The Garden of Forgiveness at Chestnut Hill College is a space near the center of campus, enclosed by stone buildings and populated by roses, benches, and a birdbath in the middle. Rededicated last spring, the garden is meant as a place for “releasing past hurts, facing oneself and others with forgiveness and repentance… and moving toward healing and reconciliation together for the sake of a new future.”
College officials renamed the garden last spring as part of its Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. As many other colleges seek to advance their missions by building new, state-of-the-art centers designed to propel them into the 21st century, Chestnut Hill is looking to emphasize the principles that the Sisters of St. Joseph — the college’s founding order of nuns — have espoused since the 17th century.
“This institute is rooted in Gospel principles — it’s not something that we’re picking up that is foreign or new to us, it is the essence of who were are and what we have been about since we were founded,” said Sister Carol Jean Vale, the president. “It’s formalizing it.”
I feel obliged to point out, of course, that plenty of completely secular people have come to the same conclusion—forgiveness is a profoundly important impulse to promote—without religious faith. Still, though, this is what religion should be about.