Over the past few weeks, administrators, faculty and staff from Jesuit colleges and universities have gathered together for programs to support their work in mission. Stephanie Russell, vice president for mission integration at AJCU, and Joe DeFeo, executive director of the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), recently shared reports from the respective AJCU Mission Officers’ Council meeting at Santa Clara University and the ICP Magis retreat at the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA. Read on to learn more.

AJCU Mission Officers at Santa Clara University

From November 15-17, members of the AJCU Mission Officers’ Council held their annual fall meeting at Santa Clara University, hosted by Alison Benders and Michael Nuttall. The Council gathers every fall and holds Zoom sessions in the intervening months. Whether in-person or virtual, the M&I Council provides important opportunities for members to explore common concerns and issues, exchange best practices, and engage in collaborative projects for advancing the Jesuit, Catholic mission in our schools. In addition, they now formally serve in an advisory capacity to the AJCU Presidents.

There has been some turnover in the membership of the CMO Council over the past few years, but discussions among the participants were frank and robust, forging new, cooperative relationships. The agenda included plenary presentations and conversations on (a) Our Catholic, Jesuit mission and DEI, (b) Campus ministry and forming an Ignatian, Catholic campus culture, (c) Learnings from, and updates for, the Mission Priority Examen (MPE), (d) Mission integration with and for faculty, and (e) Sustainability on Jesuit campuses and next steps in light of Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation on the environment, Laudate Deum.

Table discussions also focused on:

On these and other topics, mission officers listened to thoughtful speakers, responded to prepared discussion papers, and/or shared best practices from their own campuses. Ignatian reflection, Mass, and a prayerful, walking Camino on Santa Clara’s campus in Santa Clara, CA were essential parts of the gathering, providing time and spiritual space for contemplation.

The deep experience, broad range of responsibility, and trust among the AJCU Mission Officers is a gift to all AJCU schools. Their collaborative and creative spirit betters every Jesuit college or university in the AJCU network, and it is the hope of AJCU to support their efforts and development in substantive ways. It was a privilege to join this committed group of servant-leaders whose work is so deeply reflected in bringing the Universal Apostolic Preferences to life on our campuses. – Stephanie Russell

Magis Retreat participants

Last month, I had the privilege of accompanying twenty-four participants from the Ignatian Colleagues Program through our 7-day Magis Retreat at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA. Witnessing these hardworking leaders who hail from across many of our AJCU institutions, who arrived curious, tired and unsure of what to expect during this week away from their daily lives, provided much-needed time for rest, reflection and prayer.

As they settled into the week, listening to talks on the themes and graces within the “weeks” of the Spiritual Exercises, engaging in daily conversations with their spiritual directors, and enjoying the beauty and quiet of the space with amazing views of the water, they received much healing and renewal for their bodies and spirits. Even though I have been accompanying leaders through ICP for nearly a decade, it is always a gift for me to notice what seems like years falling from their shoulders. The retreat often brings them back to themselves, having connected or reconnected with their God, leaving with a renewed sense of hope and desire to serve.

This year, ICP welcomed nearly fifty participants from across the AJCU network in multiple cohorts. Participants invest much time and energy as they engage in experiences to better understand our Jesuit and Catholic mission and identity, so that they may lead our institutions with a mission-focused lens. In addition to the retreat, participants experience an ICP orientation; an international encounter to locales such as El Salvador, Peru or the Dominican Republic; a summer workshop centered on social justice; online learning modules; and a capstone experience to help prepare them for the work ahead. All of these efforts seek to deepen the bench of our AJCU mission-centered leaders. – Joe DeFeo