In June, the presidents of three Jesuit institutions in the United States joined Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), on a weeklong pilgrimage to Rome. The trip was designed to familiarize the presidents with key offices in the Vatican (and their leaders) and to visit some of the most significant sites where the Society of Jesus was founded and still serves to coordinate its world-wide network of educational, spiritual and social works and projects.
Fr. Garanzini said, “It is equally important for those of us with major responsibilities in the apostolic works to help the Church and the Society’s central governance understand the challenges and opportunities we face. It is always a two-way street. Good collaboration is built through good relationships. These visits help both partners grow in respect for one another and appreciation.”
Highlights of the trip (which began on June 12 and concluded on June 17) included a tour of the Church of the Gesù (the “Mother Church” of the Society of Jesus where St. Ignatius of Loyola is buried); meetings with members of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Jesuit Curia, and Dicastery for Integral Human Development; and a visit to the Pontifical Gregorian University for meetings with faculty and resident Jesuits.
Saint Louis University’s (SLU) president, Dr. Fred Pestello, attended the pilgrimage with his wife, Dr. Fran Pestello, as well as SLU’s provost, Dr. Michael Lewis, and his wife, Dr. Heather Lewis. President Pestello said, “This was a spectacular trip. Provost Michael Lewis and I were pleased to join Fr. Garanzini and colleagues from Canisius and Holy Cross for productive conversations with leaders of Vatican dicasteries and offices. It is inspiring to see some of the ways that these dedicated individuals are—to borrow a phrase from the Universal Apostolic Preferences—contributing to a hope-filled future for the Church and the community of the faithful around the world. We had comfortable and free-flowing conversations based on mutual respect and shared purpose. I am proud of the manner in which AJCU and its member institutions are fostering conversations and building relationships between our universities and the Roman Curia.”
Steve K. Stoute, J.D., president of Canisius University, attended with his wife, Alison Stoute. President Stoute said, “The pilgrimage afforded the opportunity to reflect on our mission as a Catholic, Jesuit university, in the context of our centuries-old tradition, which is very much alive today. The time together with my colleagues, exploring how the Church and the Society of Jesus are responding to the signs of the times, has energized me and filled me with hope about our collective capacity to answer the call of our society.”
The third president in attendance was Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D. of the College of the Holy Cross, who was joined by two colleagues: Michele Murray, Senior Vice President for Mission and Ministry, and Rev. Timothy O’Brien, S.J., Associate Vice President for Mission. President Rougeau said, “In June, I had an opportunity to travel to Rome with the presidents of AJCU, Canisius and Saint Louis. Our visits took us to a number of places in the Vatican that had particular resonance for Catholic higher education, including the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Gregorian University. We met Rev. Carlo Casalone, S.J., who works on the difficult issues of abortion, contraception, and assisted suicide for the Pontifical Academy for Life, and on my final day in Rome, we visited for several hours at the Jesuit Curia, where we had an opportunity to meet with Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J. and to hear a wonderful presentation by staff members from Jesuit Refugee Service.
“These are just some of the major highlights of our time and there is much I could discuss as I reflect on our visit. I did, however, have one overarching impression that continues to strike me: the Church is a global institution that is rapidly shifting its orientation toward Africa, Asia and Latin America. This means that many of the issues that are central for Catholics in North America and Europe are increasingly less salient (though still present) in the day-to-day work of many groups in Rome. Global concerns about social and economic justice, for instance, are driving conversations across a wide range of areas in which the Church is involved, from the climate crisis to migration issues, to conversations around democracy and human rights. This is a development for those of us in the U.S. to consider with some humility. It is also an exciting opportunity for Jesuit higher education. Our work of preparing young people with a sense of hope for the future should ensure that they are ready to be leaders in a time of global complexity, and to be persons for others who can serve a global Church.”
Contact: Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU