Augustinian Affiliation: Dr. Hopey and Cheryl Lucas at Merrimack | From the Desk of Fr. Rob

January 10, 2024

Dear friend of the Augustinians,
On Thursday, November 30, 2023, the Augustinian community and the community of Merrimack College gathered in St. Augustine Church in Andover, Massachusetts, to celebrate the affiliation of Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., president of Merrimack College, and his wife Cheryl M. Lucas to the Order of St. Augustine, Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. It was indeed a very joyful occasion.
Affiliation is the highest honor that the Order can bestow on a lay individual(s). In the Constitutions of the Order of St. Augustine, it is written: “The Order has the faculty of affiliating to itself the faithful who merit special recognition because of their distinguished cooperation for the good of the Order. By reason of this affiliation, they belong to the Augustinian Family and share in all of the spiritual benefits of the Order.” Affiliation is not something we take lightly, and it is not something that happens very often. All friars in their heart and actions show their extreme gratitude for those who are affiliated.
When a friar makes his vows and joins our community his parents become affiliated to the Order, as they, too, are part of our Augustinian family. Friars can also nominate someone for affiliation due to exemplary service to the Order. Our community of friars at Merrimack College (Frs. Ray Dlugos, O.S.A., Bryan Kerns, O.S.A., and Dan Madden, O.S.A.) recognized the extraordinary work of Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas and wrote a beautiful letter of nomination (part of which I share below in italics).
The transformation that has taken place at Merrimack College has been significant since we welcomed Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas to the community almost 14 years ago. We could spend much time talking about the incredible growth that has taken place at Merrimack by way of admissions, rankings, facilities, the nursing school, curricular development, research, athletics, and working with our neighbors in the cities of Lawrence and Boston – the list goes on and on. Yet what we celebrate as an Augustinian community in the face of all those changes is rather what has not changed: Merrimack’s commitment to the Augustinian Mission.
Dr. Hopey has brought about a renewal and a reinvigoration to the Catholic and Augustinian mission and identity of the college by making it more visibly explicit, incorporating into Merrimack’s planning processes, and undertaking initiatives such as:
  • The establishment of the Hands to Help Community Outreach Center in Lawrence, MA
  • The creation of the Pioneer Scholars Program offering access to a Merrimack Education to deserving low-income students
  • Unflagging support for the professional development of the faculty through the Through Knowledge to Wisdom Faculty Retreat
  • The development of the Graduate Program in Spirituality and Spiritual Direction
Through all of this, Cheryl Lucas has not only supported her husband in a beautiful and inspiring way but has herself been supportive and helpful to the Augustinians with her presence and her prayers. She has also contributed to the spiritual life of our community as a master teacher of meditation and contemplative practice. 
Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas have demonstrated great commitment to our mission and way of life, exemplifying the values and teachings of Saint Augustine through a deep dedication to serving others. Guided by their Catholic faith, they have given so much of themselves to enrich the human and spiritual development of families, students, staff, alumni, and friends. They are now part of the wider Augustinian Order, which includes not only our friars, but also Augustinian contemplative nuns and lay members of various groups of seculars who are identified, nominated, and approved by the Prior General. “By this affiliation,” reads the certificate we presented to Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas, “you become sharers in the spiritual benefits which flow from the Masses, prayers, sacrifices, and good works of the brothers and sisters of the Order in every part of the world. From now on, we regard you as part of our family in the same way as those who are such through their profession of religious vows.”
We are grateful for the spiritual bond that the Hopeys share with us, and their effective collaboration and commitment to our way of life. Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas have helped us build much at Merrimack College – nothing more important than building a community where everyone belongs, where people grow intellectually, physically, and spiritually, recognizing our universal call to serve others. We thank Dr. Hopey and Ms. Lucas for all the many ways in which they have partnered with our Augustinian Mission and their commitment to further strengthening it. May God continue to bless them and their family.
Peace always,
Fr. Robert P. Hagan, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial