2019 Letter of Appeal for Scholarships

PO Box 507

Saunderstown, RI 02874

Feast of the Sedes Sapientiae

February 2, 2019

Dear fellow alumnus of the American College,

I had intended to write to you on the occasion of the college’s patronal feast in December but a serious fall put me out of commission for several weeks. Now I am getting back to full strength and write to you, asking that you make a donation to a fund for scholarships for some students in any one of the fields of ecclesiastical studies – theology, philosophy, or canon law – who are studying at the KULeuven or the UCL and are residing at the American College in Leuven. These students are members of the Damien Community, named in honor of St. Damien de Veuster whose shrine most of us visited while we were students in Louvain. Their membership in the Community is part of a tireless and ongoing effort to ensure that the legacy of the College continues in the present century.

You undoubtedly know that what distinguishes the community from other students in Leuven, in addition to its members’ residency at Naamsestraat100, is its nature as a religious and intellectual community. Friday evening is community night with common prayer and a common meal. There are regular scholarly discussions. Towards the end of next month the community will be sponsoring a four-presentation day-long symposium on “Community.” Jack Dick gave one of the papers at least year’s symposium. I was invited to give a paper for this March but regrettably had to decline the invitation.

This academic year the Community has thirteen members, seven Americans, three Canadians, and one each from the Netherlands, Romania, and India. You may have seen their picture on the ACAA web site. If so, you will have noticed that the group includes two women. Another member of the Community is Elias Hage, from Connecticut, the most recent beneficiary of your generosity. Our alumni association’s standing committee for the Damien Project, Reimund Bieringer, Jack Dick, Bob Flannery, Joe Marcoux, and myself as chair, awarded him a 4000 euro scholarship to enable him to continue his studies in Leuven this year.

Broadly speaking the Community really has sixteen members. In addition to its thirteen members there are two associate members and a student coordinator, Aristel Skirbic, appointed to this position by a Board comprised of faculty members from both the Dutch-language university and the French-language university in Louvain-la-neuve. The board‘s current chair is Prof. Dr. Johan deTavanier, dean and professor of moral theology in Leuven. Given his enthusiasm for the project and his commitment to increasing the number of theology students in the community, Prof. de Tavenier’s elections as dean of the faculty and chair of the board bode well for the Damien Community. With Professor de Tavenier at the helm and the help of a new brochure produced by Aristel and a female student from Canada, we are hoping that the Community will continue to grow in numbers, particularly in the number of students studying theology.

Even though the university continues to give theology and philosophy students the government-subsidized tuition rates available to Belgian nationals and students from the developing world, many students who go to Leuven with the intention of becoming members of the Damien Community need financial assistance. For this our alumni association sponsors Damien Community scholarships and helps to subsidize some Damien Community activities. Now, somewhat belatedly in this academic year, I ask you to support this effort by making out a check, tax-deductible, to the ACAA with “Damien Community” in the lower left hand corner and mail it to: Rev. William F. Wegher. ACAA, Treasurer. 11804 S Saginaw Street. Grand Blanc, MI 48439.

With your help we will be able to provide a scholarship for another theology student or two and continue the legacy of a venerable tradition begun in 1857.

On behalf of those students to whom we will be able to grant scholarship monies I am,

Gratefully and sincerely,


Raymond F. Collins (AC, ’59)

Chair, Damien Committee


2018 Letter of Thanks

The following letter was addressed to Jack Dick with the request to share it with alumni supporters of the Damien Fund.

February 28, 2018

Dear Jack,

I want to confirm that I have received the money. Thank you and the Alumni Association for your financial assistance.  I appreciate it very much.  

This gives me great hope to be able to stay here to further my studies, and God willing, be able to contribute to philosophy and faith.  

I look forward to being a member of this association for many years with the hope of being able to help other students like myself in the future.

Please extend my gratitude to everyone involved in assisting me.  

Many thanks and God bless,

Kyle Norris

Rev. Albert P. Marcello, III
St. Martha Rectory
2595 Pawtucket Avenue
East Providence, RI 02914

November 26, 2016

Rev. Raymond F. Collins
P.O. Box 507
Saunderstown, RI 02874

Dear Ray:

I wanted to take this opportunity to extend to you and to the ACAA my deepest thanks for the generous grant which was made available to me. I am now completing my final year of the licentiate in canon law at KU Leuven and anticipate beginning doctoral research in the fall of 2017. These funds will be used to offset the costs of travel to and from Belgium for the mandatory residential sessions of the distance learning program.

As you know, Leuven has been an adoptive home for me for some time. As a youngster, I remember hearing priests of this diocese talk about Louvain with great fondness, which sparked my initial interest. Unfortunately, although I was unable to pursue my theology studies at the ACL due to various circumstances, I nevertheless was able to visit the College and benefit from its hospitality, learn about its rich history and customs, and have a chance to sit in on lectures at the university.

During these current periods of on-site coursework, I resided at the parish of Sint-Cornelius-en-Sint-Katharina in Diegem, and also had the opportunity to engage in some parish ministry there. The hospitality of Fr. Vital Orolé was legendary, and I appreciated the opportunity to be able to more deeply inculturate myself in Flanders. Furthermore, it has been an honor to be able to carry the torch for another generation in the long-standing friendship between the (arch)dioceses of Mechelen-Brussel and Providence.

The canon law program at the University has been superb. I am very satisfied with the curriculum in general, as well as the methodology which emphasizes, in their words, “guided independent learning.” It has been wonderful to pursue scholarly work in such an encouraging, supportive and yet rigorous environment. To that end, I am pleased to announce that my first peer-reviewed article will be published in Studia Canonica this fall. I count the experience of studying in Leuven as one of God’s greatest blessings in my life — not only in the subject matter, but also in the many connections I have made with people from all parts of the world. It is a humbling experience to be able to study with and learn from some of the best and the brightest — both in the classroom and over some delicious meals in the Muntstraat! Ultimately, I am certain that the spirit of the American College will touch further generations who will be able to profit from the riches that KU Leuven and
Belgium have to offer.

Once again, my sincere thanks to you and to the ACAA.

Fraternally in Christ,
(Rev.) Albert P. Marcello, III


Launch the Damien Project Scholarship Fund

December 8, 2014

Dear alumni and friends of the American College,

    Happy Feast Day!

    You certainly know by now that the American College was closed more than two years ago.  It has been reborn in the form of the Damien Project at the American College.  The project is named after the famous Belgian missionary to Molokai, certainly the most notable applicant to the American College whose potential enrollment was rejected by the college’s administration.

    I am chairman of the American College Alumni Association-Catholic University of Louvain’s standing committee for the Damien Project.  Early last month I had an opportunity to have dinner and spend an evening with the first eight students residing in the college under the auspices of the Damien Project, along with the present coordinator of the project.

    What an amazing group of enthusiastic and intelligent young people these eight young American students are--six men, two women; six studying theology, two studying philosophy, seven lay folk and one young priest, a Glenmary; six Caucasians, one African-American, and one from Puerto Rico.  They bond together so well and form a real community.  I was amazed at their enthusiasm, their bonding, and the level of their conversation.  For me, the evening was truly a renewal experience.

     In order that the Damien Community grow—the hope is that it will have about thirty participants in a couple of years—the alumni association has formed the standing committee of which I am chair.  On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, our patronal feast day, we are launching our Damien Project Scholarship drive.

    A scholarship requires about $6,300.00 at the current rate of exchange for those who reside at the college for ten months and $7,000.00 for those who reside for an entire calendar year.  The amount covers university registration, board in the Damien Project wing at the American College, Damien project activities, and a token living expense of one thousand euros.  The plan is to provide scholarships especially to new students who are thinking about studying in Leuven and to master’s level students who would like to pursue a doctoral degree.

    It is December.  Many of us are thinking about tax-deductible contributions.  Contributions to the scholarship fund are tax-deductible.  Just make the check payable to ACAA-CUL and write “Damien Project Scholarship” in the space for a notation in the lower left corner.  Send it to Rev. William Wegher, ACAA-CUL, St. Mary’s Church, 10601 Dexter Pinckney Road, Pinckney, MI 48169.

    While donations in the amount of a full one-year scholarship are more than welcome, we are at this point most interested in launching the scholarship fund.  A donation of any size is welcome, but the bigger the better.  I’ll be sending a note of acknowledgement and thank you early in the new year.

    Please help to continue the 157 year-long legacy of the American College by contributing to this important initiative and thanks so much.


                                (Raymond F. Collins, AC ‘59


Letter from the Chair of the ACAA-CUL Committee for the Damien Project

PO Box 507

                                                                                                Saunderstown, RI 02874

                                                                                                November 19, 2014

O Sodales,

            A couple of weeks ago I was in Leuven, where I participated in a doctoral defense and had a series of meetings pertaining to the Damien Project at the American College. The Flemish university now has a larger contingent of international students than the entire university had students when I and my classmates matriculated in the fall of 1953.

           I had hoped to write a letter of report to you immediately upon my return but some minor surgery proved to be a bit more complicated than anticipated and prevented me from getting my act together as soon as I would have liked.  I kicked off my Damien Project activities with a luncheon meeting with Professor Bart Raymakers on Monday, November 4.  Bart is currently the chair of the University Committee for the Project.   I had not met him before but he has come to the project with a great reputation, one that I would endorse after spending a couple of hours with him.  Bart  became chair of the committee to succeed Lieven Boeve since he had some experience of the Project while previously serving as a member of the committee.  Bart is enthusiastically on board with the Damien Project.

            Scholarships were the first item on our agenda.  I don’t know how much we will be able to raise in our campaign but Bart and I seemed to agree that the scholarships should cover 1) board at the College under the auspices of the Damien Project, 2) University tuition, 3) a small activities fee for Project activities, and 4) a fixed amount towards living expenses, perhaps 1000 euros.  We thought that that would be a better plan than giving a lump sum scholarship.

            Our second topic for discussion was the summer institute and the sabbatical program.  Bart will be in charge of the physical and fiscal aspects of the institute; Benedicte Lemmelijn, an Old Testament professor and currently vice-dean of the Faculty for Theology for International Affairs, will be in charge of the program, which will have a theological focus.  The summer institute will kick off this summer; the sabbatical program will follow next year.

            Our third topic was publicity.  Bart said that they would be sending letters to the bishops of the United States.  I told him that I was not convinced that that was the best way to go, at least for a principal focus.  My suggestion was attractive flyers to be sent to theology and philosophy departments of our Catholic colleges and ads in journals and newspapers.  Monday evening I met with Professor David Hunter, who is in charge of the Catholic Studies Program at the University of Kentucky.  David is spending a sabbatical year in Leuven and is responsible for two of the students participating in this inaugural year of the Damien Project.  David suggested that we send information to Catholic Studies programs in secular and non-Catholic universities.

            On Tuesday, I had an afternoon meeting with Benedicte, who told me that there has been a shift in responsibilities in her office.  She is involved with administration while Jo DeTavernier will continue to be responsible for students.  So, there is a question as to whom we should invite to Ithaca in June.  When we discussed the summer institute, Benedicte thought that August might be preferable to July, at least from the faculty’s vantage point.  There probably will not be full enrollment the first year, just as there wasn’t when we started the program back in the 70s.  I suggested that the ACAA-CUL might be able to make up the shortfall.    

            Certainly the highlight of my visit was the three dinner hours that I spent with Derrick
Witherington, coordinator of the Damien Project, and the eight students who are enrolled in the Project.  What a remarkable group of enthusiastic young people, six men and two women, six studying theology and two studying philosophy!  There is one priest among them, a Glenmary, and one man from Puerto Rico.  They were enthusiastic about their Leuven experience and so interested in my experience of the “old” American College.  Their theological interests are so diverse.  Our dinner conversation broached experiential matters and intellectual questions.  I’m happy for the future of the Damien Community. 

            The eight really do form a community, along with Derrick.  Friday night dinner together every week, even if the young priest got sick the night that they cooked “moules.”  A day of recollection in an abbey outside Brussels, which would have been an overnight, had not the November 1-2 break coincided with a weekend.  They, as can be imagined, are really supportive of the idea of our sponsoring scholarships.  Several of the students want to pursue doctoral studies in Leuven.  And they’re ready to join the alumni association.  I hope that their collective enthusiasm continues.  I sent them an emailed thank you note on my return.

            Before dinner I spent an hour with Derrick who showed me the renovations.  Each corridor is named for an American hero, whose name is accompanied by a significant quote.  We all recognize the name of Rosa Parks, but who is that native American chieftan???  Derrick told me how wonderfully well the students have jelled together and that the initial group was largely led to participation by word of mouth, so publicity is something that we must be concerned about.

            On Thursday, I had a chance to visit with John Steffen and spent some time with Mathijs Lamberichts, the “new” dean—he’s now in his second tour of duty in this position—of the Faculty of Theology.  He couldn’t be less supportive of our support for the Damien Project and our interest in providing scholarships.

            Less is best.  So, I don’t want to exceed two pages of text.  We, the Damien Project Committee and the Board of Directors of the ACAA-CUL, plan to organize a scholarship fund-raiser around the time of our patronal feast next month.  More about that later, but please begin to think about it as you plan your end-of-the year giving.  Thanks so much.


 Chair, ACAA-CUL Committee for

  the Damien Project at the A.C.