AFMIX—which stands for Assuring the Future of Mission and Identity at Xavier—is a two-year process of study, education and practical experience that the University created in 1999 as a means of accomplishing two tasks: to provide a professional development opportunity for employees that allows them to develop a mission-focused mentality toward their work; and to train lay persons to fulfill some of the mission and identity work traditionally carried out by the Jesuits, whose numbers are dwindling.
Ironically, it wasn't the Jesuits who initiated the AFMIX concept but rather some University employees familiar with the stresses being placed on the Jesuits. Knowing those stresses are only going to increase in the future, they approached George Traub, S.J., director for Ignatian Programs, about creating a program that would allow lay people to help preserve the University's Jesuit nature.
This year's class included 24 participants, bringing the total number of the AFMIX graduates to 72.
"What makes AFMIX noteworthy," says University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., "is that it's an initiative that emerged from staff, faculty and administrators themselves, so it's their way of carrying forward the mission and identity of the University."
The idea is unique among the country's 28 Jesuit institutions and is exactly what was needed, says Traub. "We constantly need to ask ourselves, 'Are we empowering lay people so they have what they need to carry on the Jesuit tradition?'" he says.
AFMIX was placed under the direction of Ignatian programs, which develops spiritual-related programs. The University spent nearly a year combining the successful aspects of other programs into AFMIX, says Traub, with the result being this two-year series of programs—or a "process"—that is broken down into three components: education, spiritual development and service.
The first year includes reading, prayer, reflection and a series of seminars on Ignatian spirituality, Jesuit history and Jesuit education. Using the book, "Finding God in All Things," participants are guided through St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises. The second year includes self-evaluation and weekly seminars on topics such as scripture, ethics, listening skills and group dynamics.
As they progress through the AFMIX process, participants begin planning and producing some of the University’s Ignatian programs that have been traditionally handled by the Jesuits.