President Patricia McGuire ’74
Billiart Center Inauguration at Cap and Gown Convocation, September 28, 2013
Before Julie Billiart was a saint, she was a troublemaker. She believed that the power of education could not only change lives on this earth, but that in fact, education brought students closer to salvation. She braved everything from the torches of French revolutionaries to the ire of her bishop in pursuit of her calling to instigate a historical dynamic that is still changing lives todays, including yours, including mine. She did not let paralysis, threats or petty sniping stop the process she set in motion with her co-conspirator Francoise Blin de Bourdon to establish schools for poor girls orphaned by the French Revolution. Her heirs among the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters Julia McGroarty and Mary Euphrasia Taylor, did not let a lack of money or opposition to the idea of women’s education stop them in their determination to create Trinity College. Their heirs among the SNDs who led and enriched the lives of thousands of Trinity alumnae and alumni for the last 100 years could not be stopped by the long years of obscurity, poverty and obstacles placed along the pathways of each historic moment for Trinity.
We are now the heirs of these courageous, radical, visionary women, women who are exemplars of the meaning of Pope Francis’s meditation on the difference between occupying space where others wield power versus initiating historic change processes.
Tonight we announced the creation of a center in her name, the Billiart Center for Social Justice, which has incitement as its real purpose: to incite you, our current and future generations of Trinity students, alumnae and alumni, families and friends, to action for social justice, to be leaders for justice and peace in your families and schools, workplaces and communities, nation and world.
Trinity today advances the legacy of Julie and the Sisters of Notre Dame across three centuries, and our stewardship of this legacy demands that we take every action necessary to be sure that Trinity does more than merely occupy space in the marketplace of higher education; we must be the disruption, the force for change, the initiators of the historic processes that will improve the human condition generations hence.