiana, and attended Catholic
grade and high schools there before entering Saint Meinrad in 1932. Without question, his family had a great
influence on him. And they have had a
wonderful influence on Saint Meinrad as well.
His late brother, Chick Borders, and his nephew, Bill Borders, were very
active on our Board of Overseers.
ministry has been truly Catholic: associate pastor, army chaplain, campus
minister, pastor, seminary rector, bishop and then archbishop. Through it all, he remained a man of God – a
man always willing to listen to the people of God – a man of faith and courage
who served God’s Church through difficult times, with both vision and
with great pride and gratitude, the Saint Meinrad Alumni Association recognizes
a member of its class of 1940 with its Distinguished Alumnus Award – Archbishop
William Donald Borders.