SXU's Catholic and Mercy Identity

Saint Xavier University's educational mission is set in the context of and informed by its Catholic identity and Mercy heritage. The purpose of the Vision of the University's Catholic and Mercy Identity Statement, adopted in 2008, is twofold: First, it describes how a Saint Xavier University education is informed by these traditions and identities; and second, it sets forth how the University aspires to be Catholic and Mercy in all areas of its academic and communal life.


Saint Xavier University, founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, extends the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ to those seeking higher education. As an officially recognized ministry of the Catholic Church1, the University grounds its core activities of teaching, learning, scholarship, and service in Catholic theological principles that affirm the goodness and value of all creation and posit a view of human persons as created in the image of God and thus free, rational, relational and endowed with inherent dignity.

As a Catholic university, Saint Xavier University challenges all the members of its community to search for truth, especially religious truth, and to engage in a dialogue between faith and reason that ultimately leads toward the contemplation of God's creation and social action for the common good. This search for truth demands careful observation, critical analysis, vigorous debate, personal and communal theological reflection, and ethical and engaged decision-making leading toward a life that respects both the inherent dignity of another and the worth of all creation. Setting the context for the search for truth, the University encourages its community, especially its students, to become familiar with the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the imperatives of Catholic social teaching. Respecting academic freedom, the University strives to be a place where the vigorous discussion of ideas can occur, especially as they relate to its mission as a Catholic university. In the spirit of respectful and critical discourse, the University welcomes the breadth of the Catholic tradition as well as the voices of other religious and non-religious communities.

As a Mercy university, Saint Xavier University challenges its community members to teach, learn, research, and act not only for themselves but also for others. Thus, a seminal characteristic of the University is its commitment to service. Ideally, such service, whether direct or through the University's efforts to understand and remediate unjust systems, reflects the spirituality of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. This spirituality is grounded in the theology of the Incarnation, animated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and expressed through acts of compassion that embody the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In particular, the University community expresses special concern for those who are economically poor, especially women and children. In so doing, the University goes beyond simply passive expressions of heartfelt concern, and even willingness to stand with those who suffer. It seeks to right what is wrong and restore what is broken, thereby promoting human dignity, justice and the common good.

Saint Xavier University signifies and celebrates its Catholic and Mercy heritage in its symbolic, sacramental and liturgical expressions, and in its communal and collegial ethos. The University offers many opportunities to reflect, pray, worship and access the sacraments. It symbolizes its rich faith tradition through the appropriate placement of religious symbols and artwork. Further, it observes liturgical seasons and feasts central to its Catholic and Mercy heritage and provides orientation and mentoring programs that educate the community about this identity.

Recognizing that the search for God and the celebration of God's presence is ubiquitous, the University provides opportunities for those of other faith traditions and those on a personal journey of faith to study, to express, to worship, to celebrate and to discuss their religious beliefs in a climate that is respectful, hospitable and open to all.

To summarize, offering the opportunity for higher education within a Catholic and Mercy context, Saint Xavier University honors Jesus Christ whom it recognizes as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," the motto of the University inscribed on its coat of arms.

Approved by the Board of Trustees -- March 30, 2008


"Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy"

The statement begins by linking the educational work of the Sisters of Mercy and the teaching ministry of Jesus. It is sponsorship by the Sisters of Mercy through the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE) that establishes Saint Xavier University as a ministry of the Catholic Church. The text of this statement about Saint Xavier's Catholic identity and Mercy heritage posits a positive understanding of creation and of the human person in accord with Catholic theology, the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching.

"As a Catholic university"

The mission of the University and its core activities of teaching, learning, scholarship and service are set into an ecclesial context that is grounded in a positive theology of the nature of human beings. That is, because human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, they are fundamentally good and have inherent dignity and value. Moreover, God has endowed each human person with reason and the freedom to make choices with responsibility for their attendant consequences. God has also made human beings relational; human beings need others in both personal and communal relationships.

From these understandings of God and the University's relationship to the Church through the Sisters of Mercy, the document then focuses on a hallmark of Catholic higher education -- that is, the dialogue between faith and reason. This dialogue requires what Pope John Paul II calls "a full search for truth" (Ex corde ecclesiae) in all its forms. In particular, Saint Xavier University seeks to expose its students to transcendental truths, the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the principles of Catholic social teaching in an academic community that values freedom of inquiry and civil, critical discussion.

"As a Mercy university"

Catholic higher education at Saint Xavier University, however, is not solely about promoting an individual's search for truth, or even an awareness of God's love as it is manifest in all of creation. Saint Xavier University encourages students to engage in learning that benefits not only the individual learner but also the broader society. This type of action on behalf of human dignity and the common good derives from both the ethic of Gospel service and the spirituality of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. It is an ethos grounded in a theology of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery and expressed through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.2

"Saint Xavier celebrates its Catholic and Mercy heritage"

Welcoming those who are not of the Catholic tradition, Saint Xavier is a truly "catholic" institution, open to all and encouraging students to learn about and respect different faith traditions. To those who profess no faith or faith tradition, the University extends an invitation to consider the credibility of faith.

"University motto"

This Vision Statement ends with an affirmation that the University recognizes and honors Jesus Christ, as stated in the University motto, as Via, Veritas, Vita -- the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (Jn. 14:6)

1In its governance, Saint Xavier University is a Catholic and Mercy institution because its sponsors, the Sisters of Mercy, hold certain "reserved powers" consonant with their canonical (Church) and civil responsibilities for the University. These "reserved powers" are outlined in the University's articles and bylaws, and with limited exceptions, are exercised on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy by the Conference for Mercy Higher Education. It is through this governance relationship with the Sisters of Mercy that Saint Xavier University is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as a Catholic institution and ministry.

2Based largely on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, the works of mercy are as follows. Spiritual Works of Mercy: Instruct the ignorant. Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the sorrowful. Admonish the sinner. Bear wrongs patiently. Forgive all injuries. Pray for the living and the dead. Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Bury the dead.