As we make our way through this summer, and continue to address the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racial injustice, I invite all of us in the SCS community to take a reflective pause and ask: what are we about as a Jesuit institution of higher learning? What is distinctive about our mission and values as a Jesuit school and how can this history and perspective inform how we proceed through these difficult times?
Each of us likely has our own viewpoint on what it means to learn and work at a Jesuit institution–some are deeply motivated and inspired by this tradition and it is the reason we choose to be part of Georgetown, while others might not reflect about what the university’s mission and values mean to us. Regardless of how one engages with our Jesuit heritage, however, we each have the opportunity to be inspired or challenged by this heritage in a way that deeply animates our time at Georgetown. Each of us is invited to make our Georgetown experience more meaningful and more impactful by journeying with the tools and resources made available by our Jesuit heritage.
This week, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), an umbrella organization that represents the 27 Jesuit institutions of higher education in the U.S., marked its 50-year anniversary as a body. AJCU produced this short video to reflect on its first half-century of work and ponder what the next 50 years will look like in American Jesuit higher education. There is much to say about the characteristics of Jesuit education in terms of pedagogy, structure, inspiration, and application, but I would like to focus on two ideas in the video and invite you to reflect on them.
First, Charlene Brown-McKenzie, Georgetown’s Director of the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access and a student in the Doctor of Liberal Studies program, celebrates Jesuit education’s commitment to critical reflection. Charlene says in the video: “Jesuit history comes out of being innovators, progressive in so many ways, anchored in this critical question of inquiry and discourse.” Later on, Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, states: “We [in Jesuit higher education] see everything as inter-connected, a very-holistic model of working for justice. What are the connections to economic justice? What are the connections to racial injustice and inequity in our society?”
Blending together these two themes of critical inquiry and inter-connection, I invite you to consider this question for reflection: in your work and study at Georgetown, in the midst of intersecting pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice, what topics or issues of concern are leading you into deeper reflection about how to act justly in the world as a professional?
Second, the AJCU video presents Ignatian discernment as a critical tool for proceeding in these times to meet our local, national, and global challenges. We’ve highlighted the Jesuit examen of consciousness before, and how this form of structured daily reflection helps us make sense of our feelings and grow in deeper awareness of how we are called to act in the world. Kerr addresses the relationship between justice and discernment when he says: “[Jesuit higher education] is going to be seeking to be on the frontiers of our world, where we find the greatest need, find people who are most vulnerable.” Linking discernment and justice in this way makes clear how important it is to maintain a regular interior practice of meditation, mindfulness, and/or prayer. We might ponder this question:
How are you practicing regular discernment? And how is your discernment and reflection these days informing how you are called to meet the world’s greatest needs and the needs of the most vulnerable in our society?
I invite you to take some time reflecting on these questions and exploring how the university’s Jesuit mission and values may help you deepen your experience at Georgetown. Please reach out to me, Jamie Kralovec, SCS Associate Director for Mission Integration (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you have questions or suggestions about how our university mission and values can more fully meet the challenges of this moment.