Laudato Si’ Makes an Impact in Jesuit Higher Education

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.
  • Santa Clara University has taken the encyclical as a “Charter Document” for its “commitment to climate justice,” as evidenced by the visit of Peter Cardinal Turkson for a conference on climate change, reading groups, the visit of Carolyn Woo of Catholic Relief Services, academic integration of the encyclical, Ignatian reflection, and more.

These institutions of Jesuit higher education are just a few examples of the Catholic response to Laudato Si’.   How has your college or university responded to Laudato Si’? Let us know! 

Food for Thought Friday: The Beauty of Catholic Higher Education Explained by Experience

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!

Jesuit College and University Student Body Presidents Sign Joint Statement on Racial Injustice

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! 

University of San Francisco Creates Master Program in Migration Studies

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.

Read more about the program in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities November 2015 Connections newsletter.

How does your college or university address migration? Let us know! 

Loyola University Chicago Starts Magis Scholarship Fund for Undocumented Students

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.”

Ignatian Solidarity Network Awards Loyola Chicago President and Chancellor

Earlier this month, the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) announced its decision to grant the Robert M. Holstein ‘Faith Doing Justice’ Award to Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J. for his outstanding service to the marginalized, care for creation, and advocacy for social justice.

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!

University of Scranton is ‘In Solidarity with Syria’

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.

Another alumna, Elena Habersky ’13, has lived in Amman, Jordan, where she started teaching English as a Fulbright scholar and is now the program and administrative manager of Collateral Repair Project, a nongovernmental organization that helps refugees. Read about her experiences in her article “Bearing Witness: Stories from the Holy Land,” featured in America Magazine.

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! 

Catholic Higher Education Contributes to Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Lenten Reflections

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.

Be sure to sign up for Lift Up Every Voice to receive daily email updates!

How does your college or university reflect on racial justice? Let us know!