Contributed by Stan Zygmunt, Director of News and Media Relations, The University of Scranton

University of Scranton students participating in the travel course, Christianity in the Middle East, in January 2020. Dr. Azar developed the course intended to introduce students to Christians living in the Holy Land. (Photos Courtesy of The University of Scranton)


A travel course meant to engage students in the present-day lives of Christians living in the Holy Land has led to a new perspective regarding the ancient religious texts researched by The University of Scranton Theology Associate Professor Michael G. Azar, Ph.D. Here, he shares how his course, Christianity in the Middle East, deepened his theological scholarship in unexpected ways.

“The focus of my scholarly work has mostly been the Biblical and patristic periods, but I started this travel course because I was also interested in current Jewish-Christian relations in the Holy Land,” Dr. Azar said. “Now, the contemporary experience informs my scholarship in ways I didn’t really expect. The book I am currently writing on Orthodox Christianity and Jewish-Christian relations focuses not just on ancient theological sources, but also incorporates contemporary Christian-Jewish interaction in the Holy Land.” He never thought he’d be doing both in the same project.

Dr. Azar’s early research focused on the New Testament and the way Christians and Jews interacted with one another in the first few centuries after Jesus.

His first book, “Exegeting the Jews: The Early Reception of the Johannine ‘Jews’” (Brill, 2016), examined Greek patristic readings of the “Jews” of St. John’s Gospel.

Through his research, Dr. Azar began to realize that much scholarly work has focused on Jewish-Christian relations from Western perspectives. What he found missing was the interaction that has existed in the Holy Land for the past 1,500 years.

“I am focusing on ways Orthodox Christians in the region continue to interact with or speak about Jews in the period between the early church to the founding of the State of Israel,” Dr. Azar said. “Since the 600s, Christians and Jews in the Eastern Mediterranean region have generally shared the experience of living as subjected communities. In Western civilization, Christians were the dominant community. When you shift the focus to that of Eastern Christians living with Jews as subjected communities, that changes your perspective. With the State of Israel, Jews, for the first time in centuries, are the dominant community.”

Dr. Azar is a deacon in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and a National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellow at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. He also is among the organizers planning the 11th bilateral dialogue between Orthodox Christians and Jews planned for late 2022.

Michael G. Azar, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology/Religious Studies at The University of Scranton


Dr. Azar’s parents are from Lebanon, so the Christian communities in the Middle East have always been part of his background, but not part of his scholarly work. During his dissertation research as a doctoral student at Fordham, Dr. Azar spent some time in Jerusalem. There for a few months, he had the opportunity to interact with local Christian communities. He also noticed that most tours of the Holy Land lacked this interaction and did not benefit these communities. That planted a seed in his mind for a travel course.

“The pilgrimages focused on Jesus, but not the people living there who bear his name,” he said, noting that the tour groups “treat the Holy Land as a museum, visit the prominent sites only and do not interact with the local Christians who live there.”

Dr. Azar designed the travel course at Scranton to overcome that critical missing piece.

“The travel course, Christianity in the Middle East, does take students to the holy sites, but the main focus is to allow the students to get to know the local Christian communities,” Dr. Azar said. Not only their history and statistics, he adds, but also their everyday lives. “We visit with Christians operating nonprofits,” he explained. “We also visit a Christian-founded brewery. By doing this, we introduce ourselves not only to local Christians but more broadly to Palestinian culture as well, because the vast majority of Christians living there are Palestinian.”

Dr. Azar notes that until he started the course a few years after arriving at Scranton, his research focused on ancient texts. Through this course, though, he began to realize that contemporary relationships have a tremendous effect on the way scholars understand the ancient world.

His current project, “Orthodox Christianity and the Reframing of Christian-Jewish Relations,” examines the ways in which Orthodox Christianity’s history, hermeneutics and contemporary expression in Palestine and Israel can redefine the academic field of Christian-Jewish relations. His research is supported through a Faculty Fellowship at the Gail and Francis Slattery Center for the Ignatian Humanities at The University of Scranton and through a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Grant from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Biblical Association.

Dr. Azar’s travel course is also having a ripple effect with his students. Sofia Zingone, a philosophy major at Scranton and a student fellow at Scranton’s Gail and Francis Slattery Center for the Ignatian Humanities, participated in the travel course in January of 2020. Now a junior, she is working on a project to explore ways to incorporate the Christian community into tours of Bethlehem.

“The course Christianity in the Middle East, which included my travel to Jerusalem with Fr. Azar, was the inspiration for my project,” Zingone said. “The most touching part of the trip was when Fr. Azar took us to a Greek Orthodox Mass spoken completely in Arabic. Connecting with the community of this church was very moving, and after Mass, we spoke with members of the community over coffee. It was truly amazing to spend time with a Christian community in the Holy Land, a place so important to the Christian traditions. Being able to talk and relate to Christians from a very different part of the world was a unique and genuine experience.”

Contributed by the Office of University Marketing and Communications at Saint Louis University

Tom Kiefer, Pink Camo, 2021. Archival digital prints, each 28 x 28 in. Courtesy of the artist/REDUX Pictures.


In July 2003, fine art photographer Tom Kiefer started working part-time as a janitor and groundskeeper at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility near Ajo, Arizona. In mid-2007, he was given permission to collect food confiscated from migrants and asylum seekers and donate it to a local food pantry. He was deeply moved at finding personal belongings in the trash bins along with the food. These items, necessary for hygiene, comfort and survival, were deemed “non-essential” or “potentially lethal” and seized and discarded by officials. Kiefer began to quietly rescue what items he could, and he resigned from his job in August 2014 to focus on photographing and documenting them in an ongoing project titled El Sueño Americano / The American Dream.

Kiefer approaches the objects he photographs without pretense. The people who carried these items to the Mexico-U.S. border are bodily absent, but their stories are encoded in the objects, so that Kiefer’s “portraits” of individual objects prompt viewers to imagine the lives and journeys of the people who carried them. Meanwhile, his “mass assemblies” evoke both the great numbers of people arriving from diverse points of origin and the failure of convoluted immigration policies and systems.

Pertenencias / Belongings places Kiefer’s photographs within a broader consideration of the human need to migrate, driven by the need not only to survive, but to flourish in body, mind and spirit. This human drive often draws on the power of hope and faith, which are reflected and manifested in many of the objects Kiefer documents. The exhibition invites reflection on what it means to possess and what it means to lose, and what it means to belong: how we define who is included and who is excluded, how we distinguish between the sacred and the ordinary, and how those boundaries are enforced.

Pertenencias / Belongings features 80 photographs, many newly created for the exhibition, and 6 mantas bordadas (embroidered textiles) selected from among the dozens of handcrafted cloths Kiefer recovered at the CBP facility. A significant feature of the exhibition is a series of photographs of backpacks that evoke the Christian devotional practice of the Stations of the Cross. Backpacks are an essential element of the migrant journey, and Kiefer found a compelling connection between Jesus carrying his cross and migrants carrying all their worldly possessions on their backs across the desert. As visitors walk the perimeter of the gallery—which was originally a chapel—contemplating each backpack, they will engage a rhythm of movement and meditation similar to the traditional Stations of the Cross.

I felt it was important to honor and show the beauty of these objects that were taken away from people. And what better way to do it than just to present them in a beautiful way. . . . Everything had an intent and purpose. And it belonged to someone. This work is about humanity, and the inhumanity of how we treat others, those who are the most vulnerable. . . . This work is about the preciousness and the importance of everybody, how we’re interconnected—we need each other.

— Tom Kiefer

About the Artist: Tom Kiefer (b. 1959, Wichita, KS) is an artist based in Ajo, Arizona. Kiefer’s photographic projects explore the infrastructure and cultural landscapes of the United States, blending fine art and documentary modes. His previous project Journey West Exhibit (2007) chronicled the landscape, structures, and cultural markers connecting the Arizona cities of Phoenix, Tucson, and Ajo. Kiefer’s work has been exhibited across the US, including the Fuller Craft Museum (Boston, MA); the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (Saugatuck, MI); the Northlight Gallery at Arizona State University (Phoenix, AZ); ArtsXchange (St. Petersburg, FL); and ArtPrize 2018 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2015, Kiefer was included in LensCulture’s Top 50 Emerging Photographers and Photolucida’s Top 50 Critical Mass lists, and has been featured in news publications nationally and internationally.

This article was originally published on

Contributed by Taylor Ha, Senior Staff Writer and Videographer, Fordham University

In her new book, “Kindred Spirits: Friendship and Resistance at the Edges of Modern Catholicism,” Brenna Moore, Ph.D., professor of theology at Fordham University, explores an international network of “20th-century Catholic movers and shakers” who resisted forms of oppression and sustained their work through friendship.

These Catholic historians, theologians, poets and activists fought against issues in the early to mid-1900s that still exist today, said Moore, including European xenophobia and racism in the United States. Among them are Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay and Gabriela Mistral, the first Nobel prize laureate from Latin America. Their friendships with like-minded colleagues took place not only in person, but also in other forms of consciousness, like memory, imagination and prayer. In this Q&A, Moore describes how these spiritual friendships fueled their activism and how today’s activists can learn from their predecessors who lived more than a century ago.

How is your book relevant to today’s world?

The people in my book took stands on many issues that are still with us today. For example, poet Claude McKay was a Black Catholic who wrote prolifically about police brutality and white “friends” who are sympathetic with their Black friends, yet do nothing to help. He wrote about this more than 80 years ago in ways that are remarkably descriptive of our own time. Another example is in chapter three, where I write about a group of activists who countered anti-Islamic sentiment among Catholics and tried to come up with a more humane and sophisticated way of understanding Islam. Many of these issues continue to assail us today, but they were engaged very creatively by this early generation of activists and thinkers. As we work today to create a more inclusive world, we don’t have to start from scratch. We should look at some of the experiments that took place in the earlier part of the last century and learn from their mistakes and successes.

What can they teach us about navigating today’s politics?

It’s really tough to engage in today’s politics. But the Catholic activists were very clear and convinced that to do the difficult work of political solidarity and making a change in the world, you have to be energized and animated by feelings of love, support, joy, pleasure and interpersonal connection. They were very explicit that friendship was the fuel for their work. Their political organizations included the word amitié, which means friendship in French. Their political work, art and writing, and even their religious lives were sustained by what they called “spiritual friendship.” There was no way to do their work without that.

Do they have any advice about negotiating one’s faith?

There are those of us—myself included—who have a complicated relationship with Roman Catholicism. We are members of the Catholic church, yet we are disappointed by the church hierarchy and clerical culture, especially in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. But these Catholic artists and activists also felt, at times, incredible disappointment and frustration with their church leadership. They often spoke out against racism, European colonialism and anti-Semitism, in contrast to a church leadership that too often stayed silent, advocated obedience or upheld violent societal structures. They reclaimed our Catholic heritage and made it more multicultural and just, and they point a way forward for people who might feel similarly today.

Spiritual friendship was an important part of the activists’ lives. How did they maintain those relationships? And how did they enhance their work?

I discovered this world of friendship while reviewing some historical archives. I found some of the activists’ files, and I could see and touch all the letters that they wrote to their friends. But they weren’t simply letters. Many had sacred objects tucked inside: holy medallions, little crosses made of twigs, pictures that they painted or drew. There was a sacred materiality to both the letters and objects. Letters to friends weren’t just a casual thing—this was how holiness was communicated to one another, in these things that were touched, felt, and mailed back and forth, sometimes across the Atlantic.

One friendship I might highlight is the friendship between Gabriela Mistral, a poet who became the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Jacques Maritain, a Catholic philosopher. They first met in Paris, where people gathered from all over the world. Gabriela was a writer who was seeking intellectual collaboration in the interwar period. She became friends with Jacques, who shared similar values, including rejecting typical heterosexual matrimony and having children. Jacques was married to a woman, but they shared a vow of celibacy and never had children. Gabriela was a gay woman who never married and raised the son of a family member who had died. They both lived their lives in disjunction from the mainstream family norms at the time.

Gabriela was very involved in bringing Jacques’ ideas about democracy and antifascism for Catholics into Latin America. She ensured that his publications were translated into Spanish and disseminated in Chilean universities, seminaries and bookstores and helped to develop a more liberal Catholicism during this period. Her name is hidden in the history of Catholic thought, whereas Jacques is very famous. But it is through their friendship, especially their long-distance correspondence, that his ideas became internationalized.

How does your book connect to Fordham and its Jesuit mission?

I believe the women and men in my book model the kind of Catholicism that Fordham would be proud of. They shared a passion for connecting with the long roots of the Catholic heritage, but in a way that cultivated openness to difference and courage to disrupt the status quo. These men and women took personal risks to live lives of solidarity with those who were vulnerable in the 20th century. This is the kind of faith we talk about a lot at Fordham.

Photos courtesy of Brenna Moore


You’ve said that these friendships were sustained over long distances and long periods of time. Did that remind you of our attempts to stay connected during the pandemic?

Many of my characters had close friendships, but they spent years apart. Some were sent into exile in Brazil; others returned to Harlem during World War II. Yet they sustained friendships over long periods of time through the realm of memory, imagination and correspondence. It was possible for them to sustain friendships that weren’t face to face, the way many of us did during the pandemic, and that was comforting to me.

What is a key takeaway from your book, especially for a non-religious audience?

The people in this past world, although chronologically distant from us, address many issues that face us today. They were often critical of the church, state and racist institutions, but they experimented with other modes of belonging, connection and solidarity.

Some of their utopian experiments failed, and they didn’t always live up to the ideals they had for themselves. One example is Maison Simone Weil, founded in 1962 by Nazi resistor Marie-Magdeleine Davy. It was a utopian international dormitory and summer community where students from all over the world would gather in rural France to discuss many of the pressing ideas of the 1960s: peace, war, global spirituality, existentialism. The goal was to forge relationships among international students and contribute to peacemaking. It was a successful project while it lasted, but shuttered its doors after only a few years.

Yet the activists in my book constantly experimented with alternative modes of living, in connection to one another and to God. These are people who attempted to change the world because they were dissatisfied with the status quo—the way many of us still are today.

This article was originally published in Fordham News.

Contributed by Jeannine Carolan Graf, ‘87, Fairfield University

(L-R): Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., and Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Photo Courtesy of Fairfield University)


Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., offered the welcoming address at an international conference in November that commemorated the life and work of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., the University’s patron saint. During this time, he also met with Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus.

The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome was the co-sponsor with Fairfield for this theological colloquium.

Entitled “Rethinking Bellarmine Between Theology, Philosophy and History,” the three-day conference, held from November 17 to 19, commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Bellarmine (1621-2021), a professor and rector-president of the Jesuit’s Roman College—forerunner of the Gregorian—in the century after the death of St. Ignatius. Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church and a notable figure during the Counter-Reformation. He was canonized in 1930.

In his welcoming remarks to the assembly of scholars from around the globe, Dr. Nemec shared his vision of a Jesuit and Catholic university, drawing on the tradition of St. Bellarmine.

“I would suggest one important lesson we take from the life and work of St. Robert Bellarmine is the duality of a higher education: that it is ever-evolving and ever-true,” Dr. Nemec said. “It is value-based, student-centric and outcomes-focused, preparing young men and women of purpose ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

The colloquium concluded with the celebration of vespers at the Church of Sant’Ignazio and the incensing of the altar, where the relics of St. Bellarmine are held.

During the trip, Dr. Nemec met with Rev. Douglas W. Marcouiller, S.J., general counselor and U.S. regional assistant at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, and Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus. Dr. Nemec was accompanied on the trip by Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, S.J., assistant to the president and alumni chaplain. While there, they also toured the Church of the Gesù where St. Ignatius of Loyola’s remains are preserved, and were granted special access to the private rooms where St. Ignatius lived during his decades in Rome.

In their meetings, Fr. Marcouiller and Fr. Sosa discussed with Dr. Nemec how the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus have been incorporated into Fairfield’s Magis Core Curriculum, as well as programs offered by the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality. Also discussed were Fairfield’s plan for a new academic unit that would serve students from low-income and under-represented families, primarily in the surrounding Bridgeport region, Fr. Blaszczak said.

This article was originally published on

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” says a popular Christmas song. For many, it is! In their personal lives, people are happily busy—celebrating holidays with lights and candles, decorating homes, trimming trees, searching for meaningful gifts…much of it in anticipation of the upcoming holiday or on the heels of one. Our Jesuit colleges and universities are marking Advent with choral concerts and festivities in anticipation of the joyful Christmas holiday season.

There is great anticipation on Capitol Hill too, but of a different kind—the hold-your-breath, maybe-not-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year kind for those working in the Capitol. If you follow Congress, then you know that members of the House and Senate are also busy. Their work is more stressful and less joy-filled. In a high-stakes, high-pressure environment, they are trying to advance must-pass legislation before the New Year.

Fiscal Year 2022 funding: The federal fiscal year expired on September 30th. As in years past, the House and Senate did not complete action on the fiscal year 2022 (FY’22) legislation and instead passed a “continuing resolution” (CR), thus keeping the government open and funded at the current fiscal year funding levels through December 3rd.

At the end of last week, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate had yet to come to the table to resolve the FY’22 funding differences. (The House Democrats have passed their appropriations bills, and the Senate Democrats have released draft legislation. Republicans in the House and Senate have not put forward any counterproposals to date). To avoid a government shutdown, Congress passed a second CR extending government funding through February 18th. Passing the CRs keeps the government functioning, but the CRs extend the funding levels proposed by the Trump administration.

What’s included in the FY’22 education funding bill? That legislation includes a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant along with other key investments in federal education programs. Significantly, the 13 appropriations bills are must-pass legislation. These bills keep our federal government operating. If the appropriations bills are not passed by February 18th, then Congress must pass another CR, or the government will shut down.

Build Back Better (BBB): What else is keeping Congress busy? Democrats in the House and Senate continue to negotiate a FY’22 budget reconciliation bill. Build Back Better (BBB) is a human infrastructure investment proposal that provides resources for childcare, universal pre-K, Pell Grants (a proposed $550 increase to the Pell maximum) and other policy areas intended to support people/families in their effort to get back on track in our near post-pandemic world.

The House Democrats passed a $1.7 trillion proposal and sent that package to the Senate. In the Senate, Democrats continue to debate specific provisions and overall funding levels. Because no Republicans support BBB, the Democrats need to assure that every single member of their party is on board, in full support of the bill…or it cannot pass.

Is budget reconciliation a must-pass bill? Not exactly. The government will stay open whether or not BBB passes, but the Democrats have a lot at stake in this bill—and it’s a must-pass for them in terms of advancing President Biden’s agenda and fulfilling his vision for our national recovery.

Both these bills include significant plus-ups for valuable programs that, if passed and signed into law, would make post-secondary study more accessible and affordable and would ensure greater completion. The increases to Pell, both of which we hope to see enacted this year, would be a down payment on a Biden administration campaign “promise” and a higher education community goal of doubling the maximum federal Pell Grant from $6,495 to $13,000.

Debt ceiling: You have likely heard the term “debt ceiling” in the news lately. According to a White House white paper, “the debt limit is a ceiling imposed by Congress on the amount of debt that the U.S. Federal government can have outstanding. Once the debt limit is hit, the Federal government cannot increase the amount of outstanding debt; therefore, it can only draw from any cash on hand and spend its incoming revenues. Because the United States has never defaulted on its obligations, the scope of the negative repercussions of not satisfying all Federal obligations due to the debt limit are unknown; it is expected to be widespread and catastrophic for the U.S. (and global) economy.”

What are the real-life impacts of breaching the debt ceiling? Financial crisis, credit downgrade, interest penalties, recession, unemployment and non-payment of safety net programs like Social Security. According to the Congressional Research Service, since World War II, Congress has enacted 98 debt limit modifications. These have mostly been bipartisan votes. With the debt ceiling projected to be reached around mid-December, this is another critical must-pass piece of legislation that Congress must resolve as soon as possible.

The Senate is currently debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2022. The NDAA provides the framework for spending at the Department of Defense. While not an education bill, it includes some provisions that will have an impact on colleges and universities. The NDAA is first in line to advance (it is pending Senate business), and the other legislation mentioned will follow the NDAA. While it does not have to be passed by the end of the year, it traditionally has been.

Passing one bill can be a challenge, especially in a charged, political environment. Passing all these bills by the deadlines that are internally or externally imposed—well, that might require a miracle. The Jesuit Global website describes Advent as a season of waiting with hopeful expectation. It serves as a good description of our longing for Congress to come together and advance legislation that will direct resources to students with demonstrated economic need, putting us on a path towards equity and opportunity.

 Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., 35th president of Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH (photo courtesy of Xavier)

Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., 35th president of Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH (photo courtesy of Xavier)

 Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D., 33rd president of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (photo courtesy of Holy Cross)

Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D., 33rd president of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (photo courtesy of Holy Cross)

 Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., 29th president of The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA (photo courtesy of

Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., 29th president of The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA (photo courtesy of

 Eduardo M. Peñalver, J.D., 22nd president of Seattle University (photo courtesy of Seattle U)

Eduardo M. Peñalver, J.D., 22nd president of Seattle University (photo courtesy of Seattle U)

 Alan R. Miciak, Ph.D., 26th president of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH (screenshot of installation ceremony at the Church of the Gesu)

Alan R. Miciak, Ph.D., 26th president of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH (screenshot of installation ceremony at the Church of the Gesu)

 Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., 35th president of Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH (photo courtesy of Xavier)  Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D., 33rd president of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (photo courtesy of Holy Cross)  Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., 29th president of The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA (photo courtesy of  Eduardo M. Peñalver, J.D., 22nd president of Seattle University (photo courtesy of Seattle U)  Alan R. Miciak, Ph.D., 26th president of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH (screenshot of installation ceremony at the Church of the Gesu)

It’s been an exciting fall on five Jesuit campuses across the country, where new presidents have been inaugurated: Xavier University, College of the Holy Cross, Seattle University, The University of Scranton and John Carroll University. We invite you to read excerpts from the speeches they delivered during their installation ceremonies, and to watch highlights from inauguration week activities, now available on YouTube. We pray for our new presidents and thank them for their leadership! (Please note: excerpts listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent ceremony on October 28.)

Xavier University

“The temptation is always to view an inauguration as being focused on the person wearing the new robe. But the real focus of an inauguration should be on the institution itself. It is about the resilience of this place, thriving through countless generations of students and faculty and staff and alumni and presidents outliving its founders, and with certainty, being destined to outlive all of us here today.” – President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.

Click here to read more excerpts from President Hanycz’s remarks, delivered during her installation on campus at Xavier University on October 28, 2021. More photos, videos (including the full installation ceremony) and highlights from Inauguration Week events can be found here.

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College of the Holy Cross

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“This is our enduring mission, guided by our Catholic faith, and reflecting the changing times. This is a moment of opportunity, of audacious hope, and belief in the transformative power of education…At Holy Cross, we accept that our world is knotty and imperfect. We believe that the best preparation for the challenges of the 21st century is a broad liberal education rooted in discovery, and amplified by our Catholic intellectual traditions.” – President Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D.

Click here to read more excerpts from President Rougeau’s remarks, delivered during his installation ceremony, held on campus at the College of the Holy Cross on October 22, 2021. More photos, videos (including the full installation ceremony) and highlights from Inauguration Week events can be found here.

Seattle University

“As Seattle University’s 22nd President, I am committed to stewarding our unique approach to the academic enterprise, ensuring that our bold ambition to become a university that is simultaneously innovative and progressive and Jesuit and Catholic [is realized]. No matter what field of study our students have chosen, from political science to computer science, they need to understand data and technology, not just in their technical dimensions, but through a lens that includes their impact on human beings and on our communities.” – President Eduardo M. Peñalver, J.D.

Click here to read more excerpts from President Peñalver’s remarks, delivered during his installation ceremony, held on campus at Seattle University on September 24, 2021. More photos, videos (including the full installation ceremony) and highlights from Inauguration Week events can be found here.

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The University of Scranton

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“The community that is Scranton is authentic, and you can feel it almost immediately when stepping onto our beautiful campus. We are a family. Our community is not an insulated one. It is grounded in God’s love. Our university exists because of Jesus Christ. And our future will be stoked by the fire of the Holy Spirit for decades to come. This triune reality makes our community open to all, not despite their differences, but precisely because of them. We are made stronger by our diversity and by our love for one another.” – President Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J.

Click here to read more excerpts from President Marina’s remarks, delivered during his installation on campus at The University of Scranton on September 24, 2021. More photos can be viewed here.

John Carroll University

“We stand at a crossroad as a University. Behind us lay our share of mistakes and regrets, along with a long history of responding to the urgency of a particular moment with imagination and courage. Ahead lay the great challenges and opportunities of this century: climate, health, technology, energy, security, hunger, justice, equity…I believe that we can — we must — resolve such tensions if we are to prepare this generation of young people to meet this moment. Only then, only by our example, can we then call upon these young people to unleash a storm of innovation and change to address the world’s greatest needs.” – President Alan R. Miciak, Ph.D.

Click here for the full text of President Miciak’s remarks, delivered during his installation at the Church of the Gesu in Cleveland, OH on September 9, 2021.

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By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU



This month’s issue of Connections coincides with LGBT History Month: a time to acknowledge the contributions made by LGBT individuals toward expanding gay rights and civil rights. At Jesuit colleges and universities, many faculty and staff are leading the way toward creating increasingly welcome campuses for students (and fellow faculty and staff) who identify as members of the LGBT community.

You will learn about retreats through University Ministry at the University of San Francisco; “Safe Zone” training at Saint Joseph’s University; the history of LGBTQIA+ programs and initiatives at Canisius University; and anti-harassment initiatives through the Law School at Gonzaga University. We are also pleased to feature a student’s perspective on LGBT resources at Jesuit schools, written by our AJCU summer intern, Nora McCaughey, now a senior at Marquette University.

These are just a few examples of how our schools are serving members of the LGBT community, while living out the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, including “Walking with the Excluded” and “Journeying with Youth.” As Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J. wrote, “To accompany young people demands of us authenticity of life, spiritual depth, and openness to sharing the life-mission that gives meaning to who we are and what we do. Having these, we can learn, along with the young, to find God in all things, and through our ministries and apostolates, we can help them live this stage of their lives more profoundly.” AMDG.

By Camille Shira Angel and Jane Bleasdale, University of San Francisco


A fall 2019 USF fair showcasing Queering Religion student projects (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Angel)



In its newly revised mission statement, the University of San Francisco (USF) includes sexual orientation and gender as two of the many identities of community members that are now acknowledged and affirmed publicly. Many people in the USF community have shared that now, for the first time, they feel recognized and can connect to the University’s mission.

The new mission statement is just one of many ways that faculty and staff at USF are working to welcome, celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community. Here, Rabbi Camille Shira Angel and Dr. Jane Bleasdale discuss those efforts for both undergraduate and graduate students.


Rabbi Camille Shira Angel with Qmmunity leader, Ella Quinn (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Angel)



Undergraduate: Rabbi Camille Shira Angel
I believe the path toward pride, visibility and audibility for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people is complicated by a reality that other marginalized people do not face: the official teaching of the Catholic Church, to which Jesuit colleges and universities are linked in heritage and choice.

When it comes to faith, many LGBTQIA+ people feel torn. Some connect to their religious, ethnic, and cultural communities while denying their gender identities and sexuality. Others join an American LGBTQIA+ community that is White/Anglo-dominant and hostile to overt expressions of faith and spiritual longing. At USF, where I am Rabbi-in-Residence, most people have never met a woman rabbi, let alone a Lesbian rabbi, who teaches two classes in which LGBTQIA+ people incorporate religion in their lives.

In my class called Queering Religion, I explore how LGBTQIA+ people navigate religions that have often attempted to negate them. In the class called Honoring Our LGTBQIA+ Religious Elders, I pair students with LGBTQIA+ religious-identified adults, 65+ years of age to meet and reflect upon LGBTQIA+ history, as well as the intersections of prejudice and discrimination, using texts from Jewish ethical thought, along with feminism, ethics, and writings on intersectionality. Elders relay their role in making change and working for liberation.

University Ministry
Flowing from the classroom to ministry, together with my students, we have initiated weekly programs to build a spiritual, social, and justice-based “Qmmunity.” One program, called Breaking Bread and the Binary, convenes weekly meetings and hosts retreats each semester. We often lead prayer for students using Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, a queer and egalitarian Jewish prayer book for believers and non-believers.


2019 Spectrum Retreat participants (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Shira Angel)



Student Life
The Cultural Centers at USF bring students together to increase their understanding, and to embrace their roles as members of a diverse community on both local and global levels. As a part of USF’s Cultural Centers, the Gender & Sexuality Center is both a physical lounge space for students and a center for student-run programs.

The Gender & Sexuality Center has an undergraduate intern, who creates programs for USF students to engage with LGBTQIA+ and gender identity topics. These open programs use social media to engage students. Program examples include LGBTQIA+ representation in cartoons and celebrities who break gendered fashion rules.

Graduate: Dr. Jane Bleasdale
The School of Education at USF supports the LGBTQIA+ community in both K–12 schools and higher education through programming, curriculum, research, and one-to-one engagement. Our mission is to “advance justice through education,” which includes justice for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Catholic Educational Leadership Program includes and supports LGBTQIA+ students in Catholic schools locally, nationally and globally. The CEL program embodies Catholic social thought and the promotion of justice. In partnership with the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at USF, program faculty, staff, and students conduct research and present at national and international conferences (e.g., Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice; Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference; Jesuit Schools Network Conferences and Colloquium, etc.).

At home, we have also convened many community spaces. Here are some highlights:

  • Roundtable for leaders in Catholic education on Understanding and Supporting Students Who Identify as Trans in Catholic Schools, with guest speaker Theresa Spark, San Francisco Mayor’s Senior Adviser for Transgender Initiatives

  • Panel presentation on Supporting Students who are Transgender in Jesuit Higher Education with Dr. Lisa Fullam of Santa Clara University and Dr. Jane Bleasdale

  • CEL SUMMIT LGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Catholic Schools

  • Q.E.I.R.S. Queer Educators in Religious Schools: A group that empowers and supports USF students and their community members who identify as LGBTQIA+ and work in Catholic school settings

We have a long way to go before full inclusion is realized on our campus, and we are working across schools and in our student life programming to center the lives and experiences of our queer community.

Camille Shira Angel is Rabbi-in-Residence in University Ministry and a faculty member in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. Jane Bleasdale is an assistant professor in USF’s School of Education, director of the Catholic Educational Leadership Program, and an advocate for the LGBQTIA+ community in Catholic education.

Above: Catholic Educators gathered at USF in June 2019 for the inaugural summit: Supporting LGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Catholic Schools (photo courtesy of Jane Bleasdale).

By Erin O’Boyle (on behalf of the Saint Joseph’s University Office of Marketing and Communications)


Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph’s University



This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Safe Zone Training program at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU). Established in 2001, the program builds a network of supportive members of the campus community who strive to create inclusive safe spaces for all SJU community members, while raising awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community through the lens of an ally.

Training is open to all faculty, staff and students and encourages participants to reflect on their own unique experiences and identities, while shedding light on common misconceptions through interactive quizzes, videos and discussions.

Created in a time before social media, Safe Zone Training was initially established as a way for allies to openly express their support of the LGBTQIA+ community. Upon completion of the program, attendees are given a Safe Zone pin for their backpacks, or a sign to display in their offices as a visual indicator of their allyship and training.

Public awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community and the issues its members face have evolved over the past decade. In 2011, just over 50% of the United States population supported gay marriage; by 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land in the U.S. with the 5-4 ruling in favor by the Supreme Court of the United States.

As the country’s support and knowledge of this community has developed and expanded, so too has Saint Joseph’s Safe Zone training. “When training started, same-sex marriage was illegal in most of the country,” said Kim Allen Stuck, Ph.D., assistant vice president of student success and educational services, and one of the main facilitators of Safe Zone Training. “People didn’t talk as much about gender then. Now, we’re addressing topics like they/them pronouns, intersex identities, and asexuality. Language is constantly evolving and things are changing all the time, so our training has completely evolved over twenty years.”

Nearly 70 faculty and staff attended the first training session in 2001. Last year alone, there were 375 participants. Training sessions have also increased from once a year to five times a year, and have become more interactive over time. “We give participants a quiz of terms,” said Allen-Stuck. “It helps them to see how much they know, and what they still need to learn. At the end of training, we ask people to make one commitment as to what they’re going to do to change.”

Allen-Stuck explained that many people have added their pronouns to their email signatures and profiles, and a number of professors now start their semesters by passing out index cards so that students can indicate their chosen names and pronouns — a practice that compliments the University’s Chosen Name and Identity Guidelines. Allen-Stuck said that she also asks students for their preferred names and pronouns when writing their letters of recommendation. “It is important to clarify how a person wants to be identified,” she explained.

Safe Zone Training is included as part of larger leadership training programs, and many individuals who have attended Safe Zone have subsequently requested trainings for their entire department. Allen-Stuck says they’ve trained attendees ranging from campus ministry leaders and members of public safety, to athletics and facilities staff.

Participants go through the program with varying levels of awareness and education. For some, this may be the first time they have ever talked about LGBTQIA+ issues or have been in a space where they feel comfortable asking questions. Others return repeatedly to get a refresher or learn something new, as the training is constantly updated. Some return because they want to learn more and engage in the conversation.

Will Marsh ’18, web developer at Saint Joseph’s, says that Safe Zone Training offers affirmation and support for faculty and staff, too.

“Our faculty and staff have continually been supportive in my experience as a student,” said the former president of SJU Pride, a student-led organization that advocates for LGBTQIA+ students on campus. “Then you see them at trainings. They might be an ally, they might be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community; you never know. But you are able to see who is supporting you.”


  1. Confront heterosexism and cissexism comments and actions.

  2. Display posters and pictures of LGBTQIA+ individuals in your office or living space.

  3. Attend LGBTQIA+-related events.

  4. Share events and programs from queer and trans organizations.

  5. Include a variety of genders on forms or materials.

  6. Let your queer and trans colleagues know that their partners are welcome at departmental events.

  7. Encourage students, peers and colleagues to report bias.

By Richard D. Reitsma, Ph.D. (he/him/his), Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures & Cultures at Canisius University


Photo of Richard D. reitsma courtesy of the author



When I was on the job market, I made a conscious decision to have an open CV that would not obfuscate my sexuality, which would be challenging considering the bulk of my research was on the topic of sexuality, and so were some of my classes. That didn’t make it easy to get hired. In fact, it was more often than not an impediment, particularly for long term employment. For these reasons, it came as a surprise to me when I was offered a tenure-track position at Canisius University, a Jesuit, Catholic institution.

I was hired to help increase the diversity of the College and thus raise its profile. And while there have been some bumps in the road, the institution as a whole has evolved in LGBTQIA+ terms.

When I started in January 2011, one of the things I decided to do was create an environment that I wish I had had as an undergraduate student, and which I felt was also lacking in some of my previous places of employment. I wanted Canisius to have a robust intellectual and social community supportive of LGBTQIA+ issues. To that end, I set up an LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff caucus. One thing this group did, which I am proud of, was develop a statement of diversity for our syllabi. The faculty and staff caucus has since run its course, but some faculty continue to incorporate variations of the statement of diversity in their syllabi.

During my second semester at the College, I set up an LGBTQIA+ speakers’ series. Gathering funds was challenging, but there was never a problem getting an audience. The series continues a decade later and has evolved to include a LatinX speakers’ series and class visits by LGBTQIA+ writers, filmmakers, advocates and actors both from Canisius and from our partner Jesuit institution, Ibero Puebla in Mexico, where I teach a graduate course in the summer.

Prior to my arrival at Canisius, there had been various other LGBTQIA+-centered activities and organizations. During the 1994-95 academic year, when a female student came out in the student newspaper, The Griffin, the community responded with some educational committees to address the issues of inclusion and respect, but the efforts faded within two years.

Seven years later, in 2001, the next major moment in LGBTQIA+ history at Canisius occurred when another student came out in The Griffin, calling for the formation of a student club for the community. In response, several students banded together and eventually formed the LGBTQIA+ and Allies student educational club, UNITY.


Photo of Richard D. reitsma and student courtesy of the author



While UNITY started out small and remained relatively small for many years, I am proud to say that today, UNITY is one of the larger clubs on campus, with a respectable budget and weekly activities (including many that involve collaboration with other clubs). The club has an active presence on campus and the club room, once formerly a closet (yes, literally) is now an actual office space on the same passageway as other mainstays of campus life. UNITY hosts many events and continues to educate for change and awareness. We’ve increased LGBTQIA+ donor funding and have had a presence at Homecoming events.

When I became faculty advisor to UNITY, I advocated for the introduction of a Lavender Graduation ceremony, now in its fifth year at Canisius. This is a celebration for UNITY members and their friends and family to reflect on their years at Canisius and look forward to the future. While other campuses have been doing this activity since 1995, Canisius is now part of this broader national experience of reflection, honoring our members and building community.

In addition, Campus Ministry, under the leadership of a now retired-campus minister, Sue Fisher, started the Always Our Children (AOC) retreat, using as its basis the 1997 U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family statement advocating that Catholics view their homosexual children with love. The AOC retreats (run by Campus Ministry since 2003) have been a source of refuge, learning and community for the LGBTQIA+ and ally community on campus, bringing together students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

And for the last several years, Canisius students, staff, and faculty advisors have participated in the IgnatianQ conferences. IgnatianQ is a student-run and student-focused Ignatian LGBTQ+ conference that brings together the community of LGBTQIA+ folks (and allies) at Jesuit universities from across the U.S. every year.

Today at Canisius, students are writing theses on LGBTQIA+ themes across various disciplines. An increasing number of courses on LGBTQIA+ themes, or those with significant content from the community, are offered.

With encouragement from UNITY, the College is in the process of creating some gender-neutral bathrooms. Canisius also instituted a “Preferred First Name Policy,” which recognizes a student’s choice to be identified by a preferred name rather than a legal name. Such an accommodation helps to foster a more welcoming, supportive, and respectful campus climate.

In addition, the College is being more intentional in its efforts to recruit an increasingly diverse student body that includes LGBTQIA+ students, as well as African, Latino, Asian and Native American students. For the first time last spring, the Canisius Admissions Office hosted two new webinars for potential students: “A Place for You: LGBTQIA+” and “You Belong: Diversity at Canisius” each showcased Canisius’ increasingly vibrant population of students, organizations, and opportunities.

And there’s more.

The Office of Human Resources is sponsoring the creation of employee resource groups, including one for LGBTQIA+ employees. Canisius is also collaborating with the Pride Center of Western New York to develop a train-the-trainer program modeled after Safe Zone. In late October, the organization is hosting a faculty and staff workshop on campus entitled “LGBTQ+ & Effective Ally-ship.”

Because of the opportunities provided students through UNITY, AOC retreat, IgnatianQ, the LGBTQIA+ Speaker Series, the local embraceWNY scholarship, and the increasing opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people at Canisius and in our community, students are engaging in important leadership roles, serving as event organizers, club leaders, speakers, and learning how to be upstanding community leaders and advocates. Students are empowered to make their voices heard, to educate our community, and help push us toward increasingly embracing more deeply our mission to be people for and with others, and to “walk with the excluded” and “journey with the youth” as we are advocated to do through the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs). The benefit to students is seen in academics (theses, courses, scholarships), in improved mental health and personal wellness, in developing leaders and strong community partners, and creating networks of support and intergenerational learning and mentoring opportunities.

While there is a lot yet to do, Canisius continues to make important strides in accompanying, valuing, and incorporating the LGBTQIA+ community as an integral part of the College’s intellectual, social, cultural, and academic life. This is done in part because of how the College understands its mission and identity to stand with, and advocate for, all its members, embracing diversity as part of a path toward enriching the lives of all.

Richard D. Reitsma, Ph.D. serves at Canisius University as Founder/Director of the Borders & Migrations Initiative & LatinX/LGBTQ Speakers Series, and Faculty Advisor to Sigma Delta Pi, Spanish Honors Society, LASAF (Latin American Students and Friends) and UNITY (LGBTQ & Allies GSA).