By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU

My first exposure to Ignatian pilgrimages came during the summer after my freshman year at Fordham University. As a member of the University Choir, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Spain and trace the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola by foot, by bus and by song. While I still don’t know if Ignatius was much of a vocalist himself, I like to think that he would have gotten a kick out of hearing a concert sung by American college students in his native town, nearly 500 years after his birth.

For ten days, we traveled from Barcelona to Manresa, Montserrat, Salamanca, Toledo, Zaragoza and Loyola, before concluding our tour in Madrid. Along the way, we performed several concerts at churches and concert halls, where we sang both sacred hymns and traditional folk songs in English, Latin, Spanish and even Basque! I still remember the name of the Basque song we performed, Agur Jaunak (“Greetings, Sirs!”), which has always stayed with me. Writing this editor’s note prompted me to look up the meaning of the lyrics in English:

English Text
Greetings, Sirs,
Sirs, greetings
Greetings ‘and a half’

We all are God´s creation
You and us too.

Greetings, Sirs,
Sirs, greetings
Here we are.

Basque Dialectal Text
Agur, jaunak,
jaunak, agur,
agur t´erdi.

Danak Jainkoak eiñak gire
zuek eta bai gu ere.

Agur, jaunak,
jaunak, agur,
hemen gire.

I realize now, fourteen years later, why this little song has always stuck with me. Not only did the song make its debut in the Sanctuary of Loyola in recognition of St. Ignatius’ Feast Day one hundred years ago, it also reflects care for the person (cura personalis) in the lyrics of the middle section: “We all are God’s creation, You and us too.” Cura personalis is one of my favorite aspects of Ignatian spirituality, one that I always felt when I was at Fordham and still appreciate so much today, now working for a Jesuit organization.

Though I intentionally sought a Jesuit education for college, I don’t think I fully understood the history of Ignatius and the Society of Jesus until I went to Spain. Learning about his studies firsthand in Barcelona and Salamanca, praying in the sanctuary at Loyola, and hiking through the mountains of Montserrat helped me to appreciate the extraordinary life of a man who gave himself to God, and continues to make an impact on countless people every day.

I remain grateful for the opportunity to have taken that trip, which remains one of my fondest memories of my time at Fordham. As a self-described “choir nerd,” there is no better feeling than singing in harmony with a talented group of individuals who share my own love for sacred music! Today, I am still in touch with my choir director, Rob Minotti, and remain good friends with several of my choirmates. And now in DC, I am blessed to sing as a member of the Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where it is not unusual to find local Jesuits saying daily Mass!

My Ignatian pilgrimage is just one of many that you will read about in this issue of Connections. We are delighted to share stories from four Jesuit colleges and universities, as well as reflections from noted author Chris Lowney and the talented David Inczauskis, S.J., a contributor from The Jesuit Post. This issue will conclude the Fall 2018 issues of Connections and we will return with a new one (and a slightly updated format!) in January.

All of us at AJCU wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season!

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU


Mid Term Surprises
The November 6 mid-term elections led to a surprise “blue wave” across the nation. Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives while Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate by wider margins than in the 115th Congress. Two races are still outstanding: one in the House and one in the Senate. As of this writing, House Democrats have acquired 39 new seats and Senate Republicans lead by 52 seats.

House Republicans will be led by Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Minority Leader. In the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will remain Majority Leader and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will remain Minority Leader. The House Democratic Caucus will convene on November 28 to choose the next Speaker; at this point, the only confirmed candidate is Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who previously served as Speaker (and was the first woman to hold the position) from 2007 to 2011. The final confirmation of the Speaker will occur on January 3, 2019 after a vote on the House Floor.

Under new Democratic leadership, the House will focus on keeping the Affordable Care Act; protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions; improving infrastructure; passing the Dream Act and trade policies; and increasing funding for education. With the change in control comes a change in Committee chairs. The Appropriations Subcommittee will now be chaired by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a Jesuit alum, who has long shown concern for student loan debt and abuses. The House Education and Workforce Committee will now be led by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) (also a Jesuit alum), who will seek to pass the Aim Higher Act during reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

We anticipate that these new chairs will make Higher Education policy front and center in the House through an increase in hearings by the Education and Workforce Committee and their work on HEA. On the Senate side, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee will still be chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will remain as ranking member.

AJCU will release its list of Jesuit alumni serving in the 116th Congress during the first week of January. If you know of alumni who were elected on November 6, please write to me at

Regulatory Push
The U.S. Department of Education is pushing for negotiated rulemaking sessions on a multitude of issues, including Teach Grants and other student aid programs. AJCU nominated a member of our Federal Relations Network to sit on the Subcommittee on Faith-Based Institutions. Nominees will be selected soon for hearings that will begin in January.

Right before Thanksgiving, the Department released a draft of changes to Title IX on sexual harassment and assault. As soon as the draft regulations appear in the Federal Register, there will be a sixty-day deadline to provide comments to the Department.

This Title IX draft offers more protections for alleged suspects in cases of sexual assault; in the previous iteration, more focus was given to victims. Overall, the draft does try to establish a courtroom-like setting with cross-examination requirements. Some positive developments include mediation and a sensitivity to faith-based institutions. But there are many more reporting requirements, which will be costly for institutions.

AJCU will continue to work with the Department of Education to develop Title IX regulations that will hopefully strike a balance for students from all perspectives. We will continue to report on these developments in the months to come.

Lame-Duck Session
Congress returned on November 27 to consider seven remaining appropriations bills. A Continuing Resolution (CR) is keeping the government running until December 7. President Trump continues to insist on funding for the border wall and, once again, has threatened to shut down the government after the 7th, should funding not be received. Should the government shut down, education funding would be protected as the House Labor, H&HS and Education bill was signed into law before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2018.

By Molly McCarthy, Writer-Editor, Le Moyne College Office of Communications

Le Moyne College President, Linda LeMura, Ph.D., with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J. in front of the Sanctuary of Loyola in Spain (photo by Le Moyne College)
Le Moyne College President, Linda LeMura, Ph.D., with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J. in front of the Sanctuary of Loyola in Spain (photo by Le Moyne College)

There is no better way to understand a person than to walk a mile in his or her shoes, and visit firsthand the places by which one is shaped and formed. Jesuit educators know this well. Over the years, they have seized the opportunity to trace carefully the footsteps of St. Ignatius, to visit the sites that are sacred to the Society of Jesus and to Jesuit education as a whole. These pilgrimages bring them face-to-face with nearly 500 years of history, and provide Jesuit educators with a deeper and renewed understanding of the religious mission and tradition that is central to their work.

This past summer, Le Moyne College President, Linda LeMura, Ph.D.; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J.; and Vice President for Mission Integration, Rev. David McCallum ’90, S.J., traveled to the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain, where they joined approximately 300 colleagues from 189 Jesuit institutions of higher education from around the world, to attend the inaugural meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU). With education and collaboration at its core, the IAJU seeks to leverage the schools’ collective power to transform the world through faith and justice. In the words of Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., who chaired the event, the Association seeks to “go beyond what we normally achieve in our local societies, to have the best possible impact on our world.”

During an address to the assembly, Fr. Sosa said, “We have traveled a long journey which is full of achievements, but where we have faced numerous challenges. This journey is already several centuries long and the intention is for it to continue for much longer. In order to take the next steps on the path ahead, which are as yet unknown to us just as the previous ones were, we believe we should come together and make the most of who we are and what we have, so as to become a source for a full, reconciled life.”

Over the course of their time in Bilbao, the participants visited the family home of St. Ignatius, as well as that of Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Those sites served as a source of inspiration, as the participants focused and debated many of the 21st century’s most pressing challenges, including violence, forced migration, racial discrimination, poverty, authoritarianism and environmental degradation. Participants also attended a Mass inside of the basilica in Loyola, which was celebrated by Fr. Sosa and other Jesuit leaders. Perhaps most significantly, they signed the formal agreement establishing the IAJU in the Loyola Sanctuary, the cradle of the Society of Jesus.

Rev. David McCallum, S.J., Vice President for Mission Integration at Le Moyne College, speaking during the launch of IAJU in July 2018 (photo by Le Moyne College)
Rev. David McCallum, S.J., Vice President for Mission Integration at Le Moyne College, speaking during the launch of IAJU in July 2018 (photo by Le Moyne College)

Fr. McCallum said, “At a time when many relationships around the world are becoming increasingly frayed, it is incumbent upon us to build more thoughtful and intentional partnerships. In his remarks, Fr. Sosa reminded us that our presence in Bilbao signified our willingness to come together in order to produce greater and better outcomes, outcomes that ultimately lead to what he called ‘a dignified full life for each and every human being.’”

The principle aim of the conference was for educators to discern how best to share their resources in order meet their collective, universal mission – to be a force for good, particularly in areas of global concern. With that in mind, the IAJU aims to expand efforts to bring higher education to the marginalized and the disadvantaged; promote the formation of civic and political leaders to better serve the common good; and raise awareness for an integrated economic and environmental justice through education and advocacy in Jesuit schools. In addition, the Association will seek to increase efforts to better preserve and develop the Ignatian character of their schools through the formation of lay and Jesuit leadership; elevate interfaith dialogue and collaboration on our campuses; and support the study and practice of peace and reconciliation.

In addition to sending delegates to the assembly, Le Moyne played a crucial role in helping to facilitate it. President LeMura led a panel discussion on what Jesuit institutions can do to combat income inequality. Fr. McCallum helped to guide an international task force in drafting a position paper on forming Ignatian leaders in higher education, drawing upon the expertise of representatives from Jesuit institutions in Mexico, the Ivory Coast, Germany, Indonesia, India and the United States. In addition, the College was highlighted in a video announcing the launch of the IAJU, and members of the Le Moyne community assisted with the development of the IAJU’s website.

“I am immensely proud of the work that was done to make this assembly possible by all those involved from Le Moyne,” said President LeMura. “I am also honored to be a witness, along with Fathers Marina and McCallum, to this historic occasion, which will make an indelible and lasting impact on Jesuit education worldwide.”

By Angeline Boyer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University

Saint Peter’s University President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. (front center in red) with Saint Peter’s alumni in Rome (Photo by Saint Peter’s University)
Saint Peter’s University President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. (front center in red) with Saint Peter’s alumni in Rome (Photo by Saint Peter’s University)

Every Jesuit institution has a foundation in the traditions of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who established the Society of Jesus nearly 500 years ago. The reasons why a student chooses a Jesuit college or university may vary, but it is guaranteed that they will graduate with a sense of the Jesuit ideals that inspire critical analysis, deep concern for moral and ethical dilemmas, care for the whole person, and the importance of service for others.

These Jesuit ideals have inspired countless graduates of Saint Peter’s University. Over the course of its nearly 150-year history, many alumni have expressed that they would like to learn more about the founder who played a major role in their life experience. In 2014, the Office of Alumni Engagement at Saint Peter’s responded to that call with the University’s first-ever trip to walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius.

St. Ignatius in Spain
In June 2014, Saint Peter’s President, Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., his wife, AnnMarie, and Rev. Michael Braden, S.J. (then vice president for mission and ministry), joined alumni and friends for an unforgettable eight-day journey through Spain to experience the life of St. Ignatius.

Highlights included a trip to Loyola to visit the 15th century castle where St. Ignatius was born; a tour of the Hospital of Magdalene in St. Sebastian, where he stayed and healed from wounds incurred at the battle of Pamplona; an excursion to Manresa, the site where, in 1522, St. Ignatius arrived from Montserrat and spent 10 months in a cave writing The Spiritual Exercises; and a visit to the Sacred Heart Church, built by the Jesuits to hold the sword of St. Ignatius, which he relinquished in Montserrat. The program combined guided visits, liturgies in historical sites, and cultural and culinary activities all within the breathtaking Spanish countryside.

“The places we visited gave the group an opportunity to experience St. Ignatius’ life and spirituality and gain an appreciation for what gave birth to the Society of Jesus,” said Gloria Mercurio, then executive director of alumni engagement, who also attended the trip. “It was enlightening in many ways as we explored not only our Jesuit heritage, but the cultures of a beautiful land.”

The feedback from alumni was also extremely positive. Ellen and Fred Jacques ’70 thought the trip was extraordinary. They said, “To follow St. Ignatius’ journey, to learn more about his life and to attend Mass in the same room where his spiritual transformation occurred was impressive and inspiring. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and our driver was superb. We completely enjoyed this tour, meeting and making new friends, especially at meals, when we challenged each other with 60s music trivia.”

Henrietta and Kenneth Mahon ’73 highly recommended the trip, as they visited places that they felt they would not have seen on a secular tour of the country. They said, “The [Ignatian] theme of the trip added wonderful contemplative, religious and historical elements to the tour.”

Fr. Braden remarked, “It was wonderful for me to see how well and eagerly the people on the trip embraced the early travels of St. Ignatius. Everyone had a wonderful time.” As an added bonus, Fr. Braden celebrated two Masses during the trip, one in the Conversion Chapel in the castle where St. Ignatius was born and the other in a chapel within the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, where a statue of Our Lady, created around 40 A.D., resides and was visited by St. Ignatius.

St. Ignatius and the Early Jesuits in Rome
The tremendous success of the journey to Spain inspired the alumni engagement team to consider other trips that would be of interest to Saint Peter’s alumni and friends. In June 2016, members of the Saint Peter’s community traveled to Rome, Italy to explore the spiritual heritage of St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits.

In addition to exploring the must-see sites of Rome, the group took guided visits of the main historical Ignatian sites such as the apartments of St. Ignatius. They saw Pope Francis during a Papal Audience at the Vatican, and traveled to La Storta to see the chapel and location that commemorates St. Ignatius’ vision about Rome.

Sharon Pastore ’73, a distinguished alumna and member of the Saint Peter’s University Board of Trustees, decided to attend the trip to Rome after hearing so many wonderful things about the previous trip in Spain. Her experience exceeded her expectations, as she felt she had the opportunity to see sights that the average tourist would not be able to see.

What most stood out to her was the Mass that Fr. Braden celebrated with the group in a different, unique place every day. During the group’s visit to La Storta, they celebrated a private Mass in the chapel where St. Ignatius had a vision “that the Father placed him with Christ, his Son.” This experience is explicitly linked to the founding of the Society of Jesus.

“It was awe-inspiring to celebrate an intimate Mass surrounded by such splendor and feelings of holiness,” said Pastore. “This space is very special to Jesuits, but it was also something that we were able to cherish together as Jesuit educated alumni.”

According to Claudia Pope-Bayne ’16, current director of alumni engagement at Saint Peter’s, the success of these trips will certainly lead to more in the future. “Our goal is to develop programming that resonates with our alumni,” she said. “The overwhelming interest in these Ignatian pilgrimages is inspiring because it demonstrates that our alumni have a passion for the Jesuit education that shaped them. We look forward to planning another trip in the coming years.”

By Ryan Sheehan, J.D., Assistant Director, Jesuit Center at The University of Scranton

Ryan Sheehan, J.D. (photo by University of Scranton)
Ryan Sheehan, J.D. (photo by University of Scranton)

In the later years of his life, St. Ignatius Loyola referred to himself as “the pilgrim” – as one on a life-long quest for spiritual formation and fulfillment. His journey as a pilgrim traveler was deeply physical and spiritual. Ignatius’ spiritual pilgrimage began after he sustained serious injuries during the battle of Pamplona in 1521 and lasted until he took his final breath in Rome thirty plus years later. He never could have imagined how God’s transformative Grace would change the course of the Church and the world as he sought to follow Christ more closely in his day to day life.

Since the summer of 2017, The University of Scranton’s Jesuit Center has taken groups of faculty and staff on the “Footsteps of Ignatius Pilgrimage” to Spain and Italy to visit the important sites in the life of St. Ignatius and other prominent Jesuits. The faculty and staff cohorts begin with a nine-month on-campus Ignatian Leadership Program, designed to prepare participants for the experience along the Camino Ignaciano – the path of St. Ignatius – from Bilbao, Spain to Rome, Italy.

“This journey broadened my knowledge about the founding of the Society of Jesus and was a rare combination of fascinating geography, aesthetic beauty, historical significance and, most important, provided a religious and spiritual context to what it is to be part of a Jesuit institution,” said Abhijit Roy, D.B.A., Professor of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

University of Scranton staff and faculty in front of the ancestral home of St. Ignatius (photo by University of Scranton)
University of Scranton staff and faculty in front of the ancestral home of St. Ignatius (photo by University of Scranton)

The Footsteps of Ignatius Pilgrimage is designed to offer employees at the University a truly unique experience: an opportunity to take part in an authentic religious pilgrimage. Prior to taking the first step on the Camino, participants are asked to read seminal works on the early Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality (The First Jesuits; The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola; Men for Others) in order to prepare intellectually and spiritually for the journey. Once in Spain and Italy, we travel to the cities and locations venerated as sacred to the spiritual conversion and development of Ignatius and the Society of Jesus.

The faculty and staff at The University of Scranton have long dedicated themselves to our Jesuit and Catholic mission in order to provide our students with ongoing transformational educational experiences. Ours is a community rich in those committed to the values and ideals of Jesuit education and its founder, St. Ignatius. The opportunity to connect our vocations as educators to the very places that Ignatius lived continues to animate and enliven our understanding of our responsibility within this tradition.

“While I have long been familiar with the history of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the opportunity to ‘walk in his footsteps’ and see first-hand the Loyola family castle, the cave at Manresa, and the Virgin in Montserrat brought a new depth of meaning and understanding to that history and to my own connection to the Jesuit tradition. These experiences were made all the more powerful because I was able to share this pilgrimage with a group of colleagues who have become my friends,” said David Dzurec, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History.

Our pilgrimage begins where Ignatius began his: at Loyola Castle, the birthplace of Ignatius and, more significantly, the place of his conversion during his convalescence after the battle of Pamplona. From there, our groups travel to Oñati, to Our Lady of Arantzazu, where Ignatius vowed chastity and resolved to go to the Holy Land. The next stops are the castle of St. Francis Xavier, the cave in Manresa where Ignatius drafted The Spiritual Exercises, and the sanctuary at Montserrat where Ignatius surrendered his sword at the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat.

University of Scranton staff and faculty at the chapel and hospital on the outskirts of Azpetia where Ignatius lived and worked with the poor (photo by University of Scranton)
University of Scranton staff and faculty at the chapel and hospital on the outskirts of Azpetia where Ignatius lived and worked with the poor (photo by University of Scranton)

Travelling to Rome for the final leg of the journey, our pilgrims visit the first offices where Ignatius directed the fledgling Society of Jesus and the room where he took his final breath. Day trips to St. Peter’s and the Vatican are also a highlight as are our visits to the Church of the Gesù, known as the mother church of the Jesuits.

The pilgrimage is more than the sum of its sites, and the spiritual and intellectual fulfillment that it brings. The journey from Scranton to Spain and Rome is an opportunity to experience a profound personal and spiritual journey with colleagues and friends. We travel together, we cry together, we pray together, and more than any of these things, we enjoy each other and have great conversations filled with much laughter and joy. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to know those we labor with every day on such a deeply personal and intimate level.

“The pilgrimage allowed me to develop relationships with colleagues I had not previously been in contact with…I could write something beautiful about every person we were with on the pilgrimage. Witnessing someone’s faith is a level of intimacy we generally do not get while preparing for classes or serving on committees,” said Teresa Grettano, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Theater.

Those who undergo the journey are tasked with a significant responsibility. We are charged with bringing back our experiences and incorporating them into the life of our community so that we may enrich the lives of our students, and this University, and so that we may follow the example of St. Ignatius to become pilgrim travelers throughout our lives.

By John Darwin, Special Assistant to the President, Creighton University

Creighton University President, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J. (center), joined a group of Creighton trustees, trustees emeriti, senior leaders and friends of Creighton on an Ignatian pilgrimage through Europe in Summer 2018. The group is pictured…
Creighton University President, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J. (center), joined a group of Creighton trustees, trustees emeriti, senior leaders and friends of Creighton on an Ignatian pilgrimage through Europe in Summer 2018. The group is pictured here in the rooms of St. Ignatius in Rome. (Photo by Creighton University)

Tucked away next to a busy side street in Rome is an unassuming building, the Chiesa del Gesù (Church of the Gesù), which, aside from the Jesuit IHS symbol above the door, shows few outward signs of the important history contained within its walls.

The Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits, wasn’t established until 1568, but that didn’t stop St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, from setting up shop at a site next door. Ignatius had dreams of a mother church for his new order, but the Jesuits wouldn’t have the money to start the project until more than a decade after he died.

Connected to the Gesù, accessible by a separate door and a maze of plain white hallways, are a handful of modern offices and, importantly, several rooms where Ignatius spent the last decade or so of his life. It was there, in the rooms of St. Ignatius, that I and 29 others affiliated with Creighton University, spent our first afternoon in Rome, having already visited a number of other important sites in Spain on a summer pilgrimage following the footsteps of Ignatius and the early Jesuits.

The most important of the rooms of St. Ignatius is striking in its simplicity. The not quite perfectly rectangular room has a simple brick floor and is encased by off-white walls. Large wooden beams support the ceiling, and the room is sparsely decorated with a painted crucifix, a tapestry and a couple of paintings of Ignatius at various key moments of his life.

Although this wasn’t the last day of our pilgrimage — that would come with Mass at St. Peter’s and a meeting with Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, a few days later — there was a certain poignancy during our visit to the rooms of Ignatius. Here, more than 450 years after Ignatius died, we were celebrating Mass in the very room where Ignatius prayed, managed his growing order in its early days, penned some 7,000 letters to people around the world, and ultimately passed away.

Lining the walls around our celebrant, Creighton’s president, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., were members of Creighton’s Board of Trustees, a handful of Creighton’s leaders (including Provost Tom Murray, Ph.D.), and other friends of the University, many of whom have advised Creighton’s Board or served as members in the past. What everyone in this room had in common is that they had chosen to be there: to offer up their own time and resources in the interest of learning and growing closer to Creighton’s Catholic and Jesuit roots.

Our group didn’t go everywhere Ignatius went throughout his life. He had, for example, studied in Paris at the Sorbonne, and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, both of which we had to cut out of our itinerary due to time constraints. Still, we saw many key sites.

On Monday, three days before visiting the room where he died, we visited the manor at the Loyola Shrine in Spain, where Ignatius was born and grew up, before seeing a nearby chapel where he prayed regularly, and a hospital where he ministered to the sick. Throughout our journey, we also visited sites such as the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat, home of the Black Madonna before which Ignatius laid down his sword; the cave at Manresa, where he wrote the Spiritual Exercises; and Our Lady of Pilar, a stop on Ignatius’ own pilgrimage.

There were several differences between our pilgrimage and Ignatius’, of course. Where we had the luxury of transcontinental flights and a bus to shuttle us from site to site, Ignatius had walked the world from one chapter of his life to the next. Without the benefit of travel by air or by car, or even a symmetrical gait — one of Ignatius’ legs became shorter than the other after he was badly injured as a soldier — Ignatius had, remarkably, covered thousands of miles over the course of his life in search of his place in the world.

Where Ignatius’ spiritual pilgrimage took years, ours took just a week. Ignatius spent 11 months in the cave at Manresa writing The Spiritual Exercises — we spent just an hour celebrating Mass there. Ignatius walked hundreds of miles in simple leather shoes with little protection from the elements, while we covered only a few miles a day, all with the comfort and convenience of modern footwear. And yet, despite all these differences, there’s no doubt that all of Creighton’s travelers gained over the trip a similar sort of spiritual renewal and grace.

During our final Mass at a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Fr. Hendrickson in his homily called travelers to reflect on and share a single word that summarized our trip through key sites from Ignatius’ life. Insightful, spiritual, impactful: Whatever the word shared, it was clear that all of us were leaving the trip with a renewed perspective on life, and especially with a renewed perspective on how best to serve Creighton and live out the mission of Ignatius and the Jesuits.

By David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J., Contributor for The Jesuit Post

 David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. (center) with Thomas Klein, S.J. and Jos Moons, S.J. at Montserrat, Spain (All photos contributed by David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J.)

David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. (center) with Thomas Klein, S.J. and Jos Moons, S.J. at Montserrat, Spain (All photos contributed by David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J.)

 A view from hiking in Montserrat, Spain

A view from hiking in Montserrat, Spain

 David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at Le Seu, Spain

David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at Le Seu, Spain

 David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at the Basilica of St. Ignatius Loyola in Spain

David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at the Basilica of St. Ignatius Loyola in Spain

 The Black Madonna in Montserrat, Spain

The Black Madonna in Montserrat, Spain

 Road signs leading to Loiola (Loyola) in Spain

Road signs leading to Loiola (Loyola) in Spain

 David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. (center) with Thomas Klein, S.J. and Jos Moons, S.J. at Montserrat, Spain (All photos contributed by David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J.)  A view from hiking in Montserrat, Spain  David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at Le Seu, Spain  David J. W. Inczauskis, S.J. at the Basilica of St. Ignatius Loyola in Spain  The Black Madonna in Montserrat, Spain  Road signs leading to Loiola (Loyola) in Spain

The bus from Bilbao rolled into the quiet Basque town of Loyola as I listened to the second movement of Franz Schubert’s Fifth Symphony. Like the mood of the music, it was cloudy, misty and dreary, yet immensely full of life. I was thousands of miles away from my academic home, Loyola Chicago, but I immediately felt that Loyola, Spain was my home. After all, I’d discovered my Jesuit vocation in Europe, and now I was returning to rediscover it in the place where everything Ignatian began more than 500 years ago.

In the otherwise humble, timid village, the baroque Basilica of Loyola towers toward the heavens. It’s a massive structure that inspires awe in the power of God’s work in one man, Iñigo López. Hundreds of academic institutions, dozens of canonized saints, and countless changed lives depend on the events that transformed Ignatius at this place. To me, the Basilica was a reminder of the divine glory that poured upon the earth due to the “yes” that Ignatius uttered when he was recovering from a battle injury at Loyola in 1521.

It was in that room of Ignatius’ convalescence, now called the Chapel of the Conversion, that I experienced my deepest moments of communication with God and St. Ignatius. On the very first night of my 8-day silent retreat at Loyola, Jesuit novices from Spain and Portugal were visiting, and we celebrated Mass together in the chapel. They were preparing for their perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience—the same vows I took two years earlier. There’s a plaque in the chapel that reads, “Here Ignatius of Loyola gave himself to God.” Something similar happens at vows. We profess a total commitment of ourselves that will last forever. After the Mass with the novices, I knelt and said to God, “Here, today, as Ignatius once did, and, as these novices soon will do, I give myself to you.” This theme of self-offering to God marked the trajectory of my retreat.

The days at Loyola were rosy. Literally, every evening before the sunset, I roamed the gardens behind the Basilica, silently prayed a rosary, and stopped to smell multicolored roses. Frequent rains kept the flora fresh. Each afternoon, I’d hike for miles along the stream that runs through town. While walking, I recounted the story of my life to God. I like to talk to God, and he is a stupendous listener. The mornings and late evenings were times to listen. During the Spiritual Exercises’ contemplations, Jesus spoke to me. When reading the Gospels, I imagined myself as Jesus’ younger brother, eager to learn about life and love from my older sibling. The Scriptures revealed to me something new about the identity of the big brother I sought to emulate. The retreat was a conversation with God, at times speaking and at times listening.

After Loyola, I went to Manresa, where Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises and experienced a moment of divine illumination that surpassed all knowledge he had formerly received and would later receive.

My first encounter with Manresa was not so sunny. As I stepped off the train onto the platform, a light rain suddenly turned into a downpour. Soaked from the short walk into the station, I contrasted Manresa’s cold greeting with the paradisiacal entrance into Loyola. Compare and despair.

When the rain let up, I walked across the ancient bridge that spans the River Cardoner. I later found out that it was the same bridge that Ignatius had crossed five centuries earlier. Above it, there now rests a stately retreat house and conference center embedded into the Catalonian mountains. Its basement is the chapel where Ignatius penned his spiritual classic. On an adjacent hill sits the Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of the Seu, where Ignatius would have regularly attended Mass. Far in the distance, I could see Montserrat rapt in clouds that clothed its peaks in a sense of mystery—a mystery about which Ignatius likely read in the fanciful chivalric novels he once adored.

Ignatius journeyed from Monserrat to Manresa, but I did the reverse, tagging along with two European Jesuits who were going to make the trek the day after I’d arrived. The hike’s first half is moderate. We walked next to highways and through sleepy neighborhoods. The hike’s second half is more demanding. Smaller hills turn into bigger hills. Sidewalks yield to winding trails. The finale is grand. Emerging from the forest, I looked up from the base of the mountain at the street that serpentines its way to the top.

Nine hours after beginning the pilgrimage to the Benedictine monastery near the peak of Monserrat, we arrived toasty and dehydrated. There was a line to visit the statue of the Black Madonna, whose length paralleled that of the road up the mountain. We shared stories about our first few years in the Jesuits as we waited. When my turn with Mary finally came, I took out the images of the Sacred Heart and Ignatius that I carry in my wallet and touched them to the statue. I said a simple prayer. I asked Mary to “place me with her Son.” I said this prayer in the same chapel where Ignatius put down his sword at the foot of Mary and converted from a soldier of war to a soldier of God.

Later that day—having happily returned to Manresa by train—we celebrated Mass in the cave that had been inhabited by Ignatius. We were three companions who had just walked in the footsteps of our founder. Ignatius was with us on the way, and he was with us at that Eucharist. Reflecting, I found that my Ignatian pilgrimage ended with Mass at Manresa just as it began with Mass with the Spanish and Portuguese novices at Loyola. The following morning, I boarded another train at sunrise and parted ways with Ignatius’ earthly path. However, our destination really remained the same: heaven, that is, to live in love with God forever.

David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J. is a Jesuit Scholastic in formation at Loyola University Chicago. This essay was adapted from a post for The Jesuit Post.

By Chris Lowney, Author of Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World)

The view from Montserrat, Spain at early dawn (photo taken by a Fordham University student on a recent Ignatian Camino; courtesy of Chris Lowney)
The view from Montserrat, Spain at early dawn (photo taken by a Fordham University student on a recent Ignatian Camino; courtesy of Chris Lowney)

One student called it “easily the best academic experience I’ve ever taken part in.” Another trekker found it, at times, “demanding, boring, exhausting and discouraging.”

Not the most compelling advertising pitch?

Well, here’s what the second trekker said next: “But it also provided great happiness, enormous satisfaction and…when the walking was joined with our inner voyage…the pilgrimage brought much peace.” He spoke of contemplating, as he walked, “grandeur which takes your breath away.”

These trekkers were recalling their experiences along the Ignatian Camino (Spanish for “road” or “way”): the fully waymarked trekking/pilgrimage trail that traces the route of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s iconic pilgrimage in 1522, from his home in Loyola to Montserrat and Manresa (all cities in Spain). Today, Jesuit colleges and universities can use this uniquely Ignatian and powerfully transformative resource for their students, alumni and staff.

But first, to anticipate the skeptics: Pilgrimage? Really? Walking a dozen or more miles a day? Didn’t God create the air-conditioned bus precisely to help Adam and Eve’s descendants avoid such unpleasantness?

Well, those tempted to consider “pilgrimage” a kooky or irrelevant sideshow might consider the centrality of pilgrimage to the life and vision of Ignatius. For one thing, in the memoir he dictated later in life, he referred to himself not as “the founder of the Jesuits” but simply as “the pilgrim.”

Ignatius wanted every Jesuit trainee to be similarly molded by the rich experience of a pilgrimage. Many readers of Connections will know that a month-long silent retreat, the Spiritual Exercises, is the defining hallmark of every Jesuit novice’s training. But the most distinctive aspect of Jesuit formation may well be Ignatius’ instruction that every trainee spend “a month in making a pilgrimage.” (I’m aware of no other religious order that affords pilgrimage so vital a place in its training regimen).

Ignatius saw all kinds of benefits in undertaking such a pilgrimage: above all, it invited Jesuit trainees to grow in their reliance on God’s providence. But it also tested their resilience and challenged them to confront their strengths, fears and weaknesses.

Fast forward 500 years from Ignatius’ own trek, and it’s now become much easier for the Jesuit higher education community to avail itself of the same transformative experience. For the past five years, a 400-mile trekking trail along Ignatius’ route has beckoned trekkers. It’s fully waymarked (just follow the orange arrows from Loyola to Manresa!), GPS-friendly (follow the route on your smartphone), and translated into multiple languages through handy guidebooks.

Jesuit institutions can now help students, staff and alumni unlock the treasures of a pilgrimage experience, along a route that invites a unique encounter with Ignatius amid the most iconic sites and moments in the Jesuit tradition. What’s more, an Ignatian Camino pilgrimage can be adapted to suit varying time frames, objectives and populations. A month-long pilgrimage can begin in Loyola, the site of Ignatius’ profound conversion experience; pass through Montserrat, where he laid down his sword in an all-night vigil; and end in Manresa, where he conceived the rudiments of the Spiritual Exercises.

Granted, not every group will have a month available. No problem: Even a one-week trek can be structured in such a way that both Montserrat and Manresa would be visited.

The Camino can be used as a formation experience, as a uniquely powerful way to undertake the Spiritual Exercises; as part of for-credit courses in spirituality, history or Ignatian Studies; and in many more ways. For example, I’ve been privileged over the past three years, to conduct for-credit leadership courses for cohorts of Fordham University Executive MBA students. I don’t know the religious interests or backgrounds of these students: they are coming for a leadership course, and some are barely familiar with Ignatius or the Jesuits. Yet they almost invariably encounter Ignatius in a deeply personal way. They resonate with his life story, which embodies so much of what is essential in a life or organization well-led: persevering through challenge; discovering and articulating a renewed sense of purpose; rebounding from setback; and so on.

Administrators and campus ministers at Jesuit institutions can consider how the Camino brings new life and meaning to the classic images that are part of the Jesuit tradition. Most every Jesuit college or university has paintings or statues of Ignatius convalescing at Loyola; laying down his sword at Montserrat while revering the Black Madonna; and conceiving the Spiritual Exercises in the cave at Manresa. These ever-present images tend to fade into the background of a busy campus. But on the Camino, these same images come vividly to life, for example, when one arrives exhausted in Montserrat after a long trek (just as Ignatius did) and visits the same Madonna statue as he did.

Most important, through the Camino, the person of Ignatius comes more vividly alive. As one pilgrim put it: “No amount of information, data or reading can substitute for the sheer experience of following in Ignatius’ footsteps….I actually felt [like] I was walking with Ignatius, seeing the sights and views he saw along the same route.”

In the past, most Ignatian pilgrimages were organized as bus trips, which will remain the easiest way to visit Ignatian Spain. But the worldwide Jesuit network is discovering the transformative power of arriving in Manresa as Ignatius did: on foot. Pilgrim traffic has been growing exponentially: a half-dozen years ago, fewer than five pilgrims made the full trek; last year, well more than a thousand pilgrims trekked part or all of the route.

Those who want to learn more can avail themselves of numerous resources. The lavishly illustrated, recently updated Guide to the Camino Ignaciano is readily available on Amazon from Cluny Media. It offers background, spiritual guidance and complete details of the route. Would-be pilgrims can also visit the official Camino website (, or join the official Facebook group (“Friends of the Ignatian Camino”). The Jesuits of Spain have missioned Rev. Josep Luis Iriberri, S.J. to oversee the continued development of the Ignatian Camino: he has led more than fifteen pilgrimages along the route, painted hundreds of orange arrows, and is happy to advise individuals and schools who want to consider sponsoring treks. Please write to him at I am likewise available as a resource too:

2022 will mark the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ pilgrimage through Spain: a seminal moment in Ignatian spirituality and in Jesuit history. The years leading up to that joyful anniversary will surely see the route’s continued blossoming. See you on the Camino!

Chris Lowney ( is author of the bestselling treatment of Jesuit-style leadership: Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World. His most recent book is: Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World).