Dominican priest becomes first VP of ministry and mission at Catholic University of America

Father Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P. Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, has been appointed the new vice president of ministry and mission for the Catholic University of America. | Credit: Patrick G Ryan/Catholic University of America

Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, has been appointed the first vice president of ministry and mission at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., by the university’s president, Peter K. Kilpatrick.

The position places Guilbeau in the president’s cabinet along with other university vice presidents. The priest is a member of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph and taught moral theology at the Dominican House of Studies, where he also served as prior of the community. He has been the university’s chaplain for the past year.

In a press release, Kilpatrick said the appointment makes formal what has long been the practice of CUA leadership — “consulting our head of campus ministry on matters of faith, morals, and Catholic identity, and to integrate his advice into the important decisions of the university.” 

“Every member of our community helps to carry out the university’s mission, but the new title and leadership structure help us all to keep uppermost in our minds all matters relating to the university mission,” Kilpatrick said in a press release. “… We are especially blessed to have Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, as the first person to hold this position. I trust his judgment and I rely on his counsel.”

In the new role, Guilbeau will assist the president “in animating the Catholic character of the university … and help to articulate and promote the university’s Catholic mission, spirituality, ministry, ideals, principles, and charisms to all members of the community, including students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, and alumni.” He will also review and offer advice on matters such as university policy, new hires, and best practices.

Guilbeau, who said he is humbled to be called to this new role, will continue overseeing the university’s chaplaincy and campus ministry programs. He told CNA that stepping into the vice president position is a way to formalize much of what he has already been doing.

“For me, it’s assuming more of an administrative role of being an active participant in those conversations about the life and mission of the university — everything from Catholic identity and character, but also budget, alumni engagement, you name it,” Guilbeau told CNA. “All that the team of vice presidents do, I’ll just now be involved on a daily basis. The chaplain always was a part of those conversations, but this just institutionalizes that.”

Guilbeau told CNA that Catholic life, identity, and mission have always been important at CUA and that Kilpatrick, who took office on July 1, 2022, wants to continue in that vein, making identity and mission a priority of his tenure as president. 

“He says over and over again, in strategic meetings and other places, that creating a Christ-centered campus in a Christ-centered community here at Catholic is a No. 1 priority,” Guilbeau said. “Building on the successes of past presidents and past chaplaincies, and since identity and mission is an ongoing constant conversation, the university chaplain being more involved doesn’t signal anything essentially new but just formalizes that relationship.”

Guilbeau said it will also help CUA to meet challenges and goals in the months and years to come. 

“An increasingly secularized culture can sometimes be hostile to the faith and represent a challenge to the growth and development of a Catholic university,” he said. “But it also presents a great opportunity because it helps us clarify what we’re about, what the university is for, and then in building partnerships and friendships with alumni, with families, through outreach, we grow and share our evangelical identity and mission.”

CUA has big plans for growth. According to Guilbeau, the president has set a goal for the university: 10,000 students in the next 10 years, which would basically be doubling the size of the student population. Guilbeau told CNA: “We’re going to be successful in that to the degree that the university remains faithful to its identity and mission, to its founding.”

The Catholic University of America was founded in 1887 by the Catholic bishops of the United States with a charter from then-Pope Leo XIII to be the national university of the Catholic Church in America. A private research institution, it is located in Washington, D.C.

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