Msgr. Swetland named president of Donnelly College in Kansas

Photo Caption: A priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Msgr. Swetland will take up his new post on July 1.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Noting how vital the apostolate of Catholic education is, especially at the college level, Msgr. Stuart Swetland has accepted an appointment as president of Donnelly College here. He will take up his new post on July 1.

Msgr. Swetland, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria and former chaplain and director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign, succeeds Steven M. LaNasa, whose family has relocated out of the country. Details of his installation are still being worked out.

“I have prayed for the chance to lead a mission-focused college like Donnelly College,” said Msgr. Swetland, who is currently vice president for Catholic identity and director of pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He has served there since 2006.

“This institution has a rich, storied history and has served as an anchor in the Kansas City community for 65 years. I’m honored to be a part of this continuing legacy and I look forward to working with faculty, staff and students to help elevate Donnelly to its fullest potential,” he said. “We have exciting times ahead.”

“I have known and admired Msgr. Swetland for many years,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City. “He is a proven leader who will be able to build on Donnelly’s remarkable tradition and continue its important mission by helping its students develop both their spiritual and intellectual potential, equipping them to be community leaders.”

SERVING THE UNDERSERVED
Msgr. Swetland was nominated for the position at Donnelly College, which was founded by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in 1949 and is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, last December.

“I was open to the fact that God was calling me to do something else,” he told The Catholic Post. “My vocation is to be a priest, but within that vocation you have to be discerning what God is calling you to do. I have done that with Bishop Jenky and he has given me permission to discern that within higher education.”

A small college — enrollment is about 1,000 — Donnelly serves the inner city and that appealed to Msgr. Swetland.

“We are particularly good at serving those who might not otherwise be served,” he said, adding that this education provides an important foundation in challenging economic times. It also puts the college in a position to answer the call of Pope Francis to be engaged in the “new evangelization.”

Msgr. Swetland noted that 70 percent of Donnelly students qualify for the Pell Grant, 84 percent are first-generation college students, and 89 percent are minorities. In addition, the college has an accredited satellite campus at Lansing Correctional Facility, which provides hope and good news to people on the margins, as Pope Francis has asked, he said.

“Right now what the world needs is saints,” according to Msgr. Swetland. Catholic institutions like Donnelly College form those saints by accompanying students as they make the faith their own and discern their vocation, whatever that might be, while providing a good education, he said.

Msgr. Swetland has been given permission to continue to host “Catholicism on Campus” on the Eternal Word Television Network, and co-host “Go Ask Your Father” on Relevant Radio, and to write Scripture reflections for The Catholic Post’s “Living the Word” column.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Msgr. Swetland attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was first in his class. He was elected a Rhodes scholar in 1981 and was received into the Catholic Church while studying at Oxford University in England.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford; a master of divinity and master of arts degree from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary; and a licentiate and doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria in 1991, Msgr. Swetland was parochial vicar and pastor at St. Peter in Peoria and pastor at St. Martin, both in Peoria, and served as an administrative assistant to Bishop John J. Myers. Much of his priesthood has been devoted to Newman ministry, however.

He was chaplain at St. Joseph Newman Center at Bradley University in Peoria and then chaplain and director at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Msgr. Swetland was named diocesan director of campus ministry in 1998 and episcopal vicar for social justice in 1999.

St. John Paul II designated him a prelate of honor in 2000.

Currently he holds the Archbishop Harry Flynn Chair of Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University, and is the executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education and executive secretary for the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He has been a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre since 1997 and is a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

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