“The Catholic university is where the Church does its thinking.” I’ve heard this statement countless times as a way for individual colleges and universities to highlight the scholarly contributions their individual faculty make toward deepening the Church’s understanding of the physical world, metaphysical realities, and the human condition in light of the Gospel message to love God and one another. But what happens when 28 Jesuit, Catholic institutions come together to engage in shared thinking about questions of justice, hope, and love? We are about to find out.

Over the course of three days, the upcoming AJCU Faith, Justice, & Reconciliation Assembly 2024: Creation of a Hope-filled Future (July 16-19, 2024) will provide thought leadership to issues that otherwise threaten to further fray, rather than repair, our social fabrics. The Assembly will bring together teams of faculty, staff, and administrators from Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States and Belize to explore bold responses to big questions:

These are questions designed to provoke and to inspire. They are, in a very Jesuit way, an invitation to contemplation and action.

Assembly 2024 will showcase the contributions of six Commissions comprised of colleagues across the country, who have spent nearly 18 months wrestling with harrowing concerns for which there are no easy answers, but for which we must do our level best to interrupt, unravel, and offer resolution. In preparation for the Assembly, each Commission was charged with exploring the constituent parts of a particular social concern impacting Jesuit higher education and offering practical recommendations for how our AJCU member institutions may respond with a greater commitment to faith, justice, and reconciliation.

Although not exhaustive of all current social concerns, the six Commissions cover major issues that relate to the Society of Jesus’ Universal Apostolic Preferences and for which Jesuit institutions, and the Church, desire guidance:

The work of the Assembly is to understand how we are being called both as individual institutions, but also as a network, to move forward in hope. The collaborative work of these six Commissions will guide our conversations and reflections. Together, we will explore and discern the role of Jesuit higher education in preparing global citizens in an age of heightened polarization, and in making real Pope Francis’ vision of an integral ecology for healing our common home. We will leverage the benefits of our shared Ignatian tradition to meet students where they are, teach them effectively, and equip them to move toward a hope-filled future. Our commitment to walk with the excluded will have us look honestly at our institutional involvement with systematic oppression and how we can work toward right relationship in a shared mission of reconciliation and justice. This Assembly promises to harness the collective power of the AJCU network regarding issues that matter.

Since its founding, the Society of Jesus has been missioned by the Pope to go to the frontiers of society. The issues this Assembly has chosen to elevate push the boundaries of how we understand and contribute to just and humane societies. The creation of boundary-spanning, interdisciplinary and cross-institutional teams challenges our routine approaches to problem-solving. The Assembly itself, then, exemplifies the Jesuit tradition of going to the borders and seeking the Magis–the “more” or better options.

If the Catholic university is indeed where the Church does its thinking, Jesuit institutions provide thought leadership on issues at the frontiers, where the Society of Jesus has been missioned for almost 500 years. In a world where sound scholarship can influence policy, and thought leadership can shape public opinion, may Assembly 2024 be a force multiplier for issues of faith, justice, and reconciliation.

Dr. Michele C. Murray, Senior Vice President for Student Development and Mission, College of the Holy Cross