The Lateran Center

In an effort to “tighten the bolts of our Catholic identity,” St. Bonaventure has formed a new center to provide programs that relate the university’s Catholic-Franciscan mission with the themes of renewal and inclusion that Pope Francis is being hailed for worldwide.

“This pope has adopted the Franciscan charism in his leadership style and we're on board with his vision and mission,” said Fr. Ross Chamberland, O.F.M., executive director of The Lateran Center.

Located in Francis Hall, The Lateran Center assists various departments by serving as a catalyst for program development, special events, and student recruitment. Fr. Ross works with the university president in developing closer relationships with the many branches of the Franciscan Order, as well as the Catholic dioceses associated with the university.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Fr. Ross said. “Bonaventure already does a lot of the things that the pope is championing, and we do them well. Because of him, a lot of people are starting to see what being Catholic actually means. What we hope the center can do is connect the dots for people, to show how all that we execute in the Franciscan tradition is directly tied to our Catholic identity and mission.”

Fr. Ross assists SBU’s Admissions office with outreach to Catholic high schools in the region. He also serves the Franciscan Institute by helping to educate Franciscan communities on its new programs.

A major focus of The Lateran Center is the establishment of a residential discernment program for male undergraduate students who are considering a call to the priesthood and/or consecrated life. The project is in the development stage and no start date has yet been set. (A program for women will be developed later.)

This program would utilize services already available at St. Bonaventure, including participation in the sacramental life, spiritual direction, apostolic service, and enrollment in our academic programs.

“The program is flexible enough to incorporate a typical college experience, and if you decide not to enter religious life, students will have a major to fall back on,” Fr. Ross said.

The Lateran Center would have a strategic relationship with Christ the King Seminary, which traces its roots to St. Bonaventure. The center also intends to collaborate with the friars of Mt. Irenaeus for programming, spiritual direction, and retreat opportunities.

“Fr. Ross brings a keen awareness of contemporary interest in the renewal of Catholic culture,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president. “And his innovative approach to Franciscan ministry will be an exceptional asset to us.”

Fr. Ross recently professed his final vows as a member of Holy Name Province and was ordained a deacon in August 2014. He was ordained to the priesthood in January 2015. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social justice and urban life from Emmanuel College in Boston, a master’s degree from the Washington Theological Union, and pontifical graduate degree from the Catholic University of America.

His professional background includes work as a project director for inner-city Catholic youth in Boston, as well as program development and religious education in several Franciscan parishes.

For three years, Fr. Ross was a justice of the peace in the state of New Hampshire. He serves on the faculty of St. Bonaventure University while pursuing doctoral studies at St. John Fisher in Rochester.

The title of The Lateran Center recalls the famous episode in the life of St. Francis of Assisi in which he was seen holding up a shattered Lateran Cathedral in a dream of Pope Innocent III.

The pope interpreted his dream to mean that Francis would assist the pope in his work of reforming the Church and he welcomed the first friars as a force for a Church in need of change agents.

Facade of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
The facade of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. A dream of a shattered Basilica being held up by Francis in a dream of Pope Innocent III convinced the Pope to officially recognize the Franciscan Order.