Assumption University in Windsor, Ont., has one of the most active campus ministries in the country. Wikipedia

Assumption building bridges to the future

By 
  • June 27, 2020

Just a five-minute walk away from the Ambassador Bridge, Assumption University in Windsor, Ont., has become a vital community bridge on its own, according to newly installed principal John Cappucci.

“Pope Francis says you gotta get the smell of the sheep, right? I think that’s what universities have to do as well,” Cappucci told The Catholic Register. “They gotta get away from the ivory towers and into the community, and start teaching into the community.”

After nine months on the job, Cappucci has had the interim chopped off his title and begun a six-year term as Assumption’s principal. His plans for the college include restarting academic courses at Assumption, building on one of the most active campus ministry programs in the country, reaching out to high school students and teachers, presenting a platform for interfaith and intercultural dialogue and offering opportunities for people of any educational background to connect with the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Like most Catholic universities in Canada, the 163-year-old Assumption University is federated with a larger, provincial institution — the University of Windsor. In 1957 Assumption became the first Catholic university in the world to affiliate with an Anglican college, Windsor’s Canterbury College. Since 1963 Assumption has also been partnered with the United Church of Canada-affiliated Iona College.

The fact that the Basilian institution doesn’t currently offer academic courses doesn’t worry Cappucci, though he is in talks with the University of Windsor, Iona and Canterbury to find a way to start teaching university courses again at Assumption.

“Whether it’s a program at the undergrad level or the grad level, it doesn’t really matter to me. But I would love to see some kind of collaboration,” Cappucci said.

While getting University of Windsor students taking courses at Assumption again is a major goal for Cappucci, fundamentally he sees Assumption as a way to connect people who might not otherwise be part of the university.

Assumption has restarted the Fr. Joe Quinn Social Justice series of public lectures. Before COVID-19 shut everything down, an April 22 program of lectures and workshops marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day had 268 mostly high school students signed up to spend the day at Assumption. Plans for a Red Mass at Assumption will bring Windsor lawyers together this fall (COVID-willing) to hear retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci speak.

Pre-COVID, lunch and learn programs were attracting faculty and students from across the University of Windsor campus to Assumption. “Learn for Life” courses open to anyone in Windsor introduce people to topics such as interfaith studies over a few weeks for less than $60.

“There are pathways for the community to experience and develop their education and their knowledge,” Cappucci said.

Most of all, Cappucci wants Assumption to be there for the people of Windsor.

“I’m a Windsor boy,” he said. “So I’m proud of that. I want to make sure that Windsor has just as many opportunities as the other big cities in Ontario.”

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