Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., has named English Department Professor Mary-Antoinette Smith as the Reverend Louis Gaffney, S.J., Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her two-year appointment began July 2018. This endowed chair is made possible by the Jesuit community at Seattle University and promotes issues germane to the Jesuit mission and identity of the faith that does justice and supports the Jesuit ideal of teaching.
Smith earned her doctorate in 18th and 19th Century British Literature from the University of Southern California and has been an SU faculty member for twenty-five years. Her classes incorporate the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm (context, experience, reflection, action, evaluation) and they, along with her scholarship, emphasize race, class, gender and sexuality theory that moves towards praxis in the Jesuit social justice tradition. A professed member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, she has been deeply influenced by all-things Ignatian while making countless retreats, including the 30-Day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the nine-month Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL); and, as a trained Ignatian Spiritual Director, she practices “holy” listening and “wholly” listening—two skills which inform and enrich her Gaffney Gatherings.
Smith’s theme—Tender Mercies: Moving from a Kaírós of Mercy to Creating the Beloved Community for a Just and Humane World—is inspired by the complementary global visions of Pope Francis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The former inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Mercy (2015-16) while the latter sought creation of an all-inclusive Beloved Community (1958-68), and mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the Ignatian principle of cura personalis (care for the whole person) are at the core of both of their visions for compassionate, holistic healing of the challenges and brokenness that plague our global world.
Smith’s Gaffney Gatherings include book reading groups, Desolation/Consolation Circles, Beloved Community Deep Dialogue Workshops, and guest speaker engagements which foster cura personalis while enacting tender mercies towards faculty, staff, and students throughout our campus community. Gaffney Gatherings are inclusive, caring, collaborative spaces which promote meaningful dialogue and merciful listening in response to Dr. King’s insightfully observation that for far too long we have "live[d] in monologue rather than dialogue."