By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT – Father Bud Grant, a theology professor at St. Ambrose University, will become only the second American to be inducted into a prestigious Italian research center dedicated to St. Ambrose of Milan.
Fr. Grant will join the Classe Ambrosiana of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy, next spring. The honor comes because of his work in establishing St. Ambrose University Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan (ASSAM), his scholarly endeavors in broadening awareness of the fourth-century saint, and for fostering collaboration with Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
Classe Ambrosiana, one of seven classi of Biblioteca Ambrosiana, would be similar in nature to an academic department at St. Ambrose University, said Tracy Schuster-Matlock, dean of University Academic Programs at St. Ambrose. Classe Ambrosiana was founded in 2003 by the cardinal archbishop of Milan to gather scholars, professors, and other cultural experts interested in the figure, the works, and the deeds of St. Ambrose, she added.
“Father Robert (‘Bud’) Grant’s induction into the Classe Ambrosiana of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana is a remarkable recognition of his long-time scholarship and dedication to the study of St. Ambrose of Milan,” said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose University.
“This international distinction brings great honor to Fr. Grant, to our Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan, and to the university, as well.”
Humbled, but thrilled by the honor, Fr. Grant said: “It’s huge for the academy and for the university and, I would say, for the Davenport Diocese. When we started the academy, I told the administration, with tongue in cheek, that I assumed it would put ‘ivy’ on our walls, that we would be acknowledged as an internationally recognized research institution.”
Beyond the university’s walls, the study of St. Ambrose “is a way to tap into our Catholic Tradition and to see it as something fresh and new and offers us wisdom and insight that is still very valuable to us today,” Fr. Grant added.
While in Milan earlier this year, the theologian was told he would be invited to join Classe Ambrosiana; he thought his hearing was off. But a letter followed the verbal invitation. Msgr. Marco Navoni explained that Fr. Grant was being recognized for his efforts to “institutionalize the relationship between St. Ambrose University, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, and the Ambrosiana Studies Department. … It would be a genuine honor to our academic department to have you as our newest member,” wrote Msgr. Navoni, a doctor of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and director of the Department of Ambrosiana Studies.
Fr. Grant has earned this induction through his scholarly work, for creating the academy, and for forging links with scholars of St. Ambrose abroad, said Ethan Gannaway, executive coordinator of St. Ambrose Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan. The priest “has initiated an increasingly lively intercontinental discussion of this important saint, giving the saint his due attention.”
Gannaway noted that the induction “gives formal recognition and support for the mission of the academy and Fr. Grant’s successes in meeting that mission.” Regarding the academy itself, “the induction shows that an internationally known research center views our academy’s contributions to be of great importance.
“For the university, it gives international acknowledgement of our successful pursuit of the liberal arts and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. For the diocese, it builds a bridge between the ancient and the present, and between Rome, Milan, and Davenport.
In other words, this induction calls attention to living Catholic traditions here and elsewhere. We are part of something grander. With every visitor, every connection outside our local limits, we are asked to reconsider who we are as an academy, a university, as a diocese, or as an individual.”
Before the conference at which he will join Classe Ambrosiana on April 3, Fr. Grant will briefly introduce his English translation of an Italian biography of St. Ambrose of Milan. The author, Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library, has written the best biography of St. Ambrose available anywhere, Fr. Grant said.
“Ambrose was an orator, a diplomat, theologian, poet, composer, architect … He was a Renaissance man before the Renaissance. He was an advocate for the poor.
“Ambrose was an exemplar of liberal arts in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, so we can use Ambrose and his stories and his writings to better understand and appreciate that tradition.”
SAU’s vision for the academy
Asked about his vision for St. Ambrose University Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan, Father Bud Grant, who led the establishment of the academy, said:
“We have four main strands we are pursuing:
• A semester abroad program of studies in Italy;
• Continuation of two annual events: an international scholar lecture for the Feast of St. Ambrose (at St. Ambrose University in Davenport) and an in-house undergraduates’ scholar colloquim;
• An increase in the endowment to pay for visiting scholars, scholarships, staffing and creative arts;
• Production of a translation of the “Complete Works” of St. Ambrose into English, something that Fr. Grant says has never been done before.
In addition, “we want to do more to broaden the scholarly contributions to the academy from within the St. Ambrose University faculty and across a broad spectrum of disciplines. It is critical that we get a tenured position in Arts and Sciences for our executive coordinator, who also teaches. Down the road we know that we need to ensure that the academy be anchored within theology, which means doing something (an endowed chair?) to guarantee that.”
Academy requires additional funding
Fons Luminis (font of enlightenment) is the motto of St. Ambrose University Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan. It is based on a hymn composed by St. Ambrose, a fourth-century doctor of the Church. He is a source of learning for the diocesan university in Davenport, a role model for its identity, and an inspiration for its commitment to be a leading Midwestern university rooted in its diocesan heritage and Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
The academy’s mission is to advance Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the liberal arts by promoting and supporting scholarship, research and creative work about the patron saint of St. Ambrose University.
Father Bud Grant, who fostered establishment of the academy, said the university has raised about $130,000 toward a $250,000 endowment.
“The academy has grown; it has accomplished so much in so little time and with so few resources,” Fr. Grant said.
For more information about the academy, visit its website at www.sau.edu, click on the A-Z index, and go to letter A.