As he put on his comfortable sweater and slippers each day, children’s television icon Fred Rogers sang the words, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” for more than 30 years on his show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Most of us have heard the lyrics at one time or another and could probably hum the melody with a little encouragement. Although frequently the source of humor among adults, Fred Rogers had a beautiful, simple message for children and adults alike. “We all long to be lovable and capable of loving,” he once explained. “And whatever we can do through the neighborhood or anything else to reflect that and to encourage people to be in touch with that, then I think that's our ministry.”
For 119 years, The Catholic University of America has existed “in the neighborhood” of Brookland in Washington, D.C., an anchor to this area once referred to as “Little Rome” because of all its Catholic institutions. Much has changed in this neighborhood since the United States bishops first purchased the property of James Middleton in the mid-1880s. And yet, CUA remains a stable, vibrant, active part of the local community.
University and college campuses all over our country often find themselves at odds with their neighbors for a variety of reasons. At times in its history, CUA has experienced similar “town and gown” tensions, sometimes of its own creation, sometimes not. But, for the most part, the university and its neighbors have enjoyed an enduring, healthy and mutually supportive relationship. In return for the educational and economic advantages that a university and its employees, students and constant stream of visitors provide to the neighborhood, the neighborhood provides a sense of “family” and “community” to students who are far from home.
Being part of a major metropolis, Brookland has not been spared some of the difficulties that often arise in such urban areas. At the same time, the neighborhood has been quick to respond and to join forces with the university when problems arise. Known for its commitment to civic activism, Brookland is a wonderful setting for putting CUA’s mission and values into practice, an experience that students can take with them wherever they go.
A national university, drawing its students and faculty from all 50 states and beyond, can sometimes forget or ignore its neighborhood identity. That is certainly not the case at CUA, as we demonstrate in this issue of CUA Magazine. We consider it a privilege to be a presence “in the neighborhood” and hope that the experience will, indeed, prepare our students to create “beautiful days” in whatever neighborhood they eventually call home.
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