The upcoming one-year anniversary of the release of Laudato Si’ has inspired reflection on the impacts it has had on Catholics around the world, especially institutions of Catholic higher education. In the April 2016 issue of Connections, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ (AJCU) monthly newsletter, several institutions were featured as having responded to the encyclical with fervor:
Laudato Si’ was a “Game-Changer” for Creighton University, where professors of theology, biology, environmental science, cultural and social studies, and communication studies, and sustainability studies have experienced renewed interest and and energy in their studies and coursework.
Gonzaga University has taken a “Multidisciplinary Approach” to responding to the encyclical with “deep academic engagement around Catholic social teaching,” encyclical reading groups, inter-departmental panel discussions, lectures, documentary film screenings, and a renewed commitment to sustainability on campus.
Food justice and social justice have been major themes for Loyola University Chicago‘s response to Laudato Si’, as well as “eco-education” through conferences focused on poverty and climate justice, lectures, and assisting in the development of a new free online environmental textbook.
Marquette University has made a renewed commitment to “Going Green” through participating in research at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee, the hiring of the University’s first sustainability coordinator, assisting in the development of the above-mentioned textbook, the LEED certification of two campus buildings, and the focusing of Mission Week on care for creation and sustainability.
A reflection on the call to promote and fight for environmental justice, as inspired by Laudato Si’, written by Clint J. Springer, associate professor of biology at St. Joseph’s University.
Food for Thought Friday: A recent story in U.S. Catholic, an online and print magazine about ‘Faith in Real Life’, focused on one student’s experience in Catholic higher education. Shanna Johnson, a current student at Loyola University Chicago, wrote a beautiful tribute to her experience with the “Catholic presence” at the institution. Read the full article here!
This spring, the student government leaders of all twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities issued a joint statement regarding racial injustice and higher education.
The statement is a page-long declaration of the student body presidents’ support for students of color in higher education, initiatives to address racial inequalities in Jesuit higher education, and for increased dialogue on the subject. The statement notes that it comes at a crucial time in history for higher education, as students of color and their allies have been demonstrating across the nation, “united in calling for an end to racial injustice within institutions of higher education.”
In the statement, the student body presidents showed that advocating for racial justice flows from the Catholic and Jesuit values that are at the foundation of their institutions. They write, “As students of Jesuit institutions, we often hear phrases such as cura personalis (care for the whole person) and ‘men and women for and with others.’ These phrases challenge us to orient our lives and education toward the greater good -a world free from oppression and marginalization.”
How does your college or university address institutional racial injustice? Let us know!
The University of San Francisco (USF) has created the Master in Migration Studies program in response to the challenges of migration, a critical issue affecting many people across the globe. The academic program exists in collaboration with Universidad Iberoamericana, the Jesuit university of Mexico City. Together they have created a program that seeks to “train professionals and researchers on the many perspectives involved in understanding migration and supporting the personal, social, legal and spiritual needs of migrants and refugees.”
With a focus on migration from Mexico and Central America, the program will offer students the opportunity to work with “top researchers, professors, project practitioners and policy makers in both San Francisco and Mexico City” to build their skills in policy development, service to migrant communities, non-governmental organization work, and more.
This summer, Seattle University, one of two Jesuit universities in the state of Washington, will host a conference on “Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons.” The conference, hosted by the Seattle University Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) on August 7-9, 2016, will focus on environmental justice and sustainability research, interdisciplinary dialogue and education, nonprofit and governmental work, networks among Jesuit institutions, and environmental justice in the arts.
McKenzie Funk, writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, National Geographic, Outside, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times
Interfaith Amigos, an organization comprised of Protestant Pastor Don Mackenzie, Ph.D., Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., and Imam Jamal Rahman
The conference will also feature over forty presentations from experts on “the social, environmental, and economic aspects of sustainability.” The gathering seeks to promote collaboration around caring for our common home. Register now to ensure your seat!
How does your college or university promote collaboration around caring for our common home? Let us know!
Since its inception, the Church has been a staunch defender of human dignity. One violation of this God-given quality is human trafficking, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime defines as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force […] for the purpose of exploitation,” which can include forced prostitution, other types of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, or forced removal of organs. The UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute estimates that there are 2.7 million victims of trafficking around the world.
The pervasiveness and horror of this crime make the issue particularly pressing. Pope Francis says, “It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community.” He calls for “a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front.” Human trafficking clearly calls for a response from Catholics, especially as a violation of the Catholic Social Teaching principles of human life and dignity, human rights and responsibilities, preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, dignity of work and workers’ rights, and solidarity.
These principles guide many Catholic colleges and universities in their involvement in anti-human trafficking work and research. Saint Vincent College (SVC) received a Global Solidarity Grant for their anti-human trafficking project, “Connecting the Local Community to the Global Issue of Human Trafficking.” The grant, offered jointly by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and Catholic Relief Services, funded a special opportunity to learn about human trafficking to the college’s annual Campus Ministry Spring Break Service Trip to Brazil. On that trip, participants prepared meals, worked with orphans and abandoned elderly, served at an AIDS clinic, taught language, and played with the children at the Missionary Sisters of Christ’s schools in São Paulo. In addition, they heard presentations on human trafficking in Brazil from the Sisters, who work closely with survivors of human and sex trafficking. Speakers shared their firsthand experiences of sheltering survivors and educating the vulnerable population about the threat of human trafficking. Fr. Killian Loch, director of campus ministry, says it was “very powerful being with [the Sisters] and seeing their joy, and listening to them speak of true freedom.”
To engender true freedom for all victims and survivors of human trafficking, it is essential to raise awareness on the issue. On the SVC campus, the Global Solidarity Grant also went towards assisting students on an anti-human trafficking committee in observing the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint for victims of slavery and trafficking. The feast day coincides with the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, with students attending Mass and an awareness campaign. In addition, the committee hosts a Day of Awareness in April, which includes informational displays and activities such as prayer sessions, art demonstrations, letter-writing to trafficking victims, and speakers from external organizations like the Pittsburgh-based Project to End Human Trafficking. Overall, the events on campus as well as the spring break service trip flow from a desire among students and faculty “for ways to become more connected to Catholic Social Teaching,” says Fr. Loch.
Another example of deepening connections to CST in the area of human trafficking is found at the College of St. Benedict (CSB)in Minnesota. In 2016, CSB Campus Ministry’s Alternative Break Experience (ABE) ministry coordinates a yearly service trip on sex trafficking awareness in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Participants and coordinators partner with Breaking Free, a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization that helps women and girls “escape systems of prostitution and sexual exploitation” through survivor-led and victim-centered “services, housing, and education.” The trip’s effects are lasting; in a reflection from last year’s ABE, one student wrote, “Breaking Free and the reality of sex trafficking demonstrated the importance of communities so powerfully and I will be very intentional about engaging and being a part of my community.”
CSB Campus Ministry’s Spirituality and Social Justice (SSJ) ministry coordinates a yearly Sex Trafficking Awareness Week, including a collection at Mass for a Sexual Assault Center; presentations on topics such as “Transforming Porn Culture,” sex trafficking basics, and advocacy. Carley Castellanos, assistant director of campus ministry, reports that around 200 students, staff, and faculty members participated in the activities, including the Handprint Campaign. Castellanos says the Campaign encourages the campus community “to stamp their hand and commit to ending sex trafficking.”
Participants also partake in advocacy by encouraging their senators and representatives to cosponsor the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act, an initiative led by the CSB Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors. Castellanos writes that the activities flow from both CST and Benedictine Values, including Awareness of God, Community Living, Dignity of Work, Hospitality, Justice, Listening, Moderation, Peace, Respect for Persons, Stability, and Stewardship.
Another unique example of anti-human trafficking efforts at Catholic colleges is found at the University of San Francisco (USF) within the School of Management. Professor Marco Tavanti, Ph.D., director of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program, president and co-founder of the World Engagement Institute (WEI), and director of the Academic Global Immersion (AGI) program, spearheaded the May 2015 USF for Freedom Symposium (USF4Freedom) with colleague Dr. David Batstone, who founded the Not for Sale campaign. Tavanti says USF4Freedom was organized by the students who participated in the AGI-Rome program, an immersion trip for MNA students “in collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Services on international practices and global policy challenges facing refugee service management, forced migrations, and human trafficking,” the program’s website states. The Symposium consisted of a day of lectures given by leaders in various Bay Area nonprofits that serve human trafficking and modern slavery victims, such as Jesuit Refugee Services, Not for Sale, and others that seek to “accompany and advocate for the underrepresented.”
Tavanti emphasizes that USF4Freedom, AGI-Rome, and the partnership with the WEI seek to inspire and equip students to act. He says USF4Freedom and AGI-Rome inspired the development of a Professional Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Emergency Management “as a way to build capacity in building careers in this field.” He also notes the influence of USF’s Jesuit animation on USF4Freedom: “It sprang from the importance of addressing the Jesuit values of ‘accompaniment’ along with advocacy and service, to inspire our reflections and preparations.” Pope Francis also played a large role: Having met with the Holy Father in January 2016 during the second AGI-Rome, Tavanti and his students “have been further inspired by Pope [Francis’s] call for social justice and human dignity.”
A final example of a campus working against human trafficking is Loyola University New Orleans (LOYNO). LOYNO’s Modern Slavery Research Project (MSRP), founded and directed by English Professor Laura Murphy, Ph.D., “is working toward emancipating victims in Southeast Louisiana and the U.S. from modern slavery through data-based research and training that better serves victims and supports the advocates who make escape possible,” the project’s website explains. In addition to research and training, MSRP works on legislative advocacy and education in partnership with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives; runs the Make Escape Possible campaign; publishes reports such as its latest on Trafficking Among Homeless Youth; coordinates events such as book talks, storytelling, and film screenings; and works with the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force in a project funded by the Department of Justice.
Undergraduate research assistants and interns are involved significantly in the MSRP. The lead intern, Lauren Stroh ’17, is “happy to be on board and working alongside the rest of [the] team to collect real data on the issue” to better inform a range of audiences, from legislators to “individuals involved in combating this issue firsthand.” Stroh has become one of those individuals as she has “had the opportunity to listen to survivor narratives at length” and has found that “there is truly no one who understands what these survivors have gone through better than they do, and hearing them speak about their experiences has done wonders to educate [me] about […] modern slavery.” Stroh hopes to extend her experience with this issue “beyond the United States to the world abroad” through a potential Fulbright scholarship.
From these examples, it is evident that Catholic higher education fosters a thirst for knowledge and a desire to act on human trafficking issues. The animation of charisms such as the Jesuit values of accompaniment and solidarity or the Benedictine principles of the dignity of work and respect for persons has allowed students, staff, and faculty to soar in their work against modern slavery. Pope Francis has said that part of our response to human trafficking must be to “provide victims with… the possibility of building a new life.” As we continue to contemplate the New Life given to us this Easter season, let us follow the example of Catholic higher education in providing that new life for our sisters and brothers in modern slavery.
Justine Worden is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Loyola University Chicago recently announced a new scholarship offered to undocumented students. Initiated by the University’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and the student government, the Magis Scholarship Fund was approved by the University board of trustees in December 2015. The students involved in initiating the scholarship fund hope to alleviate some of the financial challenges undocumented students face, as well as encourage conversations about migration in and out of the classroom.
The Fund consists of a $2.50 student fee per semester and will raise about $50,000 a year. The funds will then be given to undocumented students approved for protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The renewable scholarship will help cover the cost of tuition, room and board, and student fees for a year for five students.
The word magis, meaning ‘more’ in Latin, is especially important to Loyola University Chicago as a Jesuit institution. In an interview with Fox News Latino Flavio Bravo, former president of the University’s student government, expressed that the decision to use magis in the name came from the fact that it is a “Jesuit tenet” which encourages all “to give and do more for the community.”
For 14 years, Fr. Garanzini served as the 23rd president of Loyola University Chicago (LUC), and he is now serving as University Chancellor. Instrumental in making LUC one of the most sustainable campuses in the country, Fr. Garanzini is deeply committed to care for creation. Fr. Garanzini was among those who took the initiative to establish Arrupe College, a two-year associate’s degree program for motivated students with limited financial resources, housed at LUC. Fr. Garanzini is also a leader in Catholic higher education, previously serving as ACCU Board Chair.
To honor Fr. Garanzini, ISN will host a cocktail reception at LUC’s Water Tower campus in Chicago on Wednesday, April 27. Congratulations, Fr. Garanzini!
Although a recent ACCU Peace and Justice blog post featured three Catholic colleges and universities’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis, many other Catholic colleges have been working to assist refugees and advocate on their behalf.
The University of Scranton has been strongly committed to aiding refugees abroad and in the U.S., advocating for peace and for greater acceptance of refugees into the U.S., and educating its students about the crisis and inspiring them to act. The campus initiative In Solidarity with Syria seeks to combine advocacy and educational efforts.
President Kevin Quinn, SJ, wrote an editorial urging compassion for refugees in the Scranton Times-Tribune last fall. He also wrote a letter to federal elected officials urging the U.S. government to address the refugee crisis. He noted that the University was exploring how to help Syrian students interested in further education in the United States, as well as how to help refugee families that settle in the local community.
University alumni have also been extensively involved in the efforts to assist refugees. For example, Bill Canny ’77, H’07, as the executive director of Migration and Refugee Services at USCCB, has been working with DOS and the local Catholic Social Services to work towards doubling the 100,000 refugee ceiling that the government has set for 2017.
Finally, the university has been working hard to educate students on campus about the refugee crisis. Led by Anitra McShea, Ph.D., the vice provost for student formation and campus life, In Solidarity with Syria has taken off in various directions. The initiative has brought to the university activities such as The Refugee Simulation, in which participants walk through five stations that simulate the typical refugee experience. Students are then encouraged to learn about and work with refugees in the local community.
The University has also encouraged deeper academic and informal discussions on the refugee crisis and has implored its students, staff, and faculty to, as Dr. McShea puts it, “utilize [their] gifts, talents and collective resources (intellectual, fiscal) to serve those marginalized and persecuted in our global community.”
How has your college or university responded to the Syrian refugee crisis? Let us know!
Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) has recently published their Lenten reflections for the upcoming season, including some daily devotionals authored by representatives of Catholic higher education.
Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice is this year’s ISN Lenten blog; it seeks to address “America’s original sin of racism through the lens of Ignatian spirituality and the daily readings.” Throughout the season of Lent, ISN will email subscribers reflections on “how the Gospel calls us to repent, pray, and act in solidarity with those affected by an enduring legacy of systemic and personal racial discrimination.”
The writers of the blog from Catholic higher education include:
M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D., a Theology Professor at Boston College, specializing in the theological understanding of the human body, gender, and race; the African American Catholic experience, and political or praxis based theologies.
Fred Pestello, Ph.D., President of St. Louis University, who is known for a strong commitment to Jesuit values in higher education.
Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at LaSalle University, specializing in racial identity formation, racism, and racial justice in Catholic higher education.
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How does your college or university reflect on racial justice? Let us know!