Standing Up for Good: Augustinian Values Are Alive at Merrimack
What brought you to Merrimack College?
Father Ray: In the early 1970s, I went to a high school run by the Augustinians—that’s how I became one. I was ordained as a priest in 1983. Since then, I’ve taught high school, served as a parish priest and been the vocation director for the Augustinians, eventually returning to school to earn my Ph.D. in psychology. From there, I worked at a treatment center in Canada that specialized in helping priests and nuns, eventually becoming their Chief Executive Officer. I loved my job, but it was not an Augustinian ministry. At that point, something in me said, “it’s time for you to come home.” I arrived at Merrimack in August 2008.
What is your role at the College?
Father Ray: I started as Vice President for Mission and Ministry. During my first semester on campus, I worked with a committee to rewrite the mission of the College, which became “enlighten minds, engage hearts, and empower lives.” In 2010, my role expanded to include student affairs, and since then, I’ve found many ways to infuse Augustinian values, messages, and experiences into student life.
How are Augustinian values alive at Merrimack?
Father Ray: First of all, we have our service immersion trips, alternative spring break, alternative winter break, and summer trips, which take place inside and outside the United States. I’ve seen students change on these trips as they learn and experience new things. In fact, their concept of the world changes. Among schools doing similar kinds of programs, Merrimack was recently ranked very high in the percentage of our students who participate in these experiences.
Also, many of our most active student organizations are focused on the needs of others. Relay for Life, which is raising money for cancer research and awareness, is enormous. Active Minds, which started last year and focuses on suicide prevention and destigmatizing mental illness, is a very popular and growing student organization. And the Young Athletes program, which is part of the Special Olympics, in which our students play games and socialize with children ages 2-6.
St. Augustine said, “No one should be so contemplative as to ignore the needs of his or her neighbor. And no one should be so focused on action as to ignore contemplation of God.” So we also offer students the opportunity to look inward through our Merrimack Outreach Experience, or MORE retreats. These student-run retreats enable our students to reflect on themselves, their peers, their family, and their relationship with God. They’re very powerful.
What are some of your favorite traditions?
One is Mack Gives Back Day, which coincides with Veterans Day and St. Augustine’s birthday. It’s a day to honor those who serve by serving others. Now in its sixth year, Mack Gives Back Day inspires more than 1,500 students, faculty and staff to volunteer at nonprofits in the Merrimack Valley area. We also hold the Mass of the Holy Spirit to mark the formal opening of the academic year. This year I spoke about the difference between a crowd and a community. In a crowd, there is never enough, no matter how much each individual person brings. In a community, there is always abundance, no matter how little each individual person brings.
What does the Together for Good Campaign mean to you?
To me, Together for Good connotes the idea of sharing, holding things in common, and embracing the common good—all Augustinian hallmarks. St. Augustine says you know you are growing in charity when you put the common good ahead of your own. Together for Good captures that sentiment very beautifully. Merrimack is an extraordinarily special place. There is an energy, enthusiasm, and a joy on this campus that’s unmistakable.