History in Brief
Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) is the only institution of higher education in Lebanon and the Middle East, carrying the name of the Holy Virgin Mary: Our Lady (Notre Dame) of Louaize. The University deemed it necessary to realize its Marian identity and mission by establishing the Marian Studies Center (MSC).
Several years ago, the MSC was officially established under the Office of Sponsored Research and Development, and since then has strived to serve its set objectives.
The MSC vision is to make the Virgin Mary better known, treasured, and served in an effort to cultivate sound Marian doctrine as the basis for sound Marian devotion.
Such a vision attests to the fact that faith is neither simplistic nor superficial; rather it is faith based on a deep understanding of the presence of the Holy Mother in our lives.
The MSC is firmly bound by its Catholic mission to realize its spiritual duty by strengthening the bonds between believers in the Virgin Mary on campus, in Lebanon and around the world, and in Eastern Churches.
As part of its ongoing mission, the MSC has set up enduring projects and other annual fixed events and activities such as:
- Permanent dates for students to observe (Feast of the Annunciation);
- Public conferences (on a variety of subjects) ;
- Annual Marian Poetic Circle (group of poets);
- Private Marian Library (in the DCE building);
- Interactive symposiums with other religious and lay groups (e.g. Association of the Children of Mary, Queen of Peace).
In addition to the above, the MSC also aspires to expand its work. Among the numerous ideas proposed, the following are worthy of mention:
- Introducing Marian courses, offering certificates upon successful completion;
- Initiating Christian-Muslim scholarly works based on Mary as the common denominator;
- Inviting a religiously mixed groups of students (mostly Christians and Muslims) for meditation and prayer vigils;
- Producing a television series on the Virgin Mary;
- Translating all books on Mary that currently exist in the library;
- Participating at local and international conferences in name of the Center;
- Collaborating with other Marian universities, faculties, and centers around the world to exchange experiences;
- Launching an independent website for the MSC;
- Enriching the Marian Library with more spiritually based Marian books and periodicals.
MSC Accreditation Process Goals
In order to meet the requirements in the accreditation process, the MSC immerses itself into several projects and activities, including:
- Focusing on specific religious studies related to the Virgin Mary as an individual, saint, religious figure, and symbol of unadulterated faith;
- Conducting research related to issues of faith;
- Creating a large Marian database with the potential to yield significant growth;
- Establishing a specialized library;
- Becoming involved in Marian research as a historical figure and a theological and cultural symbol;
- Combining faith and science, revelation and reason, in order to continue discovering the truth about the Holy Mother;
- Analyzing theology through a scientific lens and criticizing scientific analysis through a spiritual and rational lens;
- Conducting Marian research through the internet and other means of information technology;
- Supporting science with religion, and enhancing religion with science;
- Making the subject of the Virgin Mary a scientific subject in order to complement the religious subject;
- Publishing the outcome of such research in the form of books;
- Endorsing the study of the scientific and religious aspects of the Holy Mother by using contemporary information and personal experiences from Lebanon and the Middle East;
- Aiming to become a center of dialogue on the subject between Eastern Churches, and between Christianity and Islam;
- Publishing magazines and specialized encyclopedias;
- Introducing academic Marian courses at all levels, particularly through distance learning;
- Creating an independent website that posts all activities of the MSC and provides interested scholars with a viable way to contact us.
The Marian Studies Center (MSC) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) has held four seminars to date.
The first seminar was held on March 18, 2010, with the participation of the Association of the Children of Mary, Queen of Peace, and students of the Faculty of Humanities. Talks centered on the Virgin Mary, who fills the role of a ‘common denominator’ between Christians and Muslims, and on how the Association defends Her sanctity in both religions. The seminar bore tangible fruit in terms of honesty and devotion.
The seminar summarized the following points:
- Explaining the Association’s objectives as well as the spiritual and social meanings attached to its name;
- Highlighting the Surah Maryam (Mary Chapter) in the Qur’an;
- Underlining the Virgin Mary as the common denominator of both religions, which in turn makes Christians and Muslims kindred spirits who are united through the Virgin Mary’s intercession and protection;
- Encouraging audience participation through the sharing of testimonies centered on the beliefs held by the Association’s members and the application of these beliefs in their daily lives.
Keeping in line with its annual tradition, the MSC at NDU met with students of the Faculty of Humanities on March 21, 2011, to discuss the Feast of the Annunciation. Both the MSC and the Faculty consider this Feast an important ritual given that everyone venerates the Virgin Mary, Our Lady.
The 2011 meeting was primarily a dialogue session in which participants were free to ask whatever they wanted, concerning the person of the Virgin Mary, Her role in God’s Divine Plan, and why the government of Lebanon decided to make Her Feast a national holiday.
Fr. Abdo Antoun, Director of the MSC, discussed in his welcome speech the mission and vision of the Center as well as the various activities he organizes at the University. He said, “Such gatherings for students will become annual events given that NDU students are the future of Lebanon.” He added, “Students need to acquire a scientific notion about the Virgin Mary, the Patron Saint of our University.”
Fr. Antoun announced the launch of a Marian website to help everyone peruse the activities of the Center and to provide a platform for those interested in sharing their thoughts and opinions of the Virgin Mary.
Attorney at law Patricia Daccache, Secretary General of the Association of Children of Mary, Queen of Peace, began her speech by thanking the University for providing a venue for such an important meeting. Her speech focused on the following aims of the Association to which she belongs:
- The Virgin Mary is the common denominator on which we build our union. Without the Virgin Mary, there would be no peace on earth, and we are all living testimonies, missionaries, and builders;
- Venerate the Virgin Mary; unify our spiritual path; bring peace, charity, and forgiveness among peoples, and imitate the Marian spirituality;
- Defend sacred sites without discrimination;
- Orientate our youth who are the nerve of society; develop the spirit of responsibility and cooperation to prevent all types of negative ideologies and discrimination;
- Continue to launch, participate, and cooperate in Marian conferences.
For his part, attorney at law Hossein Jaber, President of the Association, said that the Association falls under the spiritual direction and orientation of the Maronite Marian Order (OMM), to which the University belongs. He also thanked Fr. Antoun, the Delegate of the Order. Hossein then held a lengthy discussion session with the attendees.
The third seminar took place on March 21, 2012, again with the participation of the Association of the Children of Mary, Queen of Peace. This time, however, students were the main speakers. One student in particular gave a poignant testimony on the importance of praying to the Virgin Mary. This sincere testimony greatly moved all participants as the student’s words were delivered with true love and adoration for the Virgin Mary.
In March 2013, the MSC at NDU continued in its tradition of organizing a seminar on the Feast of the Annunciation. This annual meeting (the fourth) was held with students of the Faculty of Humanities and aimed at delving deeper to discover the person of the Virgin Mary as well as to discuss her role in the Church.
In his welcome speech, Fr. Antoun discussed the virtues of the Virgin Mary. He also tackled the commonalities between the students of the Faculty of Humanities and Our Lady, which he summarized as prayer (listening to God, conversation with God, and total self-giving to God), purity, service, and conviviality.
For her part, attorney at law Daccache focused her speech on the common denominators between the mission of the Virgin Mary and that of journalists and the media. She identified the following common points: dialogue, honesty, courage, and conviviality.
The MSC has slated several projects for the future, which are aimed at meeting with students and encouraging them to become more involved in its work. In conclusion, we can state in all sincerity that the MSC has achieved its key objective, which is to emphasize the Marian Identity of NDU.