Mission and Ministry
Alumni Living the Mission

Paul Milan, Ph.D.

  • Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. calls us as Jesuit alumni to become more engaged in the world.  This call inspired me to help create both an academic course – “US-Mexico Border: Contemporary Perspectives” -- and an international, community-based program at Seattle University called the Xavier Global House Outreach Program.  As an alum of Seattle University, and a professor, what strikes me is Fr. Kolvenbach’s challenge to us to measure our success by who our students become. As alumni, we live into that success Fr. Kolvenbach stressed that solidarity is something learned through “contact” rather than through “concepts”…I am inspired by the idea that “when the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change,” and the Mexico Mission Trek is a perfect example of this.

    On one of my earlier trips to Mexico with Mexico Mission Trek, the student leaders shared a the following reflection from Sue Bender’s Plain and Simple: “I didn’t know I was beginning a journey of the spirit, what Carlos Casteneda calls following “a path that has heat.”  … I went to a foreign land and found my way home.”  This articulates well the goal of the class I developed, which aims to create a truly transformative learning experience.  The course culminates with a week in Mexico, working with families in need and living immersed in the culture.  We continually encourage our students and alumni who accompany us on the trip to reflect on their experiences. I would like to share an excerpt from a poem written by a student after only a short time in Tijuana:

    We Call Them Borders

    Give me a reason for lines,
    For separation,
    For creating differences, ignoring our sameness,
    Have and have nots
    Born into and born out of
    Slips of paper, colors of cards, passports, documents
    Dehumanizing humans
    For paper we give meaning.
    Take back your lines in the sand
    Draw a circle.
    You’ll find it is shaped like the world
    As it is, as it should remain.  – Kayla

    Our time working with Esperanza community helps our students to see that there is hope for change in the power of the cooperative and collaborative action of empowered communities working together, and they take this hope with them into their future careers. Our hope, along with Esperanza’s hope, is that program participants will develop a sense of solidarity with the families and communities with which they work. I am assured they do.  One student in post-class reflection shared this quote:

    “You work so that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth …  And what is it to work with love? … It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. … Work is love made visible.”
    -Kahlil Gibran The Prophet  

    As students become alumni and continue their journey down the path to their future, our hope is that the immersion experience in Tijuana will extend beyond … influencing the person they become, as Fr. Kolvenbach.

    Paul is currently Associate Professor of French, International Studies Advisor, and Faculty Director of Xavier Global House.  He graduated from Seattle University in 1964 and received his Ph.D from the University of Washington in 1972.  
  • Paul Milan, Seattle University '64 (pictured fourth from top right )
    with students, alumni, and community in Tijuana, Mexico