As the only Catholic college in Maine, Saint Joseph’s College is proud of its heritage as an institution founded by the Sisters of Mercy. This heritage, and the Catholic identity of the college, has inspired a long legacy of mission work and the instillation of a Mercy spirit into all those who call Saint Joe’s home.
New Vice President and Chief Sponsorship and Mission Integration Officer Chris Fuller is working to bolster and deepen the spiritual aspects of the college. One of his roles involves representing the college to the outside world and facilitating conversations amongst different catholic schools and organizations. His mission work within the college involves interacting directly with students, staff, and faculty to help them “grow and deepen their understanding and awareness of the college’s mission and heritage.” He hopes his work will help all those at the college find their place and role in the spiritual heritage of the institution and help them fully embody its mission.
Another sect of Chris’s life at the college involves his work with the Center for Faith and Spirituality, the college’s more public, outward-facing institution for faith, which exists as a part of the College’s efforts to become a learning destination for the outside community. Chris hopes to take the values of Saint Joseph’s and carry them out into the surrounding community by using these new and exciting branches of activity as a way to familiarize others with what the college stands for, thus bringing more people back to Standish and enlivening the opportunities for students and staff on campus. Chris is currently working on organizing an interspiritual alliance of faith organizations to provide an array of spiritual learning opportunities, which he hopes will “enrich the experience of students” here at SJC.
Chris joined the Saint Joseph’s College Community fairly recently and has had a long, exciting journey getting here. He has had a nearly 26-year career in higher education, starting at Saint Mary’s College in California, where he worked while earning his Ph.D. in theology. He then moved to Montana, where he taught at Carroll College for 15 years, becoming an Associate Professor of Theology. While at Carroll, Chris started the college’s service center, and later became the college’s first mission officer. When looking for new opportunities, Chris says he was looking for places that were doing exciting and innovative work and were located in a place where he would want to live. Saint Joe’s ticked both of those boxes for him. Chris says that he is grateful for how welcoming everyone here has been and that witnessing the way everyone at Saint Joe’s really embraces their Mercy heritage has been spectacular.
One of the reasons Chris came to Saint Joe’s was because of the exciting programs that the school is working on, such as the Institute for Integrative Aging, the Center for Sustainable Communities, and the Center for Faith and Spirituality. Chris says that these different programs, while great on their own, reveal a much deeper dedication to Mercy when viewed together in the context of place. In his time here, Chris says he has become very aware that “place is vital to Saint Joseph’s identity as an institution,” and that to the people here, “being in Maine means something.” It was a unique find for him to see a college that was so deeply rooted in the place where it existed, and he says that Saint Joe’s is living out its Mercy heritage in profound ways, following in the path of the Sisters of Mercy and evaluating what services we must provide based on the needs of the community around us.
Much of the work Chris does focuses around the mission of the college and its core values, which he says are a unique part of the Saint Joseph’s experience. What he respects most about the college’s core values is the sense that they actually reflect the values of the people here, and that people can look at the values and say, “Yes! That is my experience of what the college stands for, and what its members hold dear, and what they act out in their daily lives.” Chris loves that the values are embraced so widely and is “very impressed” by how much they mean to everyone here on campus and beyond. Chris says he appreciates the feeling that his job is “not to recover something that has been lost, but to dive deeper into the spiritual experience of faculty, students, and staff,” aiding them and the college as an institution in any way that he can.
Maine has one of the highest elderly populations in the country and is also burdened heavily by the effects of climate change. Programs like Silver Sneakers, as well as the college’s strong focus on sustainability, are not only ways to serve the community but are need-based service programs that directly address the problems facing our specific region, and thus are strong representations of the college living out its Mercy heritage to the fullest. Through everything Chris does for the college, he helps deepen our sense of Faith, Mercy, Spirituality, and Service. Please join the Saint Joseph’s College community in thanking him for all his hard work, and in continuing to welcome him to our home here on Sebago Lake.