In the course of keeping myself fresh on Ignatian and Jesuit education, I've been reading some of the talks of the Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J. I realized that despite all that I've read on Catholic and Jesuit education, I've not spent much time discovering what he has to say.
Needless to say, I'm glad I did. Almost four years ago, in April of 2010, at a conference in Mexico City, Fr. Nicolás gave a talk titled, "Depth, Universality, and Learned Ministry: Challenges to Jesuit Higher Education Today." It's outstanding. In just a few short pages, I found myself underlining and highlighting a number of lines and paragraphs that I want to mull over and share.
For educators at all levels, it's worth reading -- and re-reading -- the entire talk, and I won't excerpt all my favorite parts. But I do want to single out some of his closing thoughts, because they provide thorough context for the state of Ignatian education along with excellent questions for an extended educational examen. They are especially timely now, as teachers begin to reflect upon the year that's ending, while already preparing for next academic year.
Speaking about lay-Jesuit collaboration and the work of the future, he observes:
If we Jesuits were alone, we might look to the future with a heavy heart. But with the professionalism, commitment, and depth that we have in our lay collaborators, we can continue dreaming, beginning new enterprises, and moving forward together. We need to continue and even increase these laudable efforts.
I think one of the most, perhaps the most, fundamental ways of dealing with this is to place ourselves in the spiritual space of Ignatius and the first companions and -- with their energy, creativity, and freedom -- ask their basic question afresh: What are the needs of the Church and our world, where are we needed most, and where and how can we serve best? We are in this together, and that is what we must remember rather than worrying about Jesuit survival. I would invite you, for a few moments, to think of yourselves, not as presidents or CEOs of large institutions, or administrators or academics, but as co-founders of a new religious group, discerning God's call to you as an apostolic body in the Church. In this globalized world, with all its lights and shadows, would -- or how would -- running all these universities still be the best way we can respond to the mission of the Church and the needs of the world? Or perhaps, the question should be: What kind of universities, with what emphases and what directions, would we run, if we were re-founding the Society of Jesus in today's world? I am inviting, in all my visits to all Jesuits, to re-create the Society of Jesus, because I think every generation has to re-create the faith, they have to re-create the journey, they have to re-create the institutions. This is not only a good desire. If we lose the ability to re-create, we have lost the spirit.
See the full address here.