The Xavier Way: Celebrating a Culture of Encounter

A range of social, economic, and ecclesial realities have brought Xavier University to a pivotal moment in our history where we face crucial questions. As we respond to the challenges and opportunities of our times, the Xavier Way must not be merely a slogan invoked in such a way as to obscure or side-step the very real tensions we experience day to day in our various responsibilities and relationships within the University community and that historically characterize the Jesuit educational apostolate. The Xavier Way finds its source and inspiration not from the secular or commercial marketplace of norms and ideals-e.g., "the bottom line," or "return on investment"-but from a distinctively Ignatian way of engaging and responding to reality. The transcendent end, or telos, of a Jesuit education, the aspirations that beckon our work, cannot ultimately be quantified.

Clarity about our identity and mission moving forward is crucial as the Society of Jesus increasingly depends on the laity to "assist in leadership roles that will preserve the identity and mission of the institution as Jesuit." One of the great strengths of our formational programs is their inclusiveness and catholicity: they are open to administration, faculty of all faith traditions and no faith tradition. Once again our unity within our diversity is our strength. Inspired by St. Ignatius, the Xavier Way is a dynamic spirit of critical inquiry and loving openness seeking encounter, integration, and wisdom in all that we do together.

In Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, we find considerable encouragement and living confirmation of these values and aspirations. In an address to a community of Jesuits in Rome, the Pope emphasized three words that should guide Jesuit ministries everywhere: dialogue, discernment, and frontiers.

"Your main task is not to build walls," explains Francis, "but to build bridges which establish dialogue with all peoples, even those who do not share the Christian faith." Dialogue seeks to build a "culture of encounter" and mutual discernment, not because it is fashionable or politically correct but because of who God is: "God is at work in the life of every person and every culture: the Spirit blows where He wills. Try to find out what God has done, and how He will continue his work. Study, sensitivity, and experience are needed to seek God in all things, in every field of knowledge, art, science, and political, social, and economic life. But it is also important to keep the mind and heart open, and to avoid the spiritual illness of referring everything according to oneself." Finally, the Pope urges his fellow Jesuits, echoing Benedict XVI before him, "Your right place is at the frontiers. This is where Jesuits belong." Please, be men at the frontiers, with a trust and ability that comes from God. Do not fall into the temptation to domesticate frontiers."41

To be a university committed to dialogue, discernment, and exploration at the frontiers of the academy, church, and society is not easy. The Xavier Way can embrace with trust the complexities and ambiguities of human life and indeed the complexities of university life at every level. It bears a radical hope, flowing from the Catholic sacramental imagination, that the messiness and brokenness of the human condition is nevertheless sacred and bears within it the divine image. Inspired and sustained by this hope, we are confident of growing in our Jesuit Catholic identity through numerous tensions, even where such growth is sometimes difficult to see.

Our students face a world charged with immeasurable beauty and wonder, but also a world of rapid change marked by vast inequalities, environmental degradation, systemic violence, and cultural displacement. Against the temptation to self-concern and "to domesticate frontiers," the Xavier Way is committed to the education of the whole person, challenging ourselves and our students to discover God's presence and promises of hope in all things. From the Board of Trustees to faculty, staff, and students across every division, department, and office, each one of us is challenged to reflect upon the light of God's boundless love and the call for justice, to discover one's authentic gifts, and to share these gifts in an environment of mutual respect and common mission. Seeking to embody and immerse our students in the intellectual, imaginative, and spiritual depths of the Jesuit Catholic tradition, the Xavier Way cultivates the interior life while pressing us toward loving engagement in the world, with a faith that seeks solidarity and justice with and for all of God's people. To read the complete document, click here.

 

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