How do we say goodbye to a place we have called home for the past decade? To a family comprising faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni, friends of the University and our beloved priest community? To a community that nurtured and helped our daughter grow intellectually, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually?
A few months ago, my family and I were on our way to Manila for a visit, and I found myself with the rare occasion for solitude and introspection. In my mind, we were heading “home” to the place where my wife and I were born and the place where we attended college, met, and got married. However, as is the case with most immigrants, the whole notion of “home” is a little more complicated.
Back in the United States, home to me and my family is Seton Hall. Not only have I worked for Seton Hall, I have lived next to campus, separated by a gate through my backyard. While it has been convenient, I have also gotten to hear every car alarm that goes off at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and could feel every truck that bumped along Seton Drive starting at 4 a.m. Living where I have, I’ve developed a good sense for the rhythm of the University.
We consider Seton Hall home because it is where we wept and prayed as a community at the loss of Jessica Moore almost seven years ago. It is home because we stood as a community, united in grief yet resolute in our determination to move forward. It is home because our community of priests was there to provide the spiritual and emotional support we needed as we grappled with the loss.
Seton Hall is home because it is a welcoming place. It welcomed me during my first year at the University, when I was alone. I remember getting to meet the late Monsignor Cafone and realizing we shared one great passion: food! Over the next few years, my wife Jo and I got to know the whole priest community as we broke bread with them over many meals, and we realized that each member of the priest community brought a unique gift to Seton Hall. Our lives have been forever enriched and blessed with their presence on our campus.
Seton Hall is home because its people make it their home. Whether it was welcoming families to campus in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or traveling to El Salvador to work in a women’s shelter; or wrapping Christmas presents for orphans, or volunteering to mentor our students, Pirates have always shown big hearts.
Seton Hall transforms everyone who embraces the community. Every year, I have watched new students come in as unsure teenagers then transform into mature, conscientious and confident young men and women, grounded in our Catholic values, ready to take on the challenges of the world as future servant leaders.
When I interviewed for the job as provost I asked the different groups I met the same question — if I am walking down the street, how do I know when I meet a Seton Hall graduate? Now, I know my answer. Seton Hall is home because we work and grow as a community to achieve great things. When we first talked about our aspirations in the midst of the Great Recession, quite a few members of our community were skeptical that any of our goals could be achieved within a decade.
As Jo and I attended the Scholarship Reception in early April, walking across campus one last time, seeing the silhouette of the new admissions and welcome center in the distance, chatting with faculty, alumni, staff, prospective students and their parents, I realized that we are leaving the place we call home a very different place than when I started.
It has been a great journey. Thanks for the memories. Hazard Zet Forward.