- Executive Summary
- I. Group Journey and Insights
- II. Vision and Outcomes
- III. Proposed Organizational Structure
- IV. Vice President for Mission and Identity
- V. Conclusion
- Appendix 1: Discernment Group Trip Itinerary
- Phase I involved monthly readings and discussions on the meaning of Jesuit education.
- Phase II involved an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in which each member of the group met with a spiritual director for approximately 10 weeks.
- Phase III was an immersion trip, an eight-day tour of urban ministries in Los Angeles and Camden, N.J.
- The Gift of Mission invites us to understand the history and importance of our Jesuit heritage and Ignatian spirituality. It compels us to attract and nurture students and employees who are interested in understanding and affirming this heritage. Mission at a Jesuit University focuses on the centrality of academic excellence, grounded in a Catholic faith tradition..
- The Gift of Reflection invites us to pause and consider the world around us and our place within it. It calls us to infuse a culture of attention, reflection and reverence throughout the University.
- The Gift of Discernment invites us to be open to God’s spirit as we consider our feelings and rational thought in order to make decisions and take action that will contribute good to our lives and the world around us. All University stakeholders should be invited to participate in The Spiritual Exercises or other discernment exercises.
- The Gift of Solidarity and Kinship reminds us to walk along side and learn from our companions as we journey through life, fostering a spirit of community both within and outside the University.
- The Gift of Service Rooted in Justice and Love invites us to invest our lives into the well-being of our neighbors, particularly those who suffer injustice. This encourages and develops a culture of mutually beneficial community engagement as an expression of faith that promotes justice.
- A common understanding among all University stakeholder of our Jesuit, Catholic mission.
- A sense of shared accountability for ensuring the fulfillment of our core mission.
- Additional and ongoing support for Xavier and its priority strategic objectives.
- A more sharply defined identity of the University that differentiates it from other institutions of higher education.
- Greater positive impact on advancing social justice in the world around us.
- Loyola Productions, according to its director, Fr. Eddie Siebert, S.J., was founded “to illuminate the human experience so that . . . people may come to a deeper understanding of themselves, of the world, and of God actively present in it.”
- Blessed Sacrament Parish, on the famous Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, has an extensive outreach program for the large number of homeless people who “live” in the hills near the familiar “Hollywood” sign.
- Dolores Mission Church is in a parish that has the highest concentration of gang activity in the United States. Its pastor, Fr. Scott Santarosa, S.J., says that as a result of discernment and reflection, “I find God here . . . The Paschal Mystery is the only thing that makes sense of life here at Dolores Mission.” Daily life at the parish constantly moves between the extremes of pain and suffering, and joy and happiness.
- Homeboy Industries, providing employment services for former gang members, parolees, and at-risk youth, is internationally known. There is no organization in Los Angeles that services a greater number of men and women who have been active in gangs. The organization’s free programs include counseling, education, tattoo removal, job training and job placement. “Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” according to Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboys Industries. When asked what motivates this work, Fr. Boyle said, “It’s responding to God with love and compassion because God is total love and compassion.”
- Hopeworks enhances the lives of young inner-city adults through technology training provided in a safe, respectful atmosphere. As a result, this center provides hope for the future through access to good-paying jobs, business development, and educational advancement.
- Guadalupe Family Services is a professional social service agency committed to maintaining, strengthening and reconciling the family relationships that form the foundation of the community. Under the direction of Sr. Helen Cole, S.S.J., MSW, the program offers clinical counseling and direct social services focusing on families in distress.
- Holy Name Parish, an Hispanic community, is the original site of Jesuit involvement in Camden. The parish is in the process of being “phased out” by the diocese over the coming year. Nevertheless, those in ministry there are committed to providing new avenues for those who live to fulfill their dreams, even if that means escaping the dangers of the community. As Fr. Bill Kelly, S.J., explained, “There’s little hope for anyone here. We try to help educate people and get them out of here before they get killed.”
- St Luke’s Catholic Medical Services provides a full range of medical and health services for the poor, uninsured and under-insured. The center is available on a 24-hour basis to address the medical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs of patients. While the need is overwhelming, dedicated staff and volunteers see victories one person at a time. One of those workers is Allison, a Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Boston College graduate who worked at the Center. “I can't change Camden,” she said, “but I can help this individual or that individual, and that's why I'm here.”
- Camden Center for Law & Social Justice serves the civil law needs of the working poor. Its practice focuses on immigration law, employment and civil rights law, and family and juvenile law. Executive Director Jeff DeCristofaro, an attorney who left a lucrative private practice to serve the working poor in the Jesuit tradition, reflects the highly skilled and devoted staff. “I used to be a divorce attorney,” he said, “but I wanted to work at a place like this, where I could really help people. We could all make more money and work in nicer offices in better neighborhoods. We forgo federal funding options and partnerships to serve these people, because if we don’t serve them, there’s no one to fill the gap.”
- The Gift of Mission invites us to understand the history and importance of our Jesuit heritage and Ignatian spirituality. It compels us to attract and nurture students and employees who are interested in understanding and affirming this heritage. Mission at a Jesuit University focuses on the centrality of academic excellence, grounded in a Catholic faith tradition.
- The Gift of Reflection invites us to pause and consider the world around us and our place within it. It calls us to infuse a culture of attention, reflection and reverence throughout the University.v
- The Gift of Discernment invites us to be open to God’s spirit as we consider our feelings and rational thought in order to make decisions and take action that will contribute good to our lives and the world around us. All University stakeholders should be invited to participate in The Spiritual Exercises or other discernment exercises.iv
- The Gift of Solidarity and Kinship reminds us to walk along side and learn from our companions as we journey through life, fostering a spirit of community, both within and outside the University.
- The Gift of Service Rooted in Justice and Love invites us to invest our lives into the well-being of our neighbors, particularly those who suffer injustice. This encourages and develops a culture of mutually beneficial community engagement as an expression of faith that promotes justice.vii
- Recruitment and retention of students who will embody the values of the University during their time at Xavier and beyond.
- Recruitment and retention of faculty and other employees who manifest Ignatian values in their personal and professional conduct, including their commitment to the development of students.
- An identity that differentiates Xavier from other universities and allows us to be uniquely attractive to those who might want to invest their time and resources in the sustainability of the University.
- Positive impact on the well-being of the communities around us and throughout the nation and the world, particularly those that struggle against social and economic injustice.
- An ability to draw people into a university culture inspired and motivated by Ignatian values.
- A passion for the mission of the University that provides motivation to stay at Xavier and to invest in its well-being.
- An ability to express a common sense of Xavier’s mission.
- An ability to inspire in students the capacity to engage in service in ways that are captured by the terms “solidarity” and “kinship.”
- A commitment to deepen their understanding of the mission by participating in development activities such as AFMIX, the Ignatian Mentoring Program, The Spiritual Exercises, and other Ignatian-based spiritual experiences.
- A willingness to serve as ambassadors for the mission by participating in mission development and sharing their understanding with colleagues, students, friends and audiences who are key to the University’s success.
- A dedication to actively fulfilling the mission through their responsibilities at Xavier and in their personal endeavors.
- Jesuit Identity Resource website and e-newsletter are repositories of information and, networking resources for faculty, staff, students and the general public interested in matters of Jesuit identity, pedagogy and spirituality.
- Publications of Ignatian and Jesuit informational resources are made available to faculty, students, trustees, retreatants and parishioners.
- AFMIX (Assuring the Future Mission and Identity at Xavier University), a two-year program for faculty and staff members and administrators is Xavier's cornerstone mission and identity orientation. Its goal is to facilitate an increased understanding of the Jesuit identity of the University, an introduction to The Spiritual Exercises, and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in one’s work and career.
- Manresa is an orientation program specially designed to acquaint new personnel with Xavier’s Jesuit identity and heritage.
- Pilgrim Program (The Spiritual Exercises) provides one to four members of the Xavier community each year an opportunity to experience “God in all things,” through a systematic form of prayer and reflection based on The Spiritual Exercises.
- Ignatian Mentoring Program encourages faculty who have participated in AFMIX or the Ignatian Mentoring Program to pair with another faculty member to facilitate the incorporation and assimilation of the Ignatian vision into the professional identities of the faculty of Xavier University.
- Magis National Faculty Retreat allows three or four members of Xavier’s faculty each year to join cohorts from fellow Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) institutions to experience an opportunity to integrate Ignatian spirituality into their professional and personal lives. The retreat blends an academic conference, which emphasizes intellectual give and take, with an Ignatian retreat, which emphasizes primarily the individual’s encounter with God.
- Ignatian Colleagues Program involves the Division in the recruitment, support and mentoring of participants of this 18-month collaborative initiative of AJCU-affiliated institutions designed to educate and form administrators more deeply in the Jesuit tradition of higher education so they may better articulate, adapt and advance Ignatian mission on their campuses.
- Ignatian Pilgrimage allows the Division to recruit, support and mentor five to six faculty and/or senior administrators who participate in a 10-day trip to major sites in Spain and Italy that were significant in the life of Ignatius Loyola.
- Director of Faculty Programs, created during the 2008-09 academic year, is a three-year administrative position filled by a faculty member (whose duties are split with Academic Affairs) to ensure effective networking and mission integration among faculty.
- Chairs or appointees of academic departments
- Ethics/Religion and Society Program
- Cintas Institute for Business Ethics
- Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning
- Peace and Justice Programs
- Community Building Institute
- The Women’s Center
- Office of Vice Provost for Diversity
- Brueggeman Center for Dialogue
- Campus Ministry
- Office of Interfaith Community Engagement
- Division of Student Life and Leadership
- Office of Human Resources
- Division of University Relations
- Jesuit Community at Xavier
- The Council will serve to formalize campus connections via the Jesuit mission. New collaborations among the network-of-influence may be energized and initiated.
- Through the inclusion of associate vice presidents, and several select network influencers, all divisions will be represented.
- Associate vice presidents currently do not meet together. Moreover, they typically have direct oversight and responsibility for the efforts of division staff.
- “Jesuit Identity” is one of the few committees of the Board of Trustees but has no counterpart among University committees. For instance, there are Marketing, Budget, and Diversity subcommittees of the board of trustees as well as University committees focused on those matters that comprise faculty and staff.
- Group process experts have identified two components for enhancing the effectiveness of university committees: an identified problem and a nine-month timeline. The Council structure is grounded in these components.
- Very strong administrative support for Mission and Identity is instituted structurally. Fr. George Traub, S.J., founder of Xavier’s Office of Ignatian Programs, in reviewing this recommendation, offered his support in stating, “We need structures not just programs. Ultimately, the lasting influence depends on structures. Effective programs cannot be created or sustained without having solid support and foundation.”
- The expectation of serving on this Council will be articulated at the time of hiring for vice presidents, associate vice presidents and network influencers. Individuals are hired for mission leadership and responsibilities. This is a fair and effective model of “hiring for mission” because it identifies specific mission duties. This model ensures that executive leaders are mission conscious and are leaders in mission.
- This model of mission-related institutional change and cultural shaping would be unique to Xavier among Jesuit universities.
- Chairs or appointees of academic departments would be instrumental in promotion of initiatives, identification of faculty participants and provision of academic forums, such as Academic Day.
- A mutually beneficial relationship between the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning and the new Division would ensure that the Center is purposefully driven by the Ignatian values of the University, with the Division acting as an effective conduit between faculty, administration and staff and the Center.
- The Jesuit Community could provide or identify spiritual directors for The Spiritual Exercises and other retreat opportunities and assist in the continued support of specific programs of the division.
- Human Resources would develop new hiring practices and procedures that address the role of mission and identity at Xavier and develop initiatives that interweave professional and personal development with the values of Jesuit identity.
- University Relations would assist the new Division with development relations, and branding and marketing opportunities.
- Each division would have within it staff members who are highly knowledgeable regarding Jesuit identity who serve as “models” and resources from within.
- These Collaborative Positions put into practice the spirit of collaboration that the University has identified as a core component of its brand identity and its management practices, through such innovations as the Provost model, the Learning Commons and the Community-Engaged Learning Network. It is appropriate that the Division of Mission & Identity would be a leader in developing innovative positions and structures that align with this concept.
- These positions reduce the concern of staff succession in developing leaders who are prepared to become full-time coordinators of Mission and Identity in higher education. That is, there are no formal educational tracks leading to competency in Jesuit mission and identity coordination. The only way to fully prepare individuals is through an “apprenticeship” or on-the-job experience. These positions offer such an experience.
- These positions reduce the current problem of Division understaffing. Recent Division assessments have indicated an interest in a number of new and renewed, Division-sponsored activities, including overnight retreats, departmental colloquia, and post-AFMIX programs. Current staffing levels hinder, even prevent, the ability to meet this need. To grow and advance increased staffing is an imperative. With recommendations from the Discernment Group for increased opportunities for spiritual direction coupled with future recommendations outlined by the proposed “President’s Council for Mission & Identity,” an increase in personnel is needed to execute and actualize the plans.
- A concern has been raised by members of the Discernment Group as well as interviewed facultyxi that the Division no longer has a direct connection with students. This concern would be mitigated with a new “Director of Student Life and Leadership” in the Division of Mission & Identity.” While the primary focus of this position would be to assist staff in the Division of Student Life and Leadership in increasing mission consciousness, a secondary focus may be direct contact with and education for students. (For instance, this might include assisting with the PPP honor program’s Ignatian retreats, offering a presentation during the student Manresa, or developing a print resource on vocational discernment.)
- These positions may have a high potential as endowment opportunities.
- These positions would be unique to Xavier among the Jesuit universities. While a number of Jesuit universities have an identified faculty member whose position includes mission and identity responsibilities and coordination, none follows such a deliberate and structured approach or extends the model outside of Academic Affairs.
- Expansion and reformation of the collaboration between the Division and the Jesuit Community at Xavier. This should include using the Division as an instrument to recruit members of the Society of Jesus to campus in order to ensure that Xavier is well-positioned to compete for its share of the dwindling number of available Jesuits. Part of their attraction might include partnering with new, innovative initiatives around community engagement and interreligious dialogue as well as developing or reclassifying faculty positions for Jesuits.
- Identify and provide meaningful recognition of faculty, administrators and staff who are instrumental in providing innovative methods of advancing the objectives of the Division.
- Collaborate with University Relations to endow more of the Division’s keystone initiatives in order to increase its overall effectiveness.
- Provide additional campus reflection spaces in addition to and complementary to Bellarmine Chapel.
- Recognize the value of purposeful reflection that can only be obtained away from the campus/work environment by establishing a retreat facility devoted to the needs of Xavier University, which would include use by the new Division for its initiatives.
- A common understanding among all University stakeholder of our Jesuit, Catholic mission.
- A sense of shared accountability for ensuring the fulfillment of our core mission.
- Additional and ongoing support for Xavier and its priority strategic objectives.
- A more sharply defined identity of the University that differentiates it from other institutions of higher education.
- Greater positive impact on advancing social justice in the world around us.
Shaping Institutional Culture and Identity
Xavier University Discernment Group
Report to the President
February 13, 2009
In February 2007, President Michael J. Graham, S.J., invited 14 members of the Xavier University community to be part of the Mission and Identity Discernment Group, with the task of envisioning a new Division of Mission and Identity. He challenged the group to “shape a new division whose purpose will be to advance our Jesuit, Catholic mission among the faculty, staff and administration of Xavier University so as to maximize the fulfillment of our mission in the place where it matters most: in the hearts, in the minds, in the actions—in the very spirits—of our students.”
The Discernment Group interpreted this charge as an opportunity to promote a plan that would create a culture in which everyone at Xavier would come to understand and contribute to the core mission in ways that are authentic and intentional. The work of the group focused on understanding the core principles and values of that culture and on creating an administrative structure that would facilitate the creation of this campus culture by spawning and sustaining a new vision, rooted in tradition yet propelled by the increasing breadth and diversity of our campus community.
The work of the Discernment Group was divided into three phases:
Rationale and Vision
As a Jesuit, Catholic university, Xavier’s purpose is to educate the whole person, intellectually, morally and spiritually; to understand, appreciate and serve the best interests of society, in particular the less fortunate; and to find God in all things. In addition to its intrinsic value, Xavier’s Jesuit, Catholic mission is, as well, the institution’s greatest point of distinction and differentiation. Leveraging this 450-year-old marriage of academic excellence and Jesuit ideals has always been of great importance, maybe never more so than now.
It is especially critical that the University turn its attention now to the deliberate work of enhancing this rich identity. Our diverse campus environment of faculty, staff and students requires us to discover new ways to celebrate and express our Jesuit heritage. Moreover, the increasingly competitive nature of higher education compels us to highlight the distinctiveness of this identity as an invitation to those who would benefit from sharing in our community. Certainly, the continual decline in the number of Jesuits on campus reveals a sense of urgency, but we are driven more by the opportunity of a fresh vision for the future, rooted in our past but shaped by contributions of men and women who see new possibilities to advance our mission.
The support of the president and his charge to the Discernment Group provide Xavier the inspiration and momentum to more fully embed the Jesuit mission in a contemporary and comprehensive manner. Success, however, will require a greater commitment across campus than currently exists. There have been considerable and laudable efforts over the past 15 years to help those who work and learn at the University come to more fully understand, appreciate and actualize the mission of the Jesuits. Yet it seems clear that this mission is not yet an authentic and intentional source of inspiration and guidance for the planning, efforts and impact of most faculty, staff and administrators.
Indeed, for Xavier to fulfill its aspirations, Ignatian spirituality will need to become a more genuine and central element of everyone’s experience and contributions. The Discernment Group concluded that the essence of this spirituality manifests itself through an invitation to all University stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, trustees and friends – to embrace five expressions or “gifts” of our Ignatian heritage:
The Discernment Group has three strategic recommendations, which focus on administrative structure rather than specific projects and programs. If adopted, they have potential to create processes that foster the creation of innovative initiatives that have broad authorship, ownership and accountability across campus, which will foster sustainability.
1. The first recommendation is that the Division of Mission and Identity continue to operate as a separate division and be led by a vice president who reports directly to the president. Xavier was among the first Jesuit universities to create an organizational model such as this, and it has served the institution well through the development and implementation of many outstanding programs and initiatives.
2. The second recommendation is to create a campus-wide President’s Council on Jesuit Mission and Identity. Currently, no mission-focused committee or cross-campus body exists within the administrative structure of Xavier. The President’s Council on Jesuit Mission and Identity would address strategic and tactical opportunities by connecting centers, programs and divisions through networks of collaboration and information sharing. The creation of this council will help embed capacity and accountability for mission building across campus, and provide greater structure and accountability toward achieving the vision.
3. The third recommendation is to expand the resources and impact of the Division of Mission and Identity by creating ambassadors throughout the institution. This will be accomplished through the implementation of new collaborative positions modeled after the Director for Faculty Programs within the Division of Mission and Identity. This director divides her time evenly between Academic Affairs and Mission and Identity. Her charge is to educate, influence and impact the work of both divisions. Roles such as this are to be filled on a rotating basis. A significant benefit of this recommendation is the creation of staff members knowledgeable about Jesuit identity and able to serve as role models and resources within their “home” division and across campus.
The objective of these recommendations is not to recapture the past, but rather to envision a new future that is based on where we have been, builds from where we are now, and takes us where we have never gone before. As we follow this journey with even greater vigor and determination, we fully expect to see tangible evidence of our success in a variety of ways. Among them are:
In February 2007, Fr. Michael J. Graham, S.J., president of Xavier University, named 14 University faculty, staff members and administrators to be part of the Mission and Identity Discernment Group, with the task of envisioning a new Division of Mission and Identity.
Those named were from different areas in the university; we possessed different religious backgrounds; and we brought to the group different hopes and apprehensions. We were asked to reflect and to engage in personal as well as communal discernment on how spirituality might inform our work and our lives.
The individuals named to the Discernment Group are: Liz Blume, Community Building Institute; James Buchanan, Brueggeman Center for Dialogue; Darrell Burns, Mission & Identity and Jesuit Community; Gene Carmichael, Mission & Identity and Jesuit Community; Paul Fiorelli, Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility; Marie Giblin, Department of Theology; Bob Hill, Marketing and Printing Services; Abie Ingber, Center for Interreligious Community Engagement; John LaRocca, Department of History and Jesuit Community; Debra Mooney, Mission & Identity; Cheryl Nuñez, Office of Vice Provost for Diversity; Carol Scheerer, Department of Occupational Therapy; Rebecca Schroer, Mission & Identity; and Byron White, Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning.
Fr. Graham had intended for us to pursue our charge by following in a general way the two-year novitiate program that St. Ignatius developed for those individuals who desired to enter his Company. This program consists essentially of various “experiments,” experiences that both test and challenge the candidate. The first of these is making the full Spiritual Exercises over a period of 30 days. During this time, the individual would become familiar with the process of discernment and would grow in his trust of this process as a means of discovering God’s will. Among the other experiments was the pilgrimage, a journey undertaken with complete reliance on the providence of God.
For Ignatius, the novitiate was not a retreat from the rigors and demands of life but rather a testing ground and an opportunity to manage the tensions that are part of Jesuit spirituality. It was only after the completion of these two years that the candidate would enter into academic studies that would lead eventually to the work of ministry.
For the sake of the Discernment Group’s work, the scope of these original activities was broadened to include both personal and group development. Planned events included a retreat, an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises with the help of a personal guide, and visits to Jesuit ministries outside of our familiar region. The goal was to expand an understanding of Jesuit/Ignatian spirituality and missioni, and not for the individuals to become members of the Society of Jesus.
With the prospect of this experience ahead of us, the members of the Discernment Group, nevertheless, lurched forward during our first meetings with a mindset of “Let’s get this assignment done right way!” We were skeptical about the agenda Fr. Graham had proposed as essential to accomplishing our task. However, after we began engaging in these experiences, we came to realize that it was very helpful to slow down and find some space in which we could open ourselves to being moved in a different, personal way. We also began to appreciate the giftedness of each other – the presence of the Holy in our midst. Slowly, we began to let go of our apprehensions and of our need for immediate success. We began to desire to make room for a journey together that might change not just the University, but also each of us individually.
By taking the time to reflect collectively and to engage in the Spiritual Exercises, we have changed in ways that have impacted our lives and how we view our work. By visiting with people around the country who are not Jesuits but are doing works started by Jesuits, we have been formed as a group and individually in the ways that have motivated us to more deeply and intentionally live the mission we profess as a University.
The result has been an unexpected and wonderful journey that produced so much more than what we had been asked to accomplish. Indeed, it occurred to us along the way that we were modeling the work that we are being challenged to accomplish on a larger scale in our campus community. This gave the group a much deeper understanding of how important our experience had been.
Our individual and collective journeys were marked by three significant stages:
1. Discussions of the meaning of Jesuit education, which included background readings on Jesuit history, values and philosophy, including First Jesuits by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.; Ignatius of Loyola: Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works by George Ganss, and Decree 6 on Collaboration at the Heart of Mission from the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. In addition, we participated in presentations and forums, which included Fr. O’Malley on the Jesuit model of education; Dr. Roger Fortin on the history of Xavier University; Academic Day 2007 activities on the theme “Who Are We?: Defining Xavier’s Mission and Identity,” featuring a panel discussion led by Jesuit scholars Fr. Michael Buckley, S.J. and Dr. David O’Brien; and Fr. James Grummer, Regional Assistant for the United States to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
2. Introduction to The Spiritual Exercises, which began with a day of reflection at Hueston Woods, February 16 and 17, 2008, with retreat director Fr. William Verbryke, S.J. It also involved individual guidance through The Spiritual Exercises during Spring 2008 for each member of the Discernment Group.
3. An eight-day tour of urban ministries in Los Angeles and Camden, New Jersey, that were initiated by Jesuits to promote social justice among the poor.
While the initial discussions were useful and interesting, it was through The Spiritual Exercises and the trips to Los Angeles and Camden that the Group gained deeper insights into such concepts as “solidarity,” “kinship,” and “walking with others.” This transformative process could serve as a model for the University community. A more in-depth explanation of these three stages is provided below.
The Initial Discussions
The Group began its work with discussions that centered on the meaning of a Jesuit education. During this process, we examined mission statements from other Jesuit colleges and universities and attempted to write a statement that summarized our thinking. During these discussions, we struggled with the perceived tension between Xavier’s Catholic and Jesuit identities. While the Discernment Group did not reach definitive answers, these deliberations did lead to tentative agreement about the critical importance of Jesuit mission and identity at Xavier. The statement below captures the culmination of the discussion stage of our journey together.
Education at Xavier University is rooted in the Jesuit tradition. This tradition is embodied in our concern with the formation of the individual and the community, and the discovery, in theory and practice, of the interdependence and dynamic tension between the two. It is embodied in our concern with spiritual awareness, intellectual development, the promotion of justice, and a deep understanding and respect for a diversity of perspectives and experiences. And it is embodied in the practice of reflection and discernment, which grow from the recognition of the presence of the Divine in all things. We are fully committed to preparing our graduates to living lives that reflect the core values of the Jesuit tradition.
After six months of meetings and discussions, which centered on the academic and intellectual approach to Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality, the Group shared an overnight experience at Hueston Woods Conference Center on February 16 and 17, 2008. Fr. William Verbryke, S.J., was invited to facilitate this meeting. Topics presented during this time included a general introduction to The Spiritual Exercises; an explanation of the dynamic of spiritual direction; an opportunity for a personal experience of the Examenii reflection; and time for other quiet, private reflection and group discussion.
Following the overnight experience, participants were offered the opportunity for a 10-week, personal experience of The Spiritual Exercises. Each Group member selected a “companion” from among 12 experienced spiritual directors. The format of this retreat was adapted according to the directives of the 18th and 19th Annotations of the Exercises. Details, such as frequency of meetings, length of private reflection periods, and the specific matter to be considered were determined and discussed during the one-on-one meetings between the individual and his or her companion. Some members of the Group found this to be such a valuable experience that they have continued a relationship with a spiritual director since the initial 10-week period. One member developed a pictorial booklet on Ignatian Spirituality following the experience.
Each member of the committee had his or her own experience of The Spiritual Exercises. We were encouraged to let that be and not seek to compare experiences, lest anyone feel that his or hers did not “match up” to that of others. However, over time it emerged that the introductory retreat (with its focus on the Examen) and the longer process with our individual directors provided the most profound and richest part of our journey. People felt that this experience of Ignatian spirituality provided a unique opportunity to deepen their reflection on their own lives, relationships, and work – with new appreciation of God’s work through their own desires, consolations, and desolations. It gave us a real experience of what Ignatius wanted his companions to experience. It made us more aware of what the ultimate mission of the university is and gave new depth to the phrase “finding God in all things.” It was with this new insight that the group then moved on to the urban mission visits with hearts and ears ready to listen to the experience of these others who are also walking the same path.
Urban Ministry Tour
The purpose of this trip, as proposed by Fr. Graham, was “to gain an enhanced perspective on Jesuit identity apart from how it is expressed here at Xavier.”iii It included travel to Los Angeles and Camden, New Jersey to witness ministries that were begun by the Jesuits and that are sustained today with varying levels of direct Jesuit involvement.
In Los Angeles, the Group observed four ministries:
The Camden, New Jersey leg of the trip involved visits to five ministries:
One central question for the Discernment Group throughout these visits was: “How can traditional Jesuit works remain vibrant ministries true to the Ignatian/Jesuit and Catholic heritage with fewer Jesuits directly involved in them? As we experienced the various ministries, we gained several insights through personal and group reflection.
Each of these works was started in response to a pressing need. With no initial master plan to guide them, the initiators of each organization entered into his or her task with complete trust in God, not knowing what the future would hold. They used the facilities and resources that were available and simply made them work. They did not wait to have everything needed to provide the perfect response. As Fr. Boyle of Homeboy Industries said, “It’s like a piece of cloth that keeps unfolding and growing.”
We were impressed by the way the staffs of the agencies worked in teams with a definite sense of group identity, purpose and faith. Those who administered and staffed the agencies spoke of the need to foster community through kinship, solidarity and “walking with” others. The people who were served by the agencies were searching for a sense of self and had a desire for personal empowerment that came about as they realized their strengths.
As we experienced the various ministries, we learned that they continue to thrive because of the deep faith and trust of the staff and volunteers. Indeed, we were struck by how the people who have carried on the ministries exhibited several other common traits. They are sustained and supported by a strong appreciation of team. They are in touch with their Jesuit roots, intentionally “seeking God in all things.” They are in dialogue with the local Catholic Church, although these conversations were sometimes difficult. They followed the process of the Ignatian charism by analyzing situational contexts in light of experience and reflection, which leads them to action that is continually open to evaluation.
Perhaps the most important lesson that we learned was a personal one, namely, that just as reflection and discernment played a crucial role in the lives of St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits, so, too, personal and communal reflection and prayerful discernment are essential in the lives of those we met on our trip. This would lead us to conclude that every effort must be made to ensure that personal and collective reflection within the context of the Ignatian charism continues to sustain Xavier University. It is through reflection and Ignatian discernment that we intentionally seek “to find God in all things” and in doing, assure our Ignatian/Jesuit heritage.
The mission at Xavier University is to engage and form our students “intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion towards lives of solidarity, service and success.” The goal of the Discernment Group is to more sharply define the role of, and perhaps even re-imagine, the Division of Mission & Identity and its function in advancing the University’s mission. This reconstituted enterprise will enable Xavier to function in a way that fully complements and advances the proud heritage of Jesuit education. This would inspire current and prospective personnel – faculty, staff members, administrators, – to engage with one another, students, and the world around them in a manner that upholds and promotes Ignatian values.
To fully achieve these objectives, all University employees will need to understand and contribute to the core mission of the University in ways that are authentic, intentional. This includes the widespread ability to express, internalize and then act upon three core questions:
1. What does it mean to be a Jesuit university?
2. Why do we pursue this tradition?
3. How can our work at Xavier contribute to this tradition and help us become a more successful Jesuit university?
Following are the Discernment Group’s responses to these core questions.
What does it mean to be a Jesuit University?
The foundation for this understanding can be found in Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), an apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1990, that promotes the value of Catholic universities as universities and as Catholic. As a university, Xavier is an academic community, with its own institutional autonomy and academic freedom, rigorously and critically assisting in the protection and advancement of human dignity and human knowledge (paragraph 12). As a Catholic university, Xavier shares in the characteristics that Pope John Paul II spelled out in the document: a Christian inspiration of individuals and of the university community, a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith on human knowledge, fidelity to the Christian message, and an institutional commitment to the service of God and of the human family (paragraph 13). It is clear in the document that the pope had no expectation that all members of a Catholic university would be Catholic or Christian or of any faith at all (paragraph 26), but he recognized that the institution should strive to become a truly human community:
“A Catholic University pursues its objectives through its formation of an authentic human community animated by the spirit of Christ. . . . As a result of this inspiration, 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” (paragraph 21)
We are heartened by this vision of a Catholic university that respects the integrity of the university as well as its Catholic commitment. Midst the diversity of our group, we experienced this vision not as utopian, but as possible for us to live out in our own particular setting as a Jesuit Catholic university with a particular history and heritage.
A year prior to this declaration, the philosophy of Catholic and Jesuit education was described, vetted and approved by the Xavier faculty. Its report “General Education at Xavier University,” which was ratified by the faculty in May, 1989, stated:
Education at a Catholic and Jesuit institution is also directed at the spiritual enrichment of the whole person, at the integration of the spiritual into the person’s educational experience, and at the nurturing of a strong sense of personal values. Such education is directed at the integration of moral character so as to create sensitivity to the needs of our time, and so as to instill a sense of moral responsibility in career choice, and a sense of duty to become a contributing member of society.
Even though the purpose of this document was to outline the rationale for revising the University’s core curriculum, the analysis is equally applicable to all the functions of the University. Collectively, in accordance with this vision, the document states that “they encourage students to reason critically and think creatively, to communicate effectively, to be open to all worthwhile studies, to pursue wisdom in confidence and freedom. Education at Xavier also helps students to find God in all things, to achieve their purpose in life, to learn to discern what is truly good for themselves and society – and so to live.”
With these ideals as a guide, and Ex Corde Ecclesiae as a foundation, the Discernment Group, through its deliberation and observation, concluded that the essence of Ignatian spirituality manifests itself through an invitation to University stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, trustees and friends – to embrace five expressions or “gifts” of our Ignatian heritage.iv These are the Gift of Mission, the Gift of Reflection, the Gift of Discernment, the Gift of Solidarity and Kinship, and the Gift of Service Rooted in Justice and Love.
Why do we pursue this tradition?
As a Jesuit university, we are invited to embrace these gifts and share them with the world. Individually, none of these gifts may be unique to Xavier University or to any Jesuit or Catholic university. Taken together, however, and applied within the framework of Ignatian ideals, these gifts form a distinctive environment for growing intellectually, morally and spiritually. By acting upon them deliberately, passionately and institutionally, we have an opportunity to not only positively impact our community, but also to distinguish ourselves in the pursuit of strategic objectives critical to the University.
Specifically, as our culture continues to foster these gifts, we will see their impact in the following areas:
One of the most significant things the Group learned through its individual and shared experiences is the fundamental importance of solidarity and kinship to any true community. It is not just that we commit to community engagement, but the truer question is how we engage. While it is admirable to do volunteer work or to become involved in one’s community, the Ignatian tradition calls us to do this in a way that acknowledges the presence of God in that work.
How can our work at Xavier contribute to this tradition and help us become a more successful Jesuit university?
In recognition of the decreasing presence of Jesuits at Xavier, the University as a whole must take greater ownership in continuing our Jesuit heritage. This includes becoming more intentional and accountable through our actions.
Xavier will be successful in achieving these outcomes to the degree that our people effectively demonstrate the following critical attributes:
According to Fr. Graham, the purpose of Xavier’s restructured Division of Mission and Identity “will be to advance our Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity among the faculty, staff and administration so as to maximize the fulfillment of our mission in the place where it matters the most: in the hearts, in the minds, in the actions – in the very spirits – of our students.”viii To accomplish its directive, the new Division will help shape the institutional culture at Xavier by creating, facilitating and nurturing a network of collaboration rooted in Ignatian Spirituality, especially through the experience of The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola.
To accomplish this, the University must establish an innovative and dynamic approach to advance Mission and Identity. The initial inclination of the Discernment Group was to define a set of programs and projects that would promote cultural change on campus. However, through its assessment, the Group became convinced that creating programs is not the primary need. Rather, the Division must establish a climate and oversee an administrative process that facilitates innovation by employees all over campus.
Therefore, instead of being framed around a set of programs, these recommendations focus on the development of an administrative structure that fosters collaboration and shared investment by each Division and its employees. This will require both building on the best practices that exist within the current Division, and establishing a new infrastructure around them that improves the Division’s organizational configuration, supports a network of mutual accountability, and develops expertise within each Division capable of implementing new directives that will emerge.
Many resources currently exist to support these efforts. Much has been accomplished by the work begun by Fr. Leo Klein, S.J., and Fr. George Traub, S.J., and continues today through the leadership of Fr. Gene Carmichael, S.J., and Dr. Debra Mooney. Indeed, many of the current offerings of the Division have received national recognition as “best practices” for promoting Jesuit mission and identity, particularly in the climate of a Jesuit university. These programs certainly should be considered in some form to be “owned” by the new Division, though they are currently restrained by a lack of resources. Among these best practices are the following:
In order for the new Division of Mission and Identity to achieve the broad goals of forming and guiding the culture of Xavier University as outlined above, the Discernment Group recommends that the following infrastructure be adopted as a way of managing current and future resources of the Division. This proposed infrastructure is presented here in the form of three components: administrative structure, networking and implementation.
The current administrative structure of Mission and Identity as a division with a vice president, associate vice president and staff, should be maintained. This recommendation is supported by Fr. Howard Gray, S.J., who states:
“The single best structure for large- and medium-sized universities is a vice president because it is tied to budget, office and secretary – in other words, money-location-support. This organization offers structure and recognition, title, stature, and an office where people know they can go. It is important to have access to vice-presidents meetings, a voice in decisions and access to the president.”ix
As the presence of Jesuits decreases, the Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity of the University will continue to permeate the campus if, and only if, there is strong and solid institutional and administrative structures supporting the Division.
The new Division will work to connect existing and yet to be created centers, divisions, and programs through networks of collaboration and information sharing. Among the most prominent offices and functions in this network are the following:
To manage this network, a newly formed “President’s Council on Jesuit Identity and Mission” should be implemented and co-chaired by the Vice President of Mission & Identity and another University Vice President. The second co-chair should serve in a rotating position that is filled every two years. Membership on the Council will be determined ex officio and include all campus associate vice presidents and several select members who lead offices identified as part of the “network of influence.” The Council will convene during the academic year. It will be charged with developing a strategy to resolve a concern and/or meet a goal. The annual goal will be determined by the President in collaboration with the Council and its co-chairs. The theme will be identified and addressed with recommendations submitted at the end of the academic year.
There are several advantages to this networking format:
It is worth noting that while the proposed Council is not an “implementation council” per se, a discretionary budget is recommended, to be tied annually based to an identified theme, in order to ensure that recommendations are actualized. The Vice President for Mission & Identity is responsible for the implementation of the recommendations upon the President’s approval.
It is anticipated that this new Council would foster a host of new collaborative opportunities within the University. A sampling of these potential opportunities follows:
In addition to the solid administrative and institutional structures proposed above, faculty, staff and administrators must be prepared and be relied upon to serve as campus models for actualizing the Jesuit, Catholic identity of Xavier University into the future. Likewise, staff is needed as Mission and Identity efforts are expanded. In order to accomplish this, the Discernment Group proposes that a number of new “collaborative positions” be modeled after the current Director of Faculty Programs position with the Division of Mission and Identity. This Director reports 50% of her time to Mission & Identity and 50% to the Division of Academic Affairs. We propose that this model be duplicated with two other Divisions within the Provost area – Information Resources and Student Life & Leadershipx – and with University Relations, in order to ensure effective networking and mission integration.
Such an arrangement would need to ensure that the offices contributing the shared positions would not be excessively burdened. This might require allowing them to hire a full-time staff person to cover office responsibilities. While a more traditional approach of hiring one full-time professional/administrative person to develop and coordinate mission-oriented events and programs might appear to be an alternative option, the “Collaborative Position” model offers a number of advantages to the University:
In addition to addressing staff resources through the collaborative positions, the new division will need to expand experiential initiatives in a variety of ways in order to achieve its goals of shaping the institutional culture at Xavier. Among these initiatives are the following:
The Vice President of Mission and Identity is the head of the Division and is responsible for promoting the active engagement of the Xavier University community in carrying out the mission of the University as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.
A member of the President’s Cabinet who reports directly to the President, the Vice President is charged with creating and maintaining initiatives and programs that enable members of the university community to more fully embody Catholic and Jesuit ideals and values in their lives and work. The Vice President co-chairs the President’s Council on Jesuit Identity and Mission with a rotating Vice Presidential co-chair. The Vice President also acts as a resource and liaison for various committees, including the Board of Trustees Committee on Mission and Identity.
Qualifications for the position include a minimum of an earned doctorate or equivalent, college/university teaching experience, and at least three years of administrative experience in higher education. The candidate must have an appreciation for and knowledge of the Jesuit and Catholic intellectual and social justice traditions and personal experience of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Also required is a demonstrated collegial and collaborative management and leadership style.
The candidate must possess excellent oral and written communication skills for engagement with diverse constituencies. Knowledge of different religious traditions and cultures and commitment to interfaith dialogue, peace, and justice are required. Knowledge of spiritual development is desirable as is experience with short- and long-range institutional planning.
For more than 175 years, Jesuit heritage and Ignatian spirituality have evolved at Xavier University. This evolution has been driven by a sense of history, Jesuit leadership, the imagination and integrity of lay men and women, and a moral responsibility to confront the challenges of contemporary social issues. Throughout this history, Xavier has grown, improved and succeeded, in no small measure, because of its embodiment of these Jesuit roots.
The University’s opportunity going forward is to more deliberately and strategically pursue the benefits of our Jesuit heritage by encouraging a broader and more diverse community of colleagues to embrace and define our mission. This is not a call to somehow recapture the past, but rather to envision a new future that is based on where we have been, builds from where we are now, and takes us where we have never gone before.
As we follow this journey with even more vigor and determination, we fully expect to see tangible evidence of our success in a variety of ways. Among them are:
Note: Budget and resource estimates were offered, as an appendix, in the original report of 2/13/09
i The Group’s work began with a fundamental understanding of “Ignatian spirituality” as relating to a personal relationship with God that is based on the life and experiences of St. Ignatius and expressed in The Spiritual Exercises. “Jesuit spirituality,” on the other hand, relates to the unique “pathway to God” of The Society of Jesus, the religious order founded by St. Ignatius. This is expressed in The Spiritual Exercises as well as the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and other writings of Ignatius, and expanded by the traditions and activities that have developed over the years since the Society’s original foundation. In this way, Jesuit spirituality can be considered a subset of Ignatian spirituality.
ii A method of prayer that Ignatius of Loyola taught in his Spiritual Exercises. As presented by Creighton University theologian Fr. Dennis Hamm, S.J., this prayer has five steps: (1) Pray for light to understand and appreciate the past day. (2) Review the day in thanksgiving. (3) Review the feelings in the replay of the day. (4) Choose one of those feelings (positive or negative) and pray from it. (5) Look toward tomorrow.
iii From Fr. Graham’s letter to the Discernment Group, dated August 19, 2008.
iv It should be noted that the Discernment Group was charged with focusing on the development of faculty, staff and administrators.
v Ex Corde, paragraph 39.
vi Ex Corde, paragraph 18.
vii Ex Corde, paragraphs 21, 32, 34 and 37.
viii From Fr. Graham’s letter to the Discernment Group, dated August 19, 2008.
ix“ Chief Mission Officers Report” compiled by Xavier’s Division of Mission and Identity and presented to Fr. Graham on September 14, 2006.
x The involvement of Student Life & Leadership would be primarily to serve staff and faculty who work with that division, rather than students.
xi Personal communications, October 2008.