Renewing Our Commitment to the Mission of Catholic Universities ; (Part 2).(opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Article excerpt

RENEWING our sense of mission and identity

The second major response was to develop programs and eventually an office to address questions of our Mission and Identity. As growth in mission especially in professional and graduate programs created more and more outward pulls, we felt the need to institutionalize programs of Identity that created an inward and centering pull. After a couple of years of experimenting with some initial talks and processes, we began in 1998 what we called Ignatian Spirituality in Education Workshops (ISEW). The first workshop was for six days and was for key leaders of all the 5 Ateneos in the Philippines. Subsequent ones have been shortened to 3 days. The great majority of our administrators, faculty and staff in all the five Ateneos have now made these workshops. We also offer opportunities for deepening, through prayer workshops, retreats, other seminars. We are coming out this year with two publications: the first is composed of talks and reflections from the ISEWs; the second is a resource book composed of important documents on Jesuit education. Most recently, we have organized workshops called Ignatian Spirituality for Educational Leaders, focusing mainly on spirituality and educational leadership.

Last July 31, 2002, His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, blessed and dedicated the Ateneo Church of the Gesu, our University Church. It has been 50 years in the dreaming, but it is finally built at a time when we have felt the need for a physical spiritual center for our aspirations. It is at the central and highest point of the campus and symbolizes our aspiration to center ourselves on the roots of our academic enterprise n continuing the mission of Jesus in today's world. The Office of Mission and Identity is beside the Church.

What is specifically Catholic in these responses? The first, I think, is the concern for formation, in academic and professional skills yes, but equally in ethics, spirituality and values. This has led to our preserving and strengthening the core curriculum. And a concern for service and justice.

The second is our concern for vision and mission and the spiritual roots of our educational mission. As our Jesuit Father General, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, told Presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities last year, a concern for excellence is not enough. We must ask: "For whom and for what is this concern for excellence." Those of us in administration know that the pressures and drive to achieve a higher place in academic rankings for our universities can be all-consuming and we have little time or energy for much else. But in our more reflective moments we ask, "Why do I do these things? For whom and for what? "It is these questions that drove us at the Ateneo de Manila to go back to the spiritual roots of our educational mission. These spiritual roots go back to St. Ignatius' invitation to us to join the Trinity at the time of the Incarnation, looking at the world and responding to the needs of the world in compassion. We said:

This vision tells us that there is a world out there waiting to be served and to be saved.

The Trinity invites us to join the Second Person, Jesus Christ, in entering and serving that world.

This service should give of the best we have, as God gave His best, His own Son. We can only give this service of excellence if we prepare and in our Jesuit constitutions, St. Ignatius says that the best preparations for this service is through the development of our God-given gifts, first our spiritual gifts through prayer and growth in the spiritual life, our intellectual and professional gifts through rigorous academic studies, as well as our other gifts, sports, the arts, debate, etc.

From these spiritual roots of our educational mission, we see that the formation and education of leaders in service of the needs of the world is at the center. …