By Anthony Barich
The University of Notre Dame Australia’s new Vice Chancellor Celia Hammond has pledged to lead with her head and heart guided by faith, she told an audience of 400 at her inauguration at its Fremantle campus on August 4.
Prof. Hammond, 39, said that becoming UNDA’s third Vice Chancellor – “taking the torch” from Catholic education “champion” Peter Tannock AM – was daunting, but believes she is in good stead having benefited from his mentorship over the past four years.
Prof. Hammond, the daughter of the former Chief Judge of the District Court of Western Australia, Judge Kevin Hammond, has worked in private legal practice in Perth as well as in senior administrative and teaching positions at UNDA, including as Deputy Vice Chancellor.
Dr Tannock, who has been chair of the Australian Schools Commission, the National Catholic Education Commission and the WA Football Commission and director of Catholic Education in Western Australia, retired on July 31 having served as UNDA Vice Chancellor since 1992. Prof. Hammond, a lawyer and mother of three boys, said she would lead the university with a “light touch and a strong hand…depending on the circumstances”.
Having experienced love “at every moment” in her life, especially in Jesus, “whom I recognise as God’s unique gift of love offered to the whole world”, she said love is the cornerstone of UNDA’s work and the framework through which all the university’s fruits must be learned. “I believe that education is one of the most valuable enabling and empowering opportunities that can be offered to people,” she said.
“However, knowledge and learning without a context or framework of humanity is hollow. Knowledge without love and respect is not wisdom.” She said the role of UNDA is not simply to transmit information or create knowledge but to always teach and educate in an environment that encourages people to seek understanding, wisdom, to serve and to live “in a way that fulfils everyone’s higher purpose”.
During his homily in the Mass celebrating the inauguration of Prof. Hammond at UNDA’s Drill Hall, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, who helped set up a campus in his archdiocese, said the Catholic university’s role is to protect and advance human dignity and culture through its teachings, research and services offered to the local, national an international communities.
Quoting the late John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the heart of the Church), he said Catholic universities have institutional autonomy and guarantee academic freedom within the confines of truth and the common good. Noting that Notre Dame is a lay-led Catholic university, which “we rejoice in”, he said that Ex Corde Ecclesiae recognises that Catholic universities depend “to a great extent on the competent and dedicated service of lay Catholics”.
“For John Paul II this was a ‘sign of hope’ and ‘a confirmation of the irreplaceable lay vocation in the Church and in the world’,” he said.
“Certainly a Catholic university has to be committed to a systematic exploration of the ‘God question’, of the relationship between faith and reason, of the interaction of Catholicism and culture today as well as in the past.”