Conversing on the future of Jesuit higher education
Four faculty and staff pondered the future of Jesuit higher education at a lunch sponsored by the Office of Jesuit Mission and Identity last week. The lunch was part of the office's "Moment for Mission Lunch Series."
Joining the panel discussion were Bob Dullea, vice provost and vice president for university planning; Heather Geiger, director of IT finance and accreditation officer; Susan Weihrich, associate dean in the Albers School of Business and Economics; and Peter Ely, associate professor of theology and religious studies.
Moderated by Jen Tilghman-Havens, associate director of Jesuit Mission and Identity, the conversation was based on the topic of the latest
Conversations magazine, "Daunting Challenges for Jesuit Higher Education." Geiger, who coauthored with Dullea the magazine's
lead article, began the discussion by highlighting what they shared in the piece. She covered the changes facing all of higher education, including rising costs, increasing questions over the value of a college degree, growing accountability demanded by students and their parents, more expectations that a degree will lead to gainful employment and the challenges and opportunities technology presents.
Dullea, who last year presented a talk to multiple campus audiences on the challenges confronting higher education and Seattle University, said, "We're not in a crisis, but that doesn't mean we don't face longterm structural challenges."
In the midst of all the uncertainty, each panelist expressed hope for the future of Jesuit education. Geiger spoke of the "highly personalized" nature of Jesuit education as irreplaceable, Weihrich observed that today's generation of students is receptive to SU's mission and Father Ely said, "Our students are committed to values, not just a career."
The four speakers also spoke to the need for Jesuit institutions to change with the times and reinvent themselves.
"(The Jesuit tradition) is used to adaptation and change," said Father Ely, pointing out that the Society of Jesus made significant changes to their founding documents just 10 years after they came into being.
"I think we are risk takers," said Weihrich, citing the
Seattle University Youth Initiative as an example. Others pointed to the newly launched School of New and Continuing Studies, which is utilizing online technologies to educate an underserved population of adult learners, as another significant adaptation for the university.
comes out twice a year, in fall and spring, and is distributed in hard copy form to all of SU's faculty and staff. (The magazine's editorial board is chaired by SU's own Pat Howell, S.J., the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture's Distinguished Professor in Residence.)
Pictured above, from left: Jen Tilghman-Havens, Susan Weihrich, Bob Dullea, Heather Geiger and Peter Ely, S.J.
A visit with Fr. Bob Stephan
Bob Stephan, S.J., may not be new to SU this academic year, but the role he took up in July is new to both him and the university.
Father Stephan is chaplain for Ignatian leadership, a role in which he serves as a bridge between Magis: Alumni Living the Mission and Campus Ministry and engages with other leadership formation programs on campus.
"Jesuit education is always about formation of people and helping them ask questions of meaning and integration," says Father Stephan. "So particularly with students or young alums, we're focused on helping them discern how they're called. It's a style that's focused not only on people's gifts or talents but also on their deep desires and sense of meaning."
Father Stephan arrived at SU last February to serve as interim campus minister for liturgy. In that role, one of his more unusual duties was to ensure that a group of ducks were safely escorted from the Chapel of St. Ignatius after they waddled in for a visit in the spring.
"They were difficult to get out," he laughs. "They didn't want to leave. I had to call the people from Facilities because anytime I tried to move them, they would fly and hit the window, unfortunately. So together we triangulated and got them out."
Father Stephan's decision to become a Jesuit can be traced to his undergraduate days at Xavier University in his hometown of Cincinnati. Impressed with the Jesuits he had as teachers, he originally planned to become a history professor. In time, he decided to change gears, but his thoughts returned to the Jesuits he got to know at Xavier. "It was a way of being a priest that I could imagine myself doing," he says.
After a period of discernment Father Stephan joined the Society of Jesus. He was ordained two years ago. While he may not be the history professor he once envisioned, Father Stephan still sees himself as an educator and, indeed, part of his ministry at SU is taking place in the classroom. "Teaching and education are very central to how I see myself," says Father Stephan. "The great thing about an institution like Seattle U is that education can happen in many different capacities. I certainly see what I'm doing here as having a teaching component to it."
Before coming to SU Father Stephan was working at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange County, Calif., where he led retreats, parish missions and served as a spiritual director. This is not his first time living in Seattle. He spent three months here as a Jesuit novice in 2003, working at the
L'Arche community on Capitol Hill.
What does he like to do in his free time? "I like to jog-I can't say I'm running anymore," he says with a smile. "I like to hike when I have a chance."
In addition to his bachelor's degree from Xavier, Father Stephan has an M.Div degree from Boston College, an M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola, Chicago, a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, an M.A. in Modern European History from the University of California, Los Angeles.
As anyone who knows Connie Kanter can attest, she likes to talk. A lot.
So imagine how surprised her colleagues were upon learning she was going on an eight-day, Ignatian
retreat. This had to be a joke-Connie Kanter?...Silent?...Wha?
But it was real and, in time, a pool was established with colleagues each guessing how far into the retreat Kanter would get before breaking her silence. About 140 faculty and staff were offered the chance to win a candy bar from the retreatant. Only four colleagues guessed she would make it all the way through without uttering a word.
What would possess someone as loquacious as Kanter to make an eight-day, Ignatian silent retreat, you might ask? It can be traced to her decision to join Seattle University in 2012 as chief financial officer and vice president of finance and business affairs. Kanter, who says she was drawn to the university's Jesuit values, immediately immersed herself in SU's culture and Ignatian heritage. She participated in the Arrupe Seminar, a yearlong examination of SU's Jesuit Catholic character.
This led to Kanter being invited to take part in the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), an 18-month program for faculty, staff and administrators at Jesuit colleges and universities. The ICP-which Kanter describes as "the Arrupe Seminar on steroids"-includes a series of readings and seminars on the history of Jesuits and what it means to be an Ignatian institution; an immersion service trip; a capstone project (Kanter wrote an article on how Jesuit principles can be incorporated into financial decision making for the magazine
); and, yes, a silent retreat.
Making the retreat proved easier said than done. Kanter had to overcome numerous hurdles-family and work obligations-to find the time. A
to retreat to was just as elusive. She applied to a highly demanded retreat house in Gloucester, Mass., but could not get in.
As it turns out her family has a small cabin in Port Townsend, Wash., just a few blocks from St. Mary Star of the Sea, whose pastor is none other than John Topel, S.J., a former faculty and administrator at Seattle U. Accustomed to seeing worshipers come out in droves for the Jesuit priest's masses, Kanter asked Tom Lucas, S.J., and Peter Ely, S.J., for help in getting connected with Father Topel. After a preliminary meeting in April, Father Topel agreed to serve as Kanter's spiritual director for the retreat. In late July, she reported to Port Townsend for eight days of deafening silence.
Connie Kanter, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and business affairs, holds the index card she used during her eight-day retreat. It reads: “I am in silence.”
Father Topel set out three goals for the retreat: get an intellectual understanding of the 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius upon which the eight-day version is based; develop a greater level of observation in her faith; and better grasp the mission of the Jesuits by understanding the teachings of Jesus.
Going into the retreat, Kanter was intrigued to personally experience the Exercises that she had read and heard so much about in the Arrupe Seminar and the ICP. So no problem with goal one. What about two and three-deepening her own faith and better understanding Jesus?
This is probably as good a time as any to mention that Kanter is an Orthodox Jew. "Christian theology is not my theology, so I approached (the contemplation of Jesus) totally from the head."
And yet she says that other facets of the retreat resonated as much with her heart as her mind, and in the ensuing months she has found herself being more mindful of her own spiritual practices. For instance, "There's a prayer Jews say immediately upon waking to thank God for restoring their soul and this is something I've become more diligent about," she says. "It's funny, because sometimes when I'm done saying the prayer, I say 'Thank you, Father John (Topel).'"
Kanter is grateful for the retreat experience. That's not to say it was easy. She says she was surprised at how exhausting the prayer and reflection was, even if it was broken up throughout the day. She wrestled a great deal with the Ignatian principle of indifference-or as St. Ignatius calls forth in the Exercises, "…a complete indifference with regard to all created things, not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, long life to a short one. We wish only for those conditions that will aid our pursuit of the goal for which we have been created."
"I'm thinking, that's just completely irrational to be indifferent between those two," says Kanter. "If what you're getting at is we should make the most of what we've got, (I'm) all there with you. I think I'm pretty resilient and understand that you take the cards that are dealt to you, but that's different from saying, 'I want you to deal me a bad hand or I don't care if you deal me a bad hand.'"
In time, she recognized that it was her own faith that keeping her from embracing the principle of indifference. "In the Jewish faith, we don't have this concept of redemption through suffering that Jesus modeled."
Not surprisingly, keeping the silence was a challenge for Kanter. Aside from her meetings with Father Topel, mum was the word. "Five days into it, I would've talked to a doorknob," she says. She kept her contact with the outside world to an absolute minimum. She texted home each day just to make sure everything was OK and checked her SU e-mail a few times-no more than twice a day. She laughingly calls it a very "Un-Jimmy Stewart experience," referring to Stewart's character George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life." Unlike Bailey, who discovered how empty the world would be if he didn't exist, Kanter says, "I'm looking at my e-mails and you see this person has a problem and then this other person fixes the problem. It made me feel completely unneeded, which remarkably made me feel better than I thought it would. I thought I had more of a need to be needed. Instead, I thought, 'What a great team-what great people work for me!'"
When Kanter ventured out for meals she carried an index card with the words "I am in silence" on one side and "Thanks" on the other. This mode of communicating, she adds, did not stand out as being all that odd in Port Townsend. "It's kind of a hippie town," she says with a smile. "If I did that in, say, New York, people would think I was out of my mind!"
Of course the question on everyone's mind is whether Kanter made it the full eight days without talking. Well, let's just say there are four colleagues who are happy to have earned themselves a free candy bar.
Meet the 2015-2016 SU Jesuits
Back row (left to right):
Fadi George (Graduate Student), James Taiviet Tran (Boeing engineer, Vietnamese pastoral ministry), Pat Kelly (Theology), Quentin Dupont (Graduate Student), John Foster (Assistant to the Dean, Matteo Ricci College), Dave Anderson (Alumni Relations), Peter Ely (Theology), John Monahan (U.S. Navy, Bremerton), Bob Stephan (Chaplain for Ignatian Leadership), Jerry Cobb (Special Assistant to the President), James Selinsky (Controller's Office) and Dave Leigh (English).
Front row (left to right):
Trung Pham (Art & Art History), Natch Ohno (Student Development, Assistant Rector), Pat O'Leary (University Chaplain), Tom Lucas (Rector), Steve Sundborg (President) and Tom Murphy (History).
Pat Howell (School of Theology & Ministry, Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture), John Topel (Pastor, Port Townsend), Pat Twohy (Director, Rocky Mountain Mission, Urban Native American Ministry), Josef Venker (Art and Art History), Bill Watson (President, Sacred Story Institute) and Eric Watson (Chemistry).
You may have heard that Pope Francis was in the United States recently.
The visit by Pope Francis, the first ever Jesuit pope, captivated the nation and particularly Jesuit institutions such as ours. Here are some ways SU experienced the papal visit and how it will be a gift that keeps on giving in the weeks and months ahead.
Before the visit
In anticipation of Pope Francis' visit two SU Jesuits (named Patrick, no less) authored articles on the significance of his papacy for
America Magazine. Pat Howell, S.J., Distinguished Professor in the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC) wrote
Pope Francis Meets the American Catholic Church, and Pat Kelly, S.J., penned
An Examen in the Spirit of Pope Francis.
By the way, Fathers Howell and Kelly will speak on the impact of Pope Francis on our nation and university. Sponsored by the Office of Jesuit Mission and Identity as part of the "Moment for Mission" Lunch Series 2015-16, the event will take place 12:15-1:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, in Chardin 142. RSVP to
email@example.com. Lunch is provided.
During the visit
Two well-attended campus events were held on Sept. 24: a viewing and dialogue on the pope's historic address to the joint session of Congress (in Pigott Auditorium); and an interfaith response to Laudato Si', the pope's encyclical on climate change (in the Chapel of St. Ignatius).
SU Jesuits were active sharing their thoughts on the pope with local media. President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., and Tom Lucas, rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community offered commentary on the pope's visit, in interviews with such outlets as KING 5, Northwest Cable News and KIRO.
One of Father Sundborg's interviews with KING 5, can
be seen here. Of Francis' historic trip, Father Sundborg said he expected the pope to "to bring the voice of the poor to the centers of power." In this audio clip, Father Lucas speaks with KIRO's Dave Ross about the
canonization of Father Junipero Serra, which took place as part of the pope's visit to the U.S. Father Serra is the first saint to be canonized on American soil.
National Catholic Reporter, Carmen Gonzalez of the School of Law took up Laudato Si' in a column titled "
UN goals fall short of Francis' vision."
Meanwhile, over in the comparatively wacky world of social media, lots of SU folks were getting into the spirit of Pope Francis' visit in a number of ways. Many members of the SU community shared thoughts on Jesuit education as part of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and University's
series of reflections. (And for those who didn't have a chance to see it at the President's Welcome, SU students and alumni are featured in this video on what it means to be
Jesuit educated at SU.
Others took part in the
Flat Francis contest. Some posed with cut-outs of the pope; others placed Flat Francis in notable environments. Pictured here is a photo from Margaret Moore, senior administrative assistant in the Arrupe Jesuit Community, in which she introduced Francis to our city's and university's namesake.
Marketing Communications student interns Cailin Chien and Izzy Gardon created a Buzzfeed that features "16 Celebrities Who Are #JesuitEducated."
Just because the pope has gone back to Rome doesn't mean the SU community is done talking about him. Oh, we're just getting started!
In addition to the aforementioned Oct. 12 event with Fathers Howell and Kelly, there will be many other opportunities throughout the academic year to engage with topics related to the pope. Here's a couple.
- Inspired by the pope's encyclical Laudato Si', this year's Catholic Heritage Lectures and related programming will follow the movements of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Pat Howell, S.J., and Ilia Delio, O.S.M., will present lectures on the encyclical in October. The full schedule can be found at the
Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.
SU grad featured in Washington Post
Camille Kammer, '15, is featured in the Sept. 15
article, "A Church in the Streets." Anticipating Pope Francis' visit to the United States this month, the article highlights the Jesuit Volunteer Corps community of which Kammer is a part, drawing parallels between the Jesuit pope's teachings and JVC's social justice mission.
Kammer graduated in June with a degree in history. While at SU, she served as a campus minister for faith formation. She delivered the benediction at Commencement.
Visit The Washington Post to read the article, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Kammer and her five Jesuit Volunteer community mates.
Also, check out "Jesuit schools thrive in US ahead of Pope Francis' trip" in USA Today as well as the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities' #JesuitEducated series.
Spoiler alert: At this Friday's President's Welcome (Sept. 18), you may see a video on what Jesuit education means at Seattle University...
(Photo: The Washington Post)
Tom Lucas, S.J., rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community, delivered the following homily on the Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31.
At the beginning of this liturgy, and of the conference on Ignatian Leadership (sponsored by Magis) many of you are attending today, I had the pleasure of introducing Fr. Scott Santarosa, the Provincial of the Oregon-and soon to be entire west coast-Province. Hearkening back to too many hours of watching Rocky and Bullwinkle as a warped young child, I channeled Boris and Natasha when I called him our "fearless leader."
Today, on the context of the feast of St. Ignatius, it seems to me that fearless leadership is something we might continue to reflect upon. Oceans of ink and palavers of conferences have tried to understand the complex man who is the founder of our shared tradition.
Playboy. Courtier. Adverturer. Justice of the Peace. Soldier.
Invalid. Handicapped. Frustrated. Enlightened.
Road Warrior. Would-be heathen converter. Grammar schooler at 30.
Prisoner of the Inquisition. Twice. Divinity Student.
Magnetic pole attracting talented people.
Priest. Friend of the Poor. Reformer. Founder.
Administrator. Letter writer, Dreamer. Mystic.
Perhaps truest of all, Fearless Leader.
That Ignatius was fearless, there can be no doubt. We know about his exploits as a soldier, the gruesome surgeries he willingly underwent to straighten his deformed leg. Less evident, perhaps, was his fearless plunge into the dark, in his long convalescence at Loyola and at the Cave at Manresa. He went to places he had never known, never imagined: places where deep desire met a profound if unformed willingness to serve.
The process of he underwent, the formation of what that service would be appears to us like a reckless adventure: an abortive trip to the Holy Land, a humiliating return to elementary school, dust-ups with the Inquisition. Hobbling off from Spain to Paris, where studies were demanding, and friends, at least at first, were few. Yet companions were attracted to him, broke bread with him, and the desire began to take concrete form: let us work for the glory of God and the good of souls. Those who broke bread, companions, became a Company.
Tom Lucas, S.J., is rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community at Seattle University.
Coming to Rome, Ignatius and his priestly companions leapt into the belly of the unreformed beast. He proposed to the organizational church a radical new model of religious activity that flew in the face of a thousand years of tradition. No choir. No stability. No fixed incomes. Willing to try anything, to go anywhere, to risk everything, and to fail often, Ignatius and his companions, Jesuits and lay people both, were lit up by a Pentecostal fire that seems as reckless to us today as it appeared to much of the hierarchy of his own times.
So where did that fearlessness come from? Critics-there were, and are many-said it was arrogance. Way too smart for their own good, too crafty, too, dare I say it, too Jesuitical?
You can learn a lot from reading other people's mail. Over and again, in 6800 letters, in the midst of a million administrative details, the refrain sounds: let us work in love for the glory of God, the greater glory of God, and the good of souls. Let our way of proceeding be a way of service, rooted and grounded in love.
Ignatius experienced that love during his agonizing convalescence at Loyola, in the lucid vision of the mystery of God at Manresa and the confirming vision of Christ carrying his cross at La Storta. He experienced it at the altar, shedding floods of tears as he reflected on God's goodness and his own unworthiness. He experienced that love in the brothers and colleagues who surrounded him, challenged him, needed him to be that love for them. It isn't about learning, or administrative ability or cunning. It's all about the experience of the mercy of God, as Pope Francis never tires to reminding us, and the hope that mercy plants in our hearts.
Of the 6,800 letters of St. Ignatius, one stands out for me. Some six months before his death, Ignatius wrote to Francis Borgia in Spain Ignatius details a whole series of recent challenges and disasters he and the company have been experiencing. He ends: "Pazienza: patience. Because of the treasure of hopes we hold, everything is as nothing. God who has given us hope will not confound us."
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. "God who has given us hope will not confound us."
Leading, the Ignatian way
Sponsored by Magis: Alumni Living the Mission, the Ignatian Leadership Conference takes place Friday, July 31, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference is an opportunity to explore the concept of Ignatian leadership and how to apply and integrate Jesuit values and Ignatian practices into your personal and professional life. Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus (
), will serve as keynote speaker. Following are some questions about the conference with answers provided by Maria Ochoa, assistant director of Magis.
Who would this conference appeal to?
The conference is for anyone interested in learning about Ignatian Leadership. It may be of interest to alumni who desire a fresh and integrated perspective on leadership; anyone who works in any type of Ignatian/Jesuit institution; someone who is in need of some spiritual tools for navigating a secular work environment; and/or a person who is looking for an integrated professional and spiritual development opportunity. All are welcome to attend!
About how many attendees are expected?
We are expecting 100-120 attendees.
Among those attendees who have already registered, what sorts of professions/walks of life are represented?
We have individuals from the following organizations represented: CARE USA, Spacelabs Healthcare, Seattle University, Starbucks, The Boeing Company, Providence Health & Services, Gonzaga University, Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, various local Catholic Schools and Parishes, WA Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Salal Credit Union, Limeade, Nordstrom, Seattle Police Department, City of Redmond, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, and more.
What inspired the conference?
Over the last few years, Magis has been involved primarily in offering the Contemplative Leaders in Action alumni leadership program (CLA). This two-year, cohort based program has touched the lives of
more than 100 alumni and mentors by teaching and forming young adult leaders ages 25-39 the foundations and practices of Ignatian Leadership. We learned that many in the alumni community beyond CLA are also desiring a way to integrate their spirituality and faith into the professional and personal spheres of life. In response, we thought that by hosting a conference on the topic of Ignatian Leadership, we might provide an opportunity for the larger community to learn and practice this leadership approach.
In addition to the provincial's keynote address by the provincial, what other activities will be included?
The day will include table conversations, access to two workshops from a variety of Ignatian leaders, an optional mass celebrating the feast day of St. Ignatius being held at the Chapel of St. Ignatius-concelebrated by Fr. Santarosa and Tom Lucas, S.J., rector of the SU Jesuit Community-and a networking social hosted at the end of the day. The conference also includes continental breakfast, lunch, parking and materials.
Anything else we should know about the conference?
We are almost sold out, so register as soon as possible if you are interested! Clock hours will also be available through the Seattle U College of Education.
For more information about the conference, visit
One other note: Because of the conference and the absence of many Jesuits, the Arrupe House's annual Ignatius Day breakfast, ordinarily held on the Feast of St. Ignatius, will be postponed until fall quarter. Stay tuned for more information.
Father Ely reflects
As President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., announced in March, Peter Ely, S.J., will step down at the end of this month as vice president for Mission and Ministry.
"Peter has done a terrific job serving as vice president," Father Sundborg wrote. "Since 2009 he has led Mission and Ministry through a period of growth and positive change. Under his leadership, Seattle University has strengthened its commitment to its Jesuit Catholic character while at the same time fostering a deeper, more inclusive dialogue with other faith traditions. Most importantly, Peter has built a dedicated and talented team that plays a vital role in helping us carry out the mission."
Here, Father Ely shares his thoughts on his six years as vice president and what's next.
On stepping down as VP for Mission and Ministry:
In many ways I'm sorry to be leaving this position. It has been a good six years serving as coordinator of a wonderful team. But I'm eager to move toward a different kind of engagement with the university's mission, not as an administrator but as a teacher. Mission and Ministry is all about nourishing the roots of our mission. That means the Jesuit and Catholic roots. It also means appealing to the deep inspiration people bring to their work at the university from a variety of traditions. This is what Fr. Steve calls "the soul of the university." Everyone working in the university, all of our governing and advising boards, our benefactors and friends and our students-all of us together are responsible for the mission. We do it in different ways.
On what has brought him the most satisfaction in his six years as vice president:
Surely at the top of the list is working with such a committed team ser desire that our SU community has to enter more deeply into the roots of our mission. People from the outside observing us-including accreditation bodies which can be very critical-commend us for the widespread understanding and embrace of the University's mission. Because people embrace the mission they want to understand it more deeply. That is deeply satisfying to me.
On what he will be doing next:
I will teach half-time in the Theology and Religious Studies Department and continue to direct the Arrupe Seminar and the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative. I look forward also to increasing my time for deep reading and some scholarly research projects underway.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as vice president for Mission and Ministry. It is time to move on and be engaged in different ways. I move on with great confidence in Joe Orlando's ability to lead the division for this next year. Joe has been assistant vice president during my whole time as VP. He is ready to take over. I also have confidence in the people serving in Mission and Ministry. They are highly qualified professionals. They understand our mission from the inside and are committed to it.
A reception to thank Father Ely will be held 3:30-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, in Tekakwitha Collegium (Student Center, first floor).