On August 15, 1990, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education entitled Ex corde Ecclesiae. The Apostolic Constitution described the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities and provided General Norms to help fulfill its vision. Subsequently, the United States Bishops issued The Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for the United States. Ex corde Ecclesiae highlights four distinctive characteristics of Catholic colleges and universities that are essential for Catholic identity:
- Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
- A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which the University seeks to contribute by its own research;
- Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Roman Catholic Church;
- An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.
In addition to committing the University to demonstrate the above four characteristics and in accordance with the principles of Ex corde Ecclesiae, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (Franciscan University) will strive to become "an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities. It possesses that institutional autonomy necessary to perform its functions effectively and guarantees its members' academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of truth and the common good.”
Following the guidance of Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Franciscan University community is "inspired by academic ideals and by the principles of an authentically human life." The students are "challenged to pursue an education that combines excellence in humanistic and cultural development with specialized training." The scholarly activity and teaching of the faculty that occurs will be characterized in appropriate ways by the search for an integration of knowledge, an acknowledgement of both faith and reason, an ethical concern, and a theological perspective. The directors and administrators promote the constant growth of the University and its community “through a leadership of service; and the non-academic staff are vital to the identity and life” of the University.
The spirit of Ex corde Ecclesiae will be demonstrated at Franciscan University in the following ways:
In our service to society, the University will relate especially to the academic, cultural and scientific communities of Louisiana and the surrounding region.
- The University community will give "a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activity, with important moments of reflection and prayer" by providing faculty, students, administration and staff with opportunities to practice the faith through participation in Mass, the sacraments, and Catholic spirituality.
- In the academic programs, the University will examine "the impact of modern technology and especially the mass media on persons, the family, and the institutions and the whole of modern culture." An area of particular interest at Franciscan University is "the dialogue between Christian thought and the modern sciences." The predominant values and norms of modern society and culture "in a Christian perspective, and the responsibility to communicate to society those ethical and religious principles which give full meaning to human life" will be a specific priority of the academic environment at the University.
- The University curriculum and other educational offerings include "a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level."
- All members of the University community are expected to comport themselves in a manner that is both congruent to and consistent with Catholic tradition and the mission of the University. The moral implications that are present in each academic discipline at the University will be examined “as an integral part of the teaching of that discipline so that the entire educative process is directed towards the whole development of the person.”
- The University education is offered in "a faith-context that forms women and men capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological study that translates the faith into contemporary language."
- The University community will engage in activities to serve others, particularly those most in need.
- Toward these ends, in hiring decisions where the professional and academic credentials of applicants are equivalent, the University will give preference to individuals who respect the principles of the Roman Catholic Church and are committed to the Franciscan values of service, reverence and love for all life, joyfulness of spirit, humility and justice.
Even as the University respects and acknowledges religious diversity, all faculty, staff and students are to respect the Catholic identity of the University. In sum, Franciscan University particularly embraces this ideal Catholic university as described in Ex corde Ecclesiae: “The community is animated by a spirit of freedom and charity; it is characterized by mutual respect, sincere dialogue, and protection of the rights of individuals. It assists each of its members to achieve wholeness as human persons; in turn, everyone in the community helps in promoting unity, and each one, according to his or her role and capacity, contributes towards decisions which affect the community, and also towards maintaining and strengthening the distinctive Catholic character of the Institution.”