Next week we say farewell to a much-beloved Jesuit who has worked tirelessly over the past decade and a half to enrich the faith and spiritual life of our university.
As Vice President for Mission and Ministry Peter Ely, S.J., announced last fall, Mike Bayard, director of Campus Ministry, has been asked to serve as assistant for parish ministries by the Oregon and California Provinces. (The provinces are in the process of combining into one entity.) Father Bayard will begin his new role in the summer.
Since his arrival at SU in 2000, Bayard has served in a variety of roles, first as coordinator of Ignatian retreats. In 2006 he became co-founder and director of Magis: Alumni Living the Mission and in 2009 he was named director of Campus Ministry.
"Mike has brought an appealing combination of qualities to his position as director of Campus Ministry," said Fr. Ely. "He has a keen sense of how structures work and a deep sensibility to persons. He loves our students, feels deeply committed to his co-workers and understands the crucial place of Campus Ministry in the university. These qualities have enabled him to give effective leadership. Unfortunately, the Oregon Provincial noticed these same qualities. Good for the Oregon and California Provinces, good for Mike, a loss for us. We wish him every success."
As he prepared to begin a new chapter, Bayard took some time to respond to some questions about the role he will soon take on, how he will look back on his time at SU and more.
The Commons: Can you talk about your new role-what exactly you'll be doing?
Father Mike Bayard: I am the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the California and Oregon Provinces. I am primarily responsible for the 14 Jesuit parishes located in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane and Missoula. As provincial assistant to the parishes, I would be responsible for ensuring the Jesuit mission and charism of each of our parishes. Similarly I would engage parish ministries in a continued conversation about our shared Jesuit, Catholic mission. I would also provide support and encouragement for pastors and other Jesuits assigned there, as well as parish staffs and ministries. In addition to the parishes, I am also responsible for the spirituality centers and retreat centers of the entire West Coast. Some of those institutions include the Loyola Spirituality Center in Orange, Calif.; the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle; Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) in the Pacific Northwest; the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, Calif. I will live and work in Portland, Ore., although I will travel to visit these parishes and spirituality centers.
The Commons: What are your thoughts on the new role?
Fr. Bayard: I am looking forward to this new work. Many of our alumni from our academic intuitions-secondary and university-often find their way to our parishes. Many of our parishes have become centers of continued sacramental, faith, intellectual, spiritual formation. Also, I am looking forward to encouraging younger Jesuits to consider parish life as a vibrant and vital ministry. Finally, I am excited about the possibility of West Coast Jesuit's involvement in Newman Centers, which are parishes situated on the campuses of state and private universities. I do think that the Society of Jesus would be well poised to take on some of these centers to encourage the faith and spiritual development of young men and women.
The Commons: And how about your thoughts on leaving SU?
Fr. Bayard: I have been a Seattle University Jesuit for 14 years. It is who I am and I cannot imagine not being a Seattle University Jesuit. When I wake up on May 1 , I will no longer be an employee or Jesuit at Seattle University. I find that odd. I think it will take some time to let go of this identity and yet, as Jesuits, we are called to take on new ministries throughout the course of our lives. Also, I am ready to leave Seattle University, too. I tend to be a restless person, and every five years, I yearn for something new. After 14 years, I am ready for a new mission outside of SU, to try something new. While at Seattle U, I have grown a lot as a Jesuit and SU has provided me with a number of new skills. I feel ready and confident about this new position.
The Commons: What will you miss most about Seattle University?
Fr. Bayard: The friendships, the colleagues and the community that is so strong at SU. I will miss my Jesuit community. I will miss that all of us here at SU, whether Jesuit, faculty, staff, student or alumni, all working together to engage the mission of Seattle U.
The Commons: Reflecting on your time at SU, what have been the highlights, best memories or things of which you are most proud or about which you are most gratified?
Fr. Bayard: Certainly, becoming friends with a number of students and continuing to stay in touch with them through the years. I have witnessed their weddings and baptized their children. And I have walked with them through difficult times of struggle, illness and sometimes, unfortunately, I have presided at their funerals.
I am also proud of the program Magis: Alumni Living the Mission that Erin Swezey and I co-founded in 2006. The program came out of a shared vision that as a university we ought to continue to provide ongoing formation in the mission, particularly in faith, justice and leadership. I am grateful for the university leadership, particularly our President, Fr. Sundborg, and then-VP for Mission and Ministry, Fr. Tony Harris, who championed this program. I am grateful to see it still thrives under the confident leadership of Brooke Rufo-Hill.
The Commons: It seems that SU is a bit different from other Jesuit institutions in terms of the relatively low percentage of Catholic students who enroll. Looking back on your work with Campus Ministry how has that dynamic been a blessing? What challenges has it presented?
Fr. Bayard: The low percentage of Catholic students has encouraged us to reach out much more broadly to all students on the Seattle University campus. As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we are committed to a Catholicism that is inclusive of all religious faiths and even those who have no faith. Campus Ministry has worked very hard over the last several years to reach out to our students and help to build a diverse, ecumenical and interfaith community.
The Commons: Do you have any advice for the next director of Campus Ministry?
Fr. Bayard: Listen. Engage the wider SU community. Find time in a full schedule to attend student events both in and outside of campus ministry. Join Colleagues.
The Commons: As importantly, is there anyone in the Jesuit community ready to step up and fill your role as social media guru?
Fr. Bayard: I am not so sure about that. Many of our older Jesuits do not engage with that technology. Perhaps, it is time to set Fr. Sundborg up with a Facebook account. I am sure he would have quite the following. You can still follow me on Facebook, as I will continue to post.
The Commons: Having followed some of your posts, I sense that you're an admirer of the new Pope. As he moves into his second year, what do you see as his most significant contribution so far?
Fr. Bayard: Pope Francis has certainly shaken up the church. And, outside the Church, he certainly has many people talking. Recently, I was out with some friends, and a non-Catholic couple that were sitting next to me struck up a conversation. When they found out I was a Jesuit priest, they became visibly excited and immediately started talking about Pope Francis. They spoke of their admiration for him, as well as the ways in which he has approached people-with kindness and no judgment-that the church in years past had kept at a distance-gays and lesbians, divorced Catholics, people of other faith traditions. Pope Francis meets people where they are at without judgment. He is respectful.
The Commons: As someone who's been on the front lines of working with today's college students, how do you think his papacy is resonating with young people?
Fr. Bayard: Young people are excited. Many are returning to the church. I think they find a man who they can connect with. He can speak their language and has encouraged them in their faith. He has certainly sparked vocations among young people as they consider again the possibility of a committed, religious life.
The Commons: Anything else you'd like to share?
Fr. Bayard: I am grateful for being a member of the Seattle University community over the last 14 years. I will sincerely miss all of the colleagues I have worked with from across the university. And, I look forward to visiting when I return. And, who knows, maybe the Jesuits will reassign me to Seattle U at some point in the future! (Smile)
A farewell reception will be held for Father Bayard 3:30-5 p.m., Tuesday, April 29, in Casey Atrium.