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Mission Moments in Higher Education

Mission Moments are an opportunity to pause and reflect upon the graces that make our ministry in education most meaningful.

I. Mission Moment: JCU

John Carroll University
Board of Directors
Mission Moment

Brief Description and Rationale
As part of an overall, multifaceted plan for Board Formation, John Carroll has adopted the following practice as a “mission moment” with which to open each Board meeting. The suggestion came from the Mission Committee of the Board with the firm belief that the directors would benefit greatly by hearing one another reflect on the mission and why they serve on the Board.  It also sends the message that they have the capacity and the responsibility to understand, articulate, and advance the mission.

Those who have prepared reflections thus far find the exercise to be a very rewarding experience that helps them feel more comfortable speaking about the mission.

The Chair of the Mission Committee invites a different board member to give a five-minute Ignatian reflection on a proposed topic followed by a prayer with which to begin the meeting.  The Vice President for University mission and identity works with the Director to help her or him make one or more “Ignatian connections” to the lived experience they wish to share. The VP then uses the connection to help frame other aspects of the meeting, such as prayers at meals and the closing prayer, in the hope of achieving some sense of Ignatian repetition.

The proposed topic is linked to the annual theme that is designated for a particular year, usually one of the four University Learning Goals.  Two years ago, four directors were invited to speak on a particular aspect of “Inspired, Leadership,” which was the inaugural theme for Dr. Johnson. Last year, the theme was based upon “Service and Solidarity.”  This year, we have decided to align the topics for each meeting with the four content areas that make up the new Companions in Mission formation program that has been designed for Board members.  The plan is to invite four of the 12 participating directors to share a mission moment related to what they are learning in the program.  Our hope is that this constant reminder of the Program will encourage directors to join next year’s cohort.


II. Mission Moment: Loyola University Chicago


Michael P. Murphy, Ph.D
Department of Theology Director
Catholic Studies Director
The Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage
Loyola University Chicago
Cuneo Hall, 430 1032 W. Sheridan Road
Chicago, Ill 60660


III. Mission reflections of the Xavier University President’s leadership groups

The mission reflections of the Xavier University President’s leadership groups are available for all to read; please click here. Thanks to Dr. Debra Mooney for providing this resource.

Dr. Debra Mooney
Vice President for Mission and Identity


IV. The Did You Know? Series

Did You Know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education:
 Core Values

 Br. Matt Wooters works with a student at Nativity Jesuit Academy in Milwaukee.

Did you know that the core values of Jesuit Education have remained consistent for the past 472 years since the founding of first Jesuit school in 1548?

The following values come from the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and from early Jesuit educational practice as summarized by Richard Baumann, SJ. The values might be articulated differently today, but their underlying meaning is consistent with the Jesuit tradition.

Knowledge and Learning. This is gained through various academic pursuits. From its very beginning, Jesuit education emphasized the humanities, stressing learning not only of subject matter but also how to think critically. In addition, Jesuit education envisioned that learning took place not only inside but outside the classroom in extracurricular activities. The goal of Jesuit education is to give students a sense of who they are but must include an effective awareness of the world beyond themselves.

Upright Character  The humanities– good literature, especially the classics, poetry, languages, and drama– expose students to men and women who are models of right conduct and wholesome character. The teachers themselves model learning, compassion, and love with the goal of helping students develop as whole persons. Jesuit education provides students an environment that fosters habits of self-discipline, politeness/decorum, loyalty, orderliness, integrity, and devotion.

Eloquence Studying the humanities not only develops students’ intellectual horizons; in the process it also touches their hearts and enables students to articulate their knowledge clearly and concisely. Developing skills in writing and speaking enhances students’ capacities for leadership that they will bring to whatever they are feel they are called to in life.

Christian Life and Service The passing on of the Catholic tradition of doctrine and morals is coupled with opportunities for participating in the Sacraments, engaging in religious practices, and listening to good sermons. Religious education from the earliest Jesuit schools on sought to develop a student’s religious consciousness not only for their own sakes but to help them develop a civic consciousness that would fit them to become engaged citizens.

Sample: Marquette High mission statement reflects its Jesuit roots: “Marquette University High School is a Catholic, Jesuit, urban, college preparatory school for young men. Marquette High forms leaders who are religious, loving, seeking intellectual excellence, committed to justice, and open to growth. Marquette High fulfills its mission by providing a respectful, challenging, and caring environment for a diversity of community students; educating the whole person, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, morally, and physically; and awareness of the dignity and needs of all people. Forming men for others who will act like Christ who “came not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)

The tradition is strong, and it continues.


Did you know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education: The Spiritual Legacy of St. Ignatius

Did you know that the spiritual legacy of St. Ignatius continues to impact students 500 years later?                                                                                 

Ignatius Loyola was a layman when he went through his sick bed conversion.  He was a layman when he was favored by God with mystical graces. He was a layman when he began to share these graces with others through the Spiritual Exercises. His spiritual legacy is a gift for everyone, not just Jesuits.  Fr. David Fleming, S.J. has summarized the legacy:  “a vision of life, an understanding of God, a reflective approach to living, a contemplative form of praying, a reverential attitude toward our world, and an experience of finding God daily.”

This legacy is in the DNA of today’s Jesuit education.  It is the legacy in which the faculty and staff Jesuit colleges and universities have been formed.  This legacy is also expressed in the way they live, teach, and interact with students.  They create an atmosphere and form a culture in which the students everyday experience different aspects of this legacy.

A Vision of Life   At the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius states very clearly that the goal of our life is to live with God forever.  Everything we have– our talents, opportunities, our lives– are gifts from God.  And so, we use or do not use all we have and possess insofar as they help us come to know, love, and serve God through our interaction with others.

An Understanding of God  The image of God that emerged from the prayer of Ignatius was a God who is personally present (involved in our lives), generous (the source of all we have), and loving (unconditionally). As St. Paul says: “In him we live and move and have our being.”

A Reflective Approach to Living   Socrates stated that an unexamined life is not worth living. By slowing down and reflecting on our lives, we see how truly blessed we are. In pausing to reflect we begin to experience who we really are, where we are going, and how to get there

A Contemplative Form of Praying   One of God’s greatest gifts to us is our imagination. Ignatius in his dreaming discovered what he really desired.  He also used his imagination to pray over the Gospels, to enter into their scenes, and to let Jesus’ humanity come alive in his prayer.

A Reverential Attitude toward Our World   Ignatius stated: “All things in the world are created by God’s love.”  All of creation is gift to us.  Misuse of a gift is a slap in the face of the giver.  What God created as good, all creation, we are invited to reverence.

An Experience of Finding God Daily   God is more present than we think.  Every day in our Jesuit schools, the entire school community pauses to reflect on the day. Its purpose is to help each member of the community reflect on their day and see where God has been alive and active.

These values are the legacy of St. Ignatius and are vital to the mission of Jesuit education today.


Did you know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education: Jesuit Code Words

Did you know there are Jesuit Code Words?

Every organization has particular words and phrases everyone uses.   A Jesuit university or high school is no exception.

AMDG   This is the Latin abbreviation for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam—for the greater glory of God.  This phrase describes the motivation and purpose of all Jesuit activities.  An institution or individual does good but must strive for what better serves God and God’s people.

Cura Personalis    This Latin phrase means care of the whole person.  Jesuit education is not just filling a student’s head with facts and knowledge, but rather caring for the student’s spiritual, physical, and emotional needs.  Jesuit education challenges the student to know his or her whole self, and to live up to one’s potential in relationship with God and others.

Discernment   This is careful decision making within a faith context. Most people make decisions and ask God to bless them.  A discerning decision invites God into the decision-making process through prayer, reflection, consultation with others, and above all listening to the deep desires and leanings of one’s own heart.

Faith That Does Justice   This is the hallmark of a Jesuit ministry. Jesuit education helps students develop a personal and intellectually mature faith.  But this faith is to express itself in action, reaching out to those who are suffering as well as working to transform society to respect life at all stages and promote the common good for all men and women.

Finding God in All Things   God is found not only in churches or sacred places, but in the whole of creation. The fingerprints of a Giver are on the gift.  When one steps back and looks at what gave delight and life to their day, one becomes grateful for these moments and begins to see them as gifts from God who is more present and active than we might think.

Ignatian/Jesuit  “Ignatian” is the adjective describing the spirituality that Ignatius developed for all people.  “Jesuit” refers to members of the Society of Jesus of which Ignatius was founder. Ignatius wanted this Society to be named after its true founder, Jesus.  In Latin, the Companions of Jesus became Societas Jesu from which came the nickname, Jesuits.

Magis   This is a Latin term, meaning more.  It does not mean one needs to do more, but as someone put it:  it means “continuous quality improvement.”  This word was coined by Ignatius and describes the spirit in which he operated and now invites us to follow.

Women and Men for Others   The phrase was used in a 1973 presentation by Very Rev. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Jesuits, to alumni/ae from Jesuit schools.  What a person receives from Jesuit education is not for self-aggrandizement but is to be used in serving others, especially those at the margins of society.


Did you know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education: Identity Crisis

Did you know that Jesuit high schools in the late 1960’s faced an identity crisis when administrators and others questioned their value and even their continued existence?

What had been scheduled as a meeting of twenty Jesuit high school presidents to form a new organization for Jesuit high schools in 1970 turned into a soul-searching retreat. These presidents entertained questions such as: “Did the schools have a unique identity that made the investment of time, effort, manpower, and money worth continuing them?”  “Could not the academic excellence of Jesuit schools be provided by other public or private schools?” “Is a school Jesuit just because Jesuits work there?” “What is unique about a Jesuit school?”

For two days  questions like these surfaced and were discussed without achieving much clarity. A dark cloud of discouragement hung over the meeting. One of its presidents, however, spent all night drafting some ideas that he brought to the group on the third morning. These new perspectives breathed life, energy, and hope into the group.

The presidents refined these ideas into a brief document that became the Preamble to the Constitutions for the Jesuit Secondary Education Association. There were three key statements that are still directional for Jesuit schools today:

  • “Jesuit secondary education not only has a future, but it can become a dynamic means of forming a community of believers in Jesus Christ, as Risen Lord, and of leaders in society. To accomplish this, however, the schools must adopt bold approaches in education, seeking to develop and assert specifically Ignatian qualities in their educational programs.”
  • “Our schools can face a bold and challenging future if they will be true to their particular Jesuit heritage; that is, if they can sharpen and activate the vision of Ignatius which has sustained them for four centuries.”
  • “The school will be Jesuit if the lives of its teachers exemplify and communicate to the students the vision of Ignatius. Some of the component ideas and images are the vision derived from the Jesuit Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius which we believe have far reaching educational implications.”

The third statement became the greatest challenge. Up until that time, the specific Jesuit character of a school was, in the opinion of many people, the sole responsibility of the Jesuits. Now this new charter mandated that all faculty and staff of a Jesuit school need to understand and be inspirited by the Ignatian vision of life, the values of Jesuit education, and model it.

Since that fortuitous meeting in 1970, faculty and staff of many Jesuits works make retreats based on the Exercises and participate in Ignatian formation programs. Imbued with Ignatian Spirituality and Ignatian Pedagogy, they continue to form students in the Jesuit tradition.


Did you know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education: Parents Started It

Did you know that the Jesuits got into the educational business because parents in Messina, Sicily wanted a rigorous Catholic education for their children?

The Society of Jesus was founded in 1540. Pope Paul III’s decree establishing the Jesuits did not mention of schools.  The ministries described were modeled after those of the apostles:  preaching, sacramental ministry, giving retreats, and missionary work. Some of the early Jesuits were given permission to teach in schools sponsored by the Church. Even the first-generation Jesuits who needed liberal arts or theological education lived in common and attended nearby established Catholic schools.

Jesuits were sent to Sicily to minister there. One of them was befriended by the wife of the viceroy who became determined to see the Jesuits found a school. So, her husband and the city officials of Messina in December 1547 formally asked Ignatius to establish a school there.  The Viceroy even outlined what he wanted:  five Jesuits in training who would attend the school and five teachers in theology, arts, rhetoric, and grammar. By March 1548, Ignatius not only replied affirmatively to the petition but handpicked the ten Jesuits. This was the first time such a large number of Jesuits were sent anywhere.

The school was a success. Why? Up until that time, the education of youth was done by tutors who taught only what they knew and only to the rich. When the Jesuits came to Messina, they brought a variety of educational talents as well as a liberal arts curriculum they’d experienced at the University of Paris. They also brought with them another innovation in education: ordered progression from course to course according to curricular goals. The school was called a “college,” whose curriculum covered what today in the United States is equivalent to four years of high school and two years of college. And the education was free.

The Jesuits became involved in education because parents wanted the best education for their sons (only boys were educated at that time). But Ignatius had another motive:  young Jesuits needed to be educated. They could attend these schools along with lay students, thereby trimming the expense of educating young Jesuits.

The rest is history. By the time St. Ignatius died in 1556, Jesuits numbered 1000 and schools numbered 35.  Ignatius wrote: “Those who are merely students in time will depart to play various roles…their education will be beneficial to many others, with the fruit expanding widely every day.”

For parents seeking high quality education for their children, the Ignatian tradition continues at Jesuit schools around the world.


Did you know?
A Reflection on Jesuit Education: Quality Control

Did you know that the Jesuits have two quality control protections to ensure that many Jesuit schools are true to their mission and heritage? The two safeguards are a two-tiered board of directors and an Ignatian Identity Review of the school every five years.

The board is composed of a Member Board of three to five Jesuits, as well as a regular Board of Directors. The Jesuits on the Member Board are appointed by the provincial of the Midwest Province.  The Jesuit Member Board has as its major responsibility to ensure the school’s Jesuit identity and the mission of Jesuit education is true to its heritage.  The Member Board fulfills its responsibility in the following areas:   The Members need to approve a new board member before they can be elected by the full board. This is to make sure that a new board member embraces the mission of the school, and does not bring along introduce distractions that could reflect badly on the school’s identity as Catholic and Jesuit.  Should the regular Board of Directors attempt to change the mission of the school, sell school property, merge with another school or incur a large debt, the member board would need to approve such changes before they could be carried out; such actions could affect the Jesuit heritage of Marquette High School.

The Ignatian Review happens every five years.  If the school passes muster, the provincial Superior confirms continued sponsorship by the Society of Jesus.

In a written document, the school review committee evaluates the school on five benchmarks and standards.

The benchmarks are:

• Jesuit and Catholic Mission and Identity, Governance and Leadership

• Spiritual formation of students and adults in the school community

• Educational Excellence

• And a Faith that does Justice

Five staff from other Jesuit schools conduct an in-person review over a two-day period. They interview students, faculty, parents, and board members to determine what the school does well and what can be improved.  The outside review committee gives their report to the school.

As an example, in November 2017, Marquette High School in Milwaukee was reviewed.  Two of the commendations were:

1) “In its people and its programs, Marquette carries out the Ignatian mission, lives the Jesuit charism, and spread the Gospel with seriousness of purpose and with great effectiveness to a large student body and the entire region.”

2) “There is a palpable sense of community in the school.  All groups offered that there is a high degree of trust among faculty and staff, and that they feel heard by the administrators.  Students feel close to their teachers and they appreciate how they encourage and support.  Parents comment that their sons have an experience of God and community that they would not experience in other public schools that might be an option for them.”

We strive to ensure that all our works are of the highest caliber, and that they faithfully and consistently live up to the highest standards and traditions of our founder St. Ignatius.