When Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola was struck by a cannonball on May 20, 1521, it set into motion a transformation from a life of vanity to a life of service to God. More than five centuries later, the Ignatian Year provides us with a reminder to transform our lives just as St. Ignatiuse Loyola did: to forsake the superficial and to “see all things new in Christ.”
Throughout this past academic year, Jesuit colleges and universities worked to weave into their core messages the themes of the Ignatian Year, which began on May 20, 2021, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ “cannonball moment,” and concludes on July 31, 2022, the feast day of St. Ignatius.
Xavier University, for example, made the Ignatian Year the main theme of its Presidential Inauguration in October 2021 for Colleen Hanycz, Ph.D:, the first woman and layperson to serve as president in the University’s history. Inspired by this theme, the events leading up to Hanycz’s inauguration highlighted Xavier’s Jesuit tradition of cultivating lives of reflection, compassion and informed action while marking the anniversary of St. Ignatius’ injury.
“Drawing upon our Ignatian values, we encourage our students to treat those around them as subjects – not objects – developing relationships across our communities that will last a lifetime,” Hanycz said in her inaugural address. “We model for them holistic care for the entire person – cura personalis – calling them to care for one another, as we care for them, in mind, body and spirit, and inviting them to encounter something bigger than themselves.”
While a key aspect of the Ignatian Year is honoring the past, equally important is the call to be future-focused. A particularly impactful theme of the Ignatian Year that applies directly to higher education is “from profession to purpose,” inviting students to reflect more deeply on their vocation and how they can best use their talents to serve the world’s greatest needs.
While considering this plethora of needs can seem daunting, the Society of Jesus’ four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) serve as guideposts in addressing today’s challenges. Established in 2019 and guiding our attention through 2029, the UAPs are:
- To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
- To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
- To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
- To collaborate in the care of our common home
In the spirit of the Ignatian Year, these preferences aim to help us create positive change in the world. For example, the UAP of “caring for our common home,” can be seen in Xavier employees and students intent on improving sustainability in Greater Cincinnati and beyond. This spring, a group of Xavier faculty, staff and students have been embarking on field trips around the area to learn about sustainability practices, reducing waste, alternatives to consumerism, and the natural world around us.
“It’s really powerful from a Jesuit perspective to talk about caring for our common home, because it is ultimately that which sustains us,” said Clare Burke Ravizza, a 2022 Xavier graduate who served on the University’s Sustainability Committee as an intern. “The natural world gives us the food we eat, the sun we need, the air we breathe. All of these ecosystem services allow us to live the lives that we lead.”
Leading up to the Ignatian Year’s conclusion, the Jesuit community can continue – as Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J. urged in his 2019 letter calling for the Ignatian Year – to “be inspired to have the openness of heart that we need to receive the Holy Spirit, who wants to gift us the audacity of the impossible.”
To help inspire further reflection, prayers for the Ignatian Year are available through Xavier University’s JesuitResource.org.
Contributed by the Office of Marketing and Communications at Xavier University