Georgetown’s MLK: “Let Freedom Ring! Initiative”takes on added significance this year, especially in light of last week’s insurrectionist violence at the U.S. Capitol. Faculty are annually encouraged to “Teach the Speech,” taking a selected speech from Dr. King and incorporating it into courses and other learning activities at the university.
The invitation from the Center for Social Justice and other university offices extends beyond faculty to include students, staff, and community partners. More than observing the MLK Jr. holiday as a day off from work, the tradition of teaching the speech reminds us that the struggle for racial and economic justice, which animated Dr. King’s life, continues today and requires our individual and collective action. That struggle, which is also reflected in several of our Spirit of Georgetown values, like a Faith that Does Justice, invites the Georgetown community to commit more deeply to the legacy of Dr. King.
The 1965 speech “Our God is Marching On” is a classic example of Dr. King’s rhetorical ability to name both reasons for despair and for hope. On the side of despair, Dr. King points to the way Black communities encounter systemic inequality in jobs, housing, education, and economic opportunities. He also notes the way that cynical political and economic interests sought to purposefully divide Blacks and whites in order to advance their bottom lines. The point for Dr. King, then and now, is that the campaigns for racial and economic justice must be intertwined. But Dr. King does not rest in the desolation of these realities. Instead, he points to a transcendent hope in the struggle: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This is not a superficial, naïve hope, however, but one that is grounded in truth and non-violence.
The late Congressman John Lewis, in his 1963 speech for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, echoes many of the points that Dr. King will make in 1965. However, given the wishes of Dr. King and other senior leaders who advised that he tone down his rhetoric in light of political sensitivities, we can see how Congressman Lewis amended his prepared remarks. The side-by-side comparison of these speeches helps us appreciate some ongoing tensions in social justice movements.
A concern that Lewis’s prepared remarks might alienate the presidential administration of John Kennedy led to language that affirmed the ways that Kennedy’s federal efforts supported the cause of civil rights: “It is true that we support the administration’s Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however.” Lewis goes on to point out the many ways that legislation alone, the courts alone, cannot provide jobs and cannot provide safety against violence. Seeing these speeches in comparison helps us reflect on the discernment necessary in the movements for racial and economic justice. What language to use? How to frame the arguments? Who to address?
Taken together, this year’s speeches by Dr. King and Congressman John Lewis have the capacity to provoke some necessary reflection in our SCS learning spaces. No discipline or industry is immune from serious reflection and analysis about how to contribute to the movements for racial and economic justice. The speeches also affirm our ongoing commitment at Georgetown to attend to the whole person in our teaching and learning. For both King and Lewis, the interior life—a life devoted to reverence and worship—was always integrated with their lives of public action. This is a good reminder that an education is not just about the mind, but also the soul, the heart, and the hands. May we find inspiration this year in the wisdom of Dr. King and Congressman Lewis as we continually discern our actions for justice.
There is not much more to say in this moment about the saddening events of this week. We witnessed a direct attack on the nation’s democratic processes that was brought about by the intentionally inflammatory rhetoric of the nation’s elected political leaders. Words cannot capture the depths of hurt that our community is feeling this week. I invite us to sorrowfully pause and grieve these efforts to undermine a peaceful transfer of power. As a reminder, there are many health resources at Georgetown if you need additional support.
In the wake of violence at the U.S. Capitol, leaders at Georgetown and across the Jesuit network issued statements condemning this assault on democracy and pointing a way forward. Georgetown President John DeGioia lifted up and affirmed the aspirations of the American project and the ideals of democracy: “There is an extraordinary depth of commitment to these ideals that, especially today, can be a source of consolation and solidarity as we pursue important and necessary work to build a more just and equitable future.” And SCS Dean Kelly Otter, after lamenting this shameful moment in the nation’s history, encouraged the community to look to the university’s mission for insight about how to respond: “I encourage all members of the Georgetown community to renew our commitment to these principles, and to transform the potential for despair into the possibility of peace and justice in our nation.”
Statements across the Jesuit network in the United States also affirmed that in such a perilous time in history the values and commitments of our mission-driven institutions are critically needed. The presidents of America’s Jesuit Colleges and Universities called for an end to the violence. And Fr. Tim Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, cautioned about the dangers of malformed notions of religion:
“In many societies, there is an increased level of conflict and polarization, which often gives rise to violence that is all the more appalling because it is motivated and justified by distorted religious convictions. In such situations, Jesuits, along with all who seek common good, are called to contribute from their religious-spiritual traditions towards the building of peace, on local and global levels.”
“These events are a testament to the ongoing reality of a culture of white supremacy in the U.S. Attackers were permitted to enter the Capitol building with little resistance from police and security personnel, and one must not look far to see the contrast between the way that people of color are treated in the nation every day.”
This week the School of Continuing Studies released its annual Dean’s Report. The 2020 reflection was framed using a motif from early Jesuit history, “communitas ad dispersionem,” a community in dispersion. This describes the novel ways that Jesuits on mission throughout the world in the 16th Century used the technology of their day, hand-written letters, to stay connected despite the disruptions of distance. At SCS this year, inspired by this example from Jesuit history, we intentionally integrated our Jesuit mission in adaptive ways across the school to meet the challenges presented in 2020. Amidst a global pandemic that forced remote learning and working, SCS discovered new ways of being a community by leveraging technology to maintain connection and a sense of belonging.
Dean Kelly Otter sums up how SCS lived up to its mission commitment when she writes:
“Despite being physically apart, it was inspiring to see the level of collaboration and connectedness that contributed to ensuring that our standards of education quality were being met while we expanded the modalities of teaching and learning. Students, faculty, and staff alike leaned in on extraordinary levels and created a new kind of community space using technologies and channels like never before…May we continue to embrace that communal spirit and adapt to these unique forms of teaching and learning with the utmost compassion and respect for one another.”
Vice Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs Shenita Ray reflects on the incredible amount of work and sacrifice demonstrated by SCS faculty and staff to realize this commitment:
“On the whole, I witnessed faculty and staff deepening their commitment to students, to the School, and to the entire Georgetown community. We came together as a united front and heightened our focus, clarity, creativity, determination, and perseverance to ensure the continued success of all SCS students and the learning and teaching enterprise… I feel privileged that I was able to bear witness to extraordinary human qualities that reflect the essence of our Jesuit values and the spirit of Georgetown.”
As we come to the end of a challenging year and prepare ourselves for the journey ahead in 2021, I invite us into a deeper reflection about how this year of community in dispersion has shaped us individually and collectively.
How have you been stretched as a person because of the challenges of 2020? What have you learned about yourself?
What have you learned about the power of community this year? How has our Georgetown community responded to the challenge? What role have you played in helping build up our community?
What are your hopes and desires for the coming year? In what ways are you seeking to develop (spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, etc) into an even more whole person?
I wish you a wonderful break and a peaceful holiday. May you experience the blessings and refreshments of this season and return to Georgetown in the new year with a renewed commitment to living out our mission as members of this SCS community.
During these virtual times, Georgetown SCS has used technology and digital tools to foster contact and connection amongst our dispersed community. At Mission in Motion, we’ve highlighted some of these efforts, including a series of SCS Instagram “Takeovers,” which allow members of our community to tell their personal and professional stories by taking over the school’s feed for a day. These day-in-a-life narratives have been fun and informative, giving viewers an intimate sense of how our diverse community is living through these challenging times while pursuing a Georgetown education. In the framework of Ignatian Pedagogy, a set of principles about teaching and learning in the Jesuit tradition, this kind of media invites us into a person’s context. By starting with context, the Instagram Takeovers enable viewers to appreciate the joys, challenges, possibilities, and limitations facing the person behind the camera. For me, these videos have deepened my feelings of gratitude and empathy for our students who continue to balance so much in order to realize their educational aspirations.
This week, I was excited to participate in an Instagram Live interview with Nicole Thomas, SCS social media marketing manager, who has been creatively guiding the school’s social media presence. In our 15-minute conversation, Nicole posed some critical questions about what makes a Jesuit education unique and what prospective SCS students can expect from their experience of Georgetown’s Jesuit values and mission:
How does Georgetown live out its commitments to inter-religious dialogue and supporting a pluralism of religious traditions?
What does it mean exactly to be a Person for Others? How does Georgetown SCS create opportunities for students to serve others and use their education to promote justice and the common good?
In what ways will an education at SCS, grounded in Jesuit values and mission, help me in my career and in my chosen industry?
Forming People for Others, available to be of generous service for and with others is at the heart of Georgetown’s Jesuit values. At Georgetown SCS, we cultivate this commitment to service-learning and justice in a variety of ways, including coursework and dedicated opportunities for direct service. Last year, Mission in Motion highlighted our annual SCS Day of Service, which included a training by the Center for Social Justice on street outreach to persons experiencing homelessness followed by packaging materials and distributing them in teams throughout the downtown neighborhood surrounding SCS. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged plans for such an in-person event but the crisis of homelessness continues and it has been exacerbated by the challenges of the global pandemic.
In this week’s Mission in Motion, we sit down with Nayeli Garcia, Volunteer and Social Media Coordinator for the Father McKenna Center, a community partner steps from the Capitol that serves men struggling with homelessness and families in Ward 6 dealing with food insecurity. Georgetown has been a community partner with McKenna Center for years and has supported the Center’s work in many ways. In this interview, Nayeli outlines some concrete ways that members of the SCS community can help support the persons and communities served by the Father McKenna Center.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Father McKenna Center and your role?
There are three programs that make up the McKenna Center: the Day Program, the Food Pantry Program, and our Hypothermia Program. Our main program that we emphasize is our Day Program for men who are experiencing homelessness. We provide basis services to our guests: a meal, showers, laundry, phone use, and clothing. Although we offer basic necessities for them, our main goal is for our guests to seek case management to help them.
We also provide a Food Pantry for residents who reside in DC’s Ward 6. To be eligible, our patrons must reside in our neighborhood and show that they need our help (for example, food stamps). We allow out patrons to shop in our Food Pantry. During each visit, our guests take about $70 worth of groceries that consists of canned food, fresh produce, meat, milk, eggs, and bread.
Another important program that we provide at the Center is our Hypothermia Program. This program makes people think that we are a shelter because we provide beds for about 20 men during the winter season. What makes this program different from other programs is our dedication to help our guests leave homelessness for good. This program is for men who have applied to take part in our Day Program. Along with a warm bed and a hot shower, our guests have the opportunity to meet volunteers who prepare and eat dinners with them during the winter season.
With a small staff, it is impossible for us to keep running if I did not do my part to recruit and welcome new volunteers to the Center. As the Volunteer Coordinator, my job is to make sure that we have the help we need to operate our programs. It’s amazing to be the one person to welcome new volunteers to the Center and see their journey continue the more they come back to help out. I believe it is my job to cultivate these relationships for my volunteers to enjoy their time at the McKenna Center.
On top of welcoming new and regular volunteers, I also manage the Center’s Instagram page and take lots of photos!
How has the Center and the services it provides adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Unfortunately, in the beginning, we temporarily had to suspend our Day Program services to encourage our guests to stay in the shelters to prevent the spread of COVID. As things were getting better towards the end of the summer, we resumed our services in mid-July with providing breakfast/lunch and clothing and doing it outdoors. On top of serving our guests as safely as possible and doing our part to clean and sanitize, we added more services as we strived to follow health protocols. Now, as it is getting cold, we are still standing strong to continue to serve our guests and to serve them as warmly as possible. The cold may be an obstacle for us as we continue to serve our guests outside, but if need be, we will move our services indoors if the weather is not good for us to serve them.
The one program that we continued during the pandemic is our Food Pantry Program. With changes happening every week or month, we knew that this was the one program we could not end despite facing COVID. My full-time volunteers had to change the way we were serving our patrons, we had to figure out what we could and could not do, and we found ways to make our pantry work efficiently. To encourage social distancing, my volunteers have to put in extra work to make sure we provide the best service to our families.
From the moment we suspended our Day Program, we knew that we could not take in volunteers. I had about 50-60 volunteers helping out at the Center on a weekly basis and that number changed when stay-at-home orders were enforced. For three months, I had three volunteers running the Food Pantry for five days a week. In the beginning, it was not as much as a burden for my volunteers, but it got busy when we resumed our services in July.
I understand and know why the McKenna Center has not been able to recruit the help that we need now. There are still a lot of unknowns about the virus and all we can do is be as safe as possible until we have definite answers. I am grateful for the volunteers who do come to lend a hand. Even just one person makes a difference when it comes to serving a cup of coffee or shopping for groceries in our food pantry.
Regardless of how little staff we have, I am grateful that I can turn to them when we need help because at the end of the day, we are a team.
What are the biggest needs right now and how can members of the SCS community best support the work of the Center during this holiday season?
I believe there are three things one can keep in mind to help us during the holiday season: volunteer, share, or learn.
Lately, there has been a yearning for individuals to do more than stay at home. As far as I know, we are one of the few organizations in DC who provide direct service opportunities to those who are interested in lending a hand. The good thing about volunteering is that it is something you want to do, not be forced to do. It would help us greatly if you are able to lend a hand.
If volunteering is not something you want to do, I encourage you to share and spread the word to others about the Center. It’s always great to know how people hear about us. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram to see more of what we do.
I believe that knowledge is power. Our organization is different from others since we are not your typical day center. There are two words to describe what kind of organization we are: tough love. Having an idea of what makes the McKenna Center what it is today or to even know the extent of homelessness in DC will help anyone understand why we run the Center the way we do. This can help for those interested in volunteering.
Next week’s Thanksgiving holiday will be unlike what we expected. Given the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to contain the spread of the virus, plans for large gatherings have been put on hold. Many are likely feeling the disappointment of cancelling much anticipated trips to be with friends and family. Sharing the same physical space with the ones we love is usually a source of so much joy. But like so much of this year, the re-imagined event of Thanksgiving likely brings to the surface some difficult feelings and longings to return to the routines of pre-pandemic life.
Despite the challenges, Thanksgiving, even in these circumstances, provides an opportunity to create in ourselves some healthy inner space for naming what we are grateful for. It is important to note that naming gratitude might not be possible, or even advisable, if you are feeling the opposite of grateful these days. This is especially the case for anyone struggling with mental health challenges like depression. Do not force awareness of gratitude if you are not ready for it. As Jim Manney writes in A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, it can sound like a trick to melancholy people to name gratitude that is not real. So please be gentle with yourself as you proceed through this gratitude meditation.
Gratitude is not only at the center of the celebration of Thanksgiving but also at the core of the examen (described here in Mission in Motionand practiced every Friday at 12 pm EST as part of our SCS Daily Digital Meditation – sign up here), which gives life to the Ignatian spirituality that animates our Georgetown values. Manney explains the examen’s emphasis on gratitude in this way:
“Gratitude is the key to Ignatian spirituality in two real senses – the key that unlocks the door, and the key in which the music is played. It’s both the context of prayer and the secret that explains everything…Virtues and spiritual blessings can become vague and abstract. The examen’s process of reflective thanksgiving makes them concrete. In time, gratitude can become an element of our everyday attitude.”
My invitation over the next week is to spend time in silence, growing in greater awareness of the persons, places, situations, and experiences for which you are grateful. Focus on the real, concrete experiences from your everyday life. You might focus on the things you are thankful for in the past day, past week, or some longer period of time, like this entire semester. Instead of judging what comes up for you, just allow the experiences of gratitude to float by in your imagination as in a parade.
The examen practice invites us to grow in relationship with the Transcendent, which some of us name as God and others might name as Ultimate Goodness, Beauty, Mystery or something else. Whatever name we use, I invite you to allow yourself to let God guide you in this meditation. Some questions you might consider as you sift through the gratitude that arises in you during your time of silence:
How do you feel when you become aware of the gratitude that surfaces? Does the gratitude make you feel loved, supported, inspired, challenged, etc?
What is the first gratitude that comes to your mind? Is there significance in this being the first gift that you recall?
Are there challenging feelings or events that present themselves as gratitude? Do you feel like these challenges are inviting you to grow and develop in some ways?
We have much to be thankful for at Georgetown SCS. This semester has been challenging but the community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and others have come together in a spirit of mutual support. We continue to rely on one another to make good on the promise of a Georgetown education. May this Thanksgiving week be a time of needed pause, reflection, and gratitude.
November marks Jesuit Heritage Month, an annual celebration at Georgetown to highlight the ways that Jesuit identity and traditions animate our lives at the University. Every year, Jesuit Heritage Month features services, programs, and other community experiences that deepen awareness and appreciation for the distinctiveness of an education in the Jesuit tradition. This month we encourage your participation in the following Jesuit Heritage Month events:
Jesuit Heritage Month mass on Sunday, November 15 at 7:00 p.m. EST live streamed on the Georgetown University Facebook page. Fr. Jerry Hayes, S.J., will preside and preach at the mass.
A lecture on faith and science featuring NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. Anne M. Thompson, co-sponsored with the Orthodox Christian Chaplaincy on Thursday, November 19 at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Fr. Hayes will share Ignatian Examen meditations on Friday, November 13 and Friday, November 20 on the Jesuit Heritage Month Facebook page. These Examen meditations are intended to explore our sense of community during these times of isolation and quarantine.
SCS will participate in the month of programming by offering a virtual Examen on Friday, November 20 at 12:00 p.m. EST. Hosted by me, Jamie Kralovec, associate director for mission integration at SCS, this 10-15 Examen meditation is open to everyone in the SCS community. Please RSVP for the Examen meditation here. A Zoom link will be shared with all participants closer to the date.
This election week has been stressful, tense, and anxious. Regardless of one’s political affiliation or preferred candidate, it is a fact that the election has caused people to feel despair, fear, and uncertainty. Some of these feelings are negatively impacting our entire lives, including how we feel about others who do not share our political opinions. Georgetown leaders articulated recently that despite the unimaginable challenges facing our community, we as a university affirm that “during times of division and uncertainty, we are reminded that we find community in diversity and strength in our care for others.” Grounded in our Jesuit values and Ignatian spiritual tradition, the statement encouraged us, this week and in the times that follow, to speak our minds, share our views, and show respect for one another.
So, what from the Jesuit tradition offers us resources and support for navigating the tensions and challenging feelings arising because of this week’s election events? I would like to focus on three practices that might be helpful as we proceed from here. I am indebted to several sources for these ideas, including a webcast given this week by colleagues at our peer Jesuit institution Le Moyne College, “Ignatian Spirituality – Moving Forward Together,” and Fr. James Martin, a popular Jesuit, who provides timely ideas in this article, “Jesuit tools to help you survive the election (and its aftermath).”
Prayer, Meditation, and the Examen: In order to manage the strong emotions arising in us because of the election, we need to create space for a healthy inner life. This means finding intentional times and spaces to pause, reflect, and grow in awareness of how we are feeling. There are many ways to do this, but the practices of prayer, meditation, and the Ignatian Examen (which we’ve reviewed before in Mission in Motion) help us to manage strong emotions. These practices enable us to become more aware of our strong emotions, how they make us feel, and how they might be motivating our actions. Time in silence without the distractions and stimulations of technology, rooted in our own personal relationship with God or the Transcendent (however we want to name that), provides an opportunity to grow in both self-awareness and social awareness. In these times of heightened tension and strained relationships, such awareness and empathy are critical if we are to learn from one another and repair the divisions between us.
Self-Care and Self-Kindness: Ignatius was wise in his time period to note that a person cannot develop a healthy life of prayer or meditation without attending to the needs of the body. Living healthy, balanced lives means paying attention to our daily habits. This is a great time to renew healthy eating and sleeping, and other practices of self-development that bring us fulfillment and joy. SCS has been promoting a series of tips and suggestions for practicing self-care and self-kindness. For me, an especially important form of self-kindness is a walk around my neighborhood at lunch or time to be in nature with my family.
Connecting with Others: Our Jesuit values animate our works of service and our desire to use our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is a commitment to listening; listening deeply to the needs and desires of others. Such active listening is a good first step to “bridging the gap,” as Fr. David McCallum and Karin Botto shared in their LeMoyne webcast this week, between our own perspective and that of others. We bring into such situations the Presupposition of Ignatian spirituality, which requires us to interpret another’s statement by giving the benefit of the doubt about the other’s good intentions. Such humility and empathy is not, however, an encouragement to keep silent about our values when we feel the need to call someone out for a false or harmful statement. Rather, the Ignatian Presupposition challenges us to see each person we encounter as a partner in the shared work of social transformation.
In these times, we can find a depth of support and resources in the Jesuit tradition that animates our life at Georgetown. I encourage you to check out this helpful list of mental health, wellness, and health care resources. You might also consider our SCS Daily Digital Meditations at 12 p.m. EST each day of the work week. (sign up here).
In this week’s Mission in Motion, we spend some time with Tremell Horne, program coordinator for the Planning & Development cluster at SCS. Tremell came to Georgetown in fall 2016, making a quick impact on the life of the community with his creative approach to program communications. During his time at SCS, Tremell has sought ways to develop both personally and professionally and realized his goal of receiving a master of professional studies degree in Sports Industry Management in 2019. In this interview, Tremell reflects on how he brings Georgetown’s Jesuit values into his work and how he has made the most of his gifts to be of service to others in need during the pandemic.
Can you tell us about your role at Georgetown SCS? Are there particular ways that you bring some of our Spirit of Georgetown values to life in your work?
I jokingly refer to my role here at SCS as the “fixer.” I am technically a program coordinator but I wear many hats. When I first started at Georgetown I was mainly focused on communications. This snowballed into marketing, course scheduling, event management, and advising. Now I pretty much do a little bit of everything while fixing what I can along the way. Cura Personalis has been at the core of my advising strategy when dealing with my students. It’s important to let every individual feel heard and appreciated. The circumstances that bring students my way does not always lead to happy conversations. I have a unique role that falls in between the grey area of customer service and following strict policies. Each person has a story, a family, and problems of their own. Often times my advising calls get derailed because a student just needs someone to talk to. I’m fine with it. Those conversations bring out the humanity in us in a setting that is very formal and transactional.
How are you doing these days? Have you found practices to stay centered, healthy, and inspired in these challenging times?
I am okay. Work has been stressful at times during the pandemic, especially on a small team. My supervisor has really helped support me. He just reassured me that I was doing fine and everyone is adapting to this new way of life with COVID. He said, “Do what you can and when the day is over LOG OFF.” It’s hard to disconnect especially when working from home.
An escape for me has been volunteering. For the last few months I have been volunteering with Dreaming Out Loud. They have a small farm in North East DC. I find that a hard day’s work on the farm can really help reset my mind and body. We are tasked with weeding, planting, and composting. The farm at Kelly Miller Middle school uses 100% sustainable practices. This means no pesticides, no chemicals, and no short cuts. It’s hard work. Very hard work. But it has been nice to get outside and get dirty every few weeks.
I understand that you have been committed during this pandemic to using your gifts and talents to support those in need. Can you let us know about that work and what inspired you to serve marginalized persons and communities in this way?
Dreaming Out Loud’s mission is to create economic opportunities for the DC metro region’s marginalized community members through building a healthy, equitable food system. We take food for granted. My Dad always says food is love. To eat a healthy meal with family is a blessing. Many inner-city families live in food deserts. We are privileged to frequent Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for our favorite snacks.
Dreaming Out Loud gives low income families access to fresh produce. Many of the families receive this produce at no cost! At a time where COVID has displaced families and people have lost their jobs, DOL has provided a healthy food option for many in need.
I have a symbiotic relationship with volunteering. It allows me to get dirty and exert some physical energy after being cooped up in my apartment. I have been struggling with an irregular sleep pattern lately. A hard day equals a good night’s sleep. I also get fresh fruits and veggies sometimes for helping out on the farm. At the same time, I am helping families during these strange times where a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Is there any advice that you want to share?
Enough of the mushy stuff! My advice to anyone reading this is to get outside! Go for a walk! Get some fresh air! Close your computer and ignore those emails until tomorrow! LOG OFF. If anyone asks, tell them that my supervisor said it’s ok.
Please feel free to shoot me an email if you are interested in volunteering with Dreaming Out Loud! firstname.lastname@example.org
SCS students have recently participated in several retreats offered by the Office of Mission and Ministry, including “Contemplation in Daily Life,” a week-long inter-faith opportunity which Mission in Motion reviewed here, and “God’s Light and Love,” a six week retreat in daily life modeled upon Ignatian forms of prayer These experiences encourage students to grow in our university value of being Contemplatives in Action. Both retreat experiences include an expectation that participants engage in contemplative practices, like prayer and meditation, on their own for 30 minutes a day. These retreats are also designed for participants to meet regularly with a spiritual director.
Given heightened interest amongst SCS students for these retreats, I want to introduce and explain the practice of spiritual direction and explore how students can meet with a spiritual director during their time at Georgetown. My focus today will be on spiritual direction offered in the Christian tradition, especially the Ignatian style promoted by the Jesuits, but a future post will consider options for receiving spiritual direction or religious advising in the other faith traditions well-represented at Georgetown.
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that involves two people of faith entering into a sacred conversation. A trained guide helps the one receiving direction pay closer attention to the way God is communicating with him or her. A hopeful outcome of receiving spiritual direction is that one sifts through their daily experiences with a particular focus on the religious significance of their interior movements: thoughts, feelings, stirrings, desires, inclinations, disinclinations, etc. The director is not telling the directee what to think, feel, or believe, but rather, helping the other respond to how God might be inviting the directee into a deeper relationship or union.
Someone giving spiritual direction in the Ignatian style will be rooted in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, a theological vision about a world in which each person is capable of uncovering their deepest desires shaped by the Holy Spirit. The Ignatian spiritual director, committed to a partnership that respects the directee’s unique personality, life history, and experience, explores how God is moving in the other’s life. While spiritual direction is considered a helping discipline, it is important to note that spiritual direction is not therapy or counseling. The spiritual director is not helping the one receiving direction solve a problem or diagnose an issue. Instead, the focus is always upon the lived religious experience of the directee.
There are many ways to explore the richness of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition at Georgetown. Mission in Motion will continue to promote upcoming retreats as ways for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to experience spiritual direction in the context of a retreat. Outside of a retreat format, ongoing spiritual direction can be offered once per month for an hour. If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of receiving spiritual direction at Georgetown SCS, please reach out to Jamie Kralovec, SCS associate director for mission integration, at email@example.com.