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Seattle University


A big year for Matteo Ricci

Written by Mike Thee
May 3, 2010

Matteo Ricci College is embarking on a very special year of milestones, beginning next week.  

May 11 is the 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci’s death, and on that day the college will celebrate the life of the man for whom it is named. By official proclamation, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., has declared May 11 “Matteo Ricci Day” at Seattle University. It is the first time Fr. Sundborg has declared a day of any sort at SU.  

In his proclamation, Fr. Sundborg called Matteo Ricci “the great Jesuit scholar” and an “example of Jesuit education in a global and cultural context.” 

A Jesuit missionary from Macerata, Italy, Matteo Ricci traveled to China and pioneered relations between Europe and the Chinese court in the 16th and 17th centuries. He “began an unequaled synthesis of Christianity and Chinese culture,” says Michael Andrews, dean of Matteo Ricci College.  

In China, Matteo Ricci was treasured for his mastery of European humanism, as well as mathematics, cartography, theology and intercultural dialogue. He was unfailingly respectful of the local culture and customs, growing his hair and a beard and wearing a purple silk robe with loose flowing sleeves and the ceremonial square cap of a Chinese scholar. The respect was mutual: he was welcomed into the Imperial Court as Li Mat’ou, “Wise Man from the Great West Ocean,” and is the only westerner buried in the Forbidden City.

On May 11, the campus community is invited to share in the festivities by attending an ice cream social from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on that day in the LeRoux Conference Room. Alumni of the college have been invited to an event in the evening. 

And yet, this is just the beginning as Andrews and his colleagues have even more to celebrate in the coming months. The 2010-2011 academic year, after all, is the college’s 35th anniversary, an occasion that the college will commemorate with series of events during “Matteo Ricci Week.” Between Oct. 18-22, the college will present a two-day faculty symposium on the Jesuits and the printing press; the inaugural Matteo Ricci College Lecture in the Humanities (by Rev. Antoni Ucerler, S.J.) and the Matteo Ricci College Alumni Forum:  The First Annual Humanities Symposium.  

Reflecting on the special link between Matteo Ricci, the man, and Matteo Ricci, the college, Dean Andrews says this: “Like its namesake, Matteo Ricci College extols global education; experiential, humanities-based learning; appreciation of the Jesuit and Catholic intellectual traditions; a deep respect for cultural diversity; and solid preparation for leaders for a just and humane world.

“The College’s motto, ‘learning how to learn,’ inspires students and faculty alike to be life-long learners, to see the Humanities as the gateway to a life of joyful service, spiritual growth and intellectual curiosity.  This is what roots the College in its Jesuit and Catholic identity.”

For more details about Matteo Ricci and the events planned for “Matteo Ricci Week,” visit