On May 20, 2021, the Society of Jesus began the celebration of the Ignatian Year. On that date 500 years ago, St. Ignatius Loyola was wounded by a cannonball while defending Pamplona, Spain. From his perspective, it seemed like a failure—yet it forever changed the course of his life. This moment started a process of conversion that led St. Ignatius to have bigger dreams, no longer centered on himself, but rather on God.
To celebrate the Ignatian Year, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has been honoring St. St. Ignatius in a variety of ways. Below is a conversation with the rector of LMU’s Jesuit Community, Rev. Edward Siebert, S.J., who reflects on this past year.
What did the Jesuits do to celebrate the Ignatian Year?
Rev. Edward Siebert, S.J.: It started in May with a Mass in the Jesuit Community to kick off the celebration. We had prayer cards made and distributed across campus. Rev. Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J., a Jesuit psychologist from Creighton University in Omaha, came to speak to us about racism and spirituality. That was a big moment for us because we wanted to tie in anti-racism with Ignatian spirituality. We also had Rev. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, come for the Casassa Lecture in March. His most recent book is The Pope and the Pandemic: Lessons in Leadership in a Time of Crisis (Orbis 2021).
Did you do anything for the Ignatian Year that focused on students?
November is Ignatian Heritage Month on campus every year, so we focused many of our efforts during that month. We had a Jesuit open house where we brought students into our community to talk about cannonball moments in their lives, which was the theme of the Ignatian Year. We also had at least five Jesuits giving out donuts to students on Lawton Plaza every week during the month of November.
The Jesuits also made an effort to bring Ignatian spirituality into our homilies during Mass. That was certainly true for the Mass of the Holy Spirit and Easter. We had banners in front of Sacred Heart Chapel that did a beautiful job of visually reminding us we are in the Year of St. Ignatius.
What is the LMU community called to do differently this year?
We were called to go deeper in Ignatian spirituality, which leads us on a deeper path toward God. And that is really what it is all about.
What does Ignatian spirituality mean to you?
St. Ignatius has given this tremendous gift to the Church and the world: the Spiritual Exercises. This is a spirituality that uses one’s imagination. As a filmmaker, I am a visual person. I find the use of Ignatian contemplation is key for my own spirituality. Every Jesuit does the Examen, which is really a pivotal part of our daily faith life.
The Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., has asked Catholics “to see all things new in Christ.” What does that mean?
For St. Ignatius, conversion was his cannonball moment. But conversions happen to all of us, whether that means one has a child or one loses a parent, or a job. Whatever those moments are in our lives that give us pause, we want to take them in and reflect on the deeper understanding of how God is working in our lives. Life should not be static. It should be in a state of constant deepening. I look back on what it meant for me to become a Jesuit when I first entered and that is very different than why I am still a Jesuit today—that’s because my relationship with God continues to grow deeper.
The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) ask us to focus on showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment, walking with the poor, journeying with the youth, and caring for our common home. How are we accomplishing the UAPs at LMU?
This list is very helpful because they are guideposts, and they help us to think about how we can go deeper. We are educating the youth. But how we can better share our faith experiences with the youth? How can our graduates go out and share their knowledge with others?
The care of the environment is really significant. LMU does so much for our sustainable efforts, but how can we do more to care for our common home? One simple example is that the Jesuits do a tree planting every year with a prayer service. We pray for all of those who take care of our garden, and we pray for the city, state and country. We pray that we really are good stewards of our natural resources.
We also want to share the Spiritual Exercises, discernment, and finding God in all things with others so that we can all learn from each other and be grounded in Ignatian Spirituality.
Finally, we are being called to serve the poor. That is in LMU’s DNA, with one part of our mission statement reading, “The service of faith and the promotion of justice.” Students go to the Center for Service and Action and Campus Ministry to volunteer regularly. LMU Loyola Law School is working with the incarcerated. We are making tremendous efforts with those on the margins. But I think we are being called to think about how we can do more. How can we help more people get access to this education? Are there more scholarship opportunities available? We have done some really good things, but we have a lot more to do in our city—there’s so much brokenness and there’s so much healing that needs to be done.
How do you think LMU did honoring the Ignatian Year?
I think we did well because the whole idea is to go deeper and to pause and reflect on the best pathway toward God. Ignatian spirituality leads us into a deeper understanding of who God is in our lives. We commemorate St. Ignatius because it’s the 500th anniversary of the cannonball moment. I think every year should be an Ignatian Year at a Jesuit institution.
By Christine Koehl, Associate Director for Marketing and Communications at Loyola Marymount University