FAIRFIELD—Representatives of Fairfield University and the Diocese of Bridgeport gathered with community leaders, state officials, and program supporters to express gratitude and celebrate a historic milestone in the collaborative development of the new Fairfield Bellarmine initiative.
A remarkably warm November sun graced the hilltop groundbreaking ceremony of Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Campus, located at 1596 Boston Ave. in Bridgeport, Conn. Extensive renovations are planned for the site, formerly home to the parish of St. Ambrose Church, in preparation for the fall 2023 opening of Fairfield Bellarmine.
In the Jesuit tradition of serving urban communities and opening access to education for all, Bellarmine will offer strong professional preparation and enhanced academic support to low-income and first-generation students. Building upon Fairfield’s rigorous liberal arts tradition, students will be able to pursue a two-year associate’s degree from amongst four academic tracks: liberal arts, business, computer science, and nursing & healthcare. Graduates will be prepared to either pursue further studies toward a bachelor’s degree or embark on a meaningful professional career.
Fairfield Bellarmine Admission Director Nakia Létang welcomed those gathered and introduced Vice Provost and Executive Director Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., to offer the invocation. Father O’Brien fittingly opened with a prayer written by St. Ambrose to bless the new Bellarmine Campus property, which he noted has been “consecrated by the lives of countless people over the years.”
Father O’Brien prayed that those in attendance “commit ourselves anew to serving the students and community who will further bless this ground by their presence. As we prepare for their coming, Dear Lord, give us vision, creativity, persistence, and holy boldness. Please also bless and protect all those who will labor here, renovating this space in the upcoming months.”
Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, offered gratitude to local community leaders, particularly Mill Hill and East End neighborhood rehabilitation NRZ representatives, state officials, members of the Society of Jesus, the bishop and staff of the Diocese of Bridgeport, and Fairfield faculty, staff, and administrators “for their faith in this project, not just to this point, but through to fruition and for generations to come.”
Invoking Fairfield University’s 500-year-plus Jesuit tradition, President Nemec said that “for Fairfield University, this Bellarmine Campus, this Bellarmine initiative, is all about answering our call to do more. This Bellarmine initiative answers Fairfield’s call to serve ever broader populations in ever more innovative ways. To be a university of the 21st century which recognizes that nothing is more dignifying, nothing is more empowering, nothing brings a human more fully alive than higher education.”
In his remarks, the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, urged those gathered to take stock of “the historic step we are taking forward together” for the particular benefit of the young people of Bridgeport. He praised Dr. Nemec as an educational leader “with a deep, burning passion to serve young people, in all their needs, from whatever walk of life they come from,” and thanked the University President for being a
driving force behind the vision for Fairfield Bellarmine.
Noting that the new Bellarmine Campus property is situated “on one of the highest—if not the highest geographical points in the city of Bridgeport,” Bishop Caggiano urged the approximately 60 people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony to take in the autumnal beauty of the surrounding city below, and to know that “this campus will always be a beacon.”
“May it be a beacon of hope to the whole city, that good people can work together for a greater good: Church, state, and community,” prayed Bishop Caggiano. “And let us resolve ourselves to provide the example of the good that people can do together in a world that is so divided, so broken, and so fractured. This college will be a reminder—to everyone of goodwill—of what we are still capable of doing together.”
Fairfield University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), and the Bellarmine program is currently under accreditation review by NECHE. NECHE is an institutional accreditor and promotes educational excellence and quality assurance to its member institutions. The Commission is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a reliable authority on the quality of education for the institutions it accredits.
Fairfield University is a modern Jesuit Catholic university rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S. and across the globe are pursuing degrees in the University’s five schools. Fairfield embraces a liberal humanistic approach to education, encouraging critical thinking, cultivating free and open inquiry, and fostering ethical and religious values. The University is located on a stunning 200-acre campus on the scenic Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.