Shared Vision

Jesuit Community offers Ignatian history to BC employees

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Boston College Police Chief Robert Morse has worked at a Jesuit university for five years, but until recently, he knew little of the background of the Society of Jesus or its charismatic founder, St. Ignatius Loyola.

Earlier this year, Morse and members of his command team participated in a program called "Shared Vision: Jesuit Spirit in Education," offered by the Jesuit Community and the Human Resources Department to introduce Boston College employees to the history and tradition of the religious order that founded the University.

Participants in a recent Shared Vision session included, from left: Assoc. Prof. Gary Gurtler, SJ (Philosophy), Planning Department Designer/Drafter Edward Greene, Assistant Director of Financial Aid Diana Beaudoin, Philosophy Department Secretary Louise Dietenhofer, and Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission Anne Harris. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

For Morse and his colleagues, the thought-provoking, adventurous history of the scholar-priests came as a revelation. Morse, a former Massachusetts state trooper, said he found special resonance in the story of St. Ignatius, the 16th-century Spanish warrior who underwent a spiritual conversion while recuperating from a cannonball injury, then joined with companions to form a missionary society of world-traveling "contemplatives in action."

"St. Ignatius himself was a rough-hewn individual," Morse said. "You kind of relate to Ignatius as a human being, not as a mystical being."

Developed by the St. Louis University-affiliated Institute of Jesuit Sources, "Shared Vision" is a three-part series of videotapes and discussions chronicling the life and beliefs of St. Ignatius, his founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540, and the Jesuits' early years as explorers, teachers and founders of universities. Administrators say "Shared Vision" can help preserve and strengthen the Jesuit legacy at Boston College, and will become a required part of orientation for new employees in the fall.

"If they are coming to work at a Catholic, Jesuit university, shouldn't they know what a Catholic, Jesuit university is?" said Jesuit Community Rector Joseph Appleyard, SJ, who helped launch the program at BC two years ago with Employment and Employee Development Director Bernard O'Kane and Employee Development Program Administrator Carole DiFabio. "[Employees] should know as much about Jesuit education as they do about their health plan."

More important, said Fr. Appleyard, is the role the seminars will play given the declining number of Jesuits, as religious vocations in the Society of Jesus and other orders have decreased. Today, of more than 2,600 employees at Boston College, 60 - or less than 3 percent - are Jesuits, most of whom are advancing in years, Fr. Appleyard said. While the Jesuit Community at Boston College remains one of the largest in the world, with 126 members, its membership also is aging.

"In the long run, it is important to find the people who want to take the responsibility for continuing the Jesuit tradition here," said Fr. Appleyard. "What kind of Jesuit or Catholic university this is in the future is going to be the responsibility of a lot of people besides Jesuits."

"Shared Vision" stresses the Ignatian challenge to "use your gifts for the good of others," said Fr. Appleyard, while recounting the Jesuits' historic role as explorers who go "into the unexplored place" in order to "find out what needs doing - and to do it." The seminars also focus on the Jesuit emphasis on ethics and moral judgment as the necessary underpinnings of scholarship.

The two-and-a-half-hour programs are presented at St. Mary's Hall, each led by a member of the Jesuit Community. Faculty and staff representing a wide range of offices and departments have participated, while the videos - which include scenes filmed at Boston College last fall - have been used in the orientation of new faculty and resident assistants in the University residence halls.

Some long-time employees acknowledged learning much they hadn't known about the Jesuit tradition through the program.

"I never knew how the Jesuits started," said Registrar's Office Administrative Coordinator Jane McGuire, a 24-year employee. "I thought [the course] was excellent."

Among the most popular aspects of the program is the opportunity it affords to visit the Jesuit residence in St. Mary's, O'Kane said.

"Through the program," he said, "the Jesuit Community invites the University community into its home. That's a wonderful component. I can't tell you how many participants have commented on it."

The next "Shared Vision" seminar is scheduled for April 8, from 9-11:30 a.m. Employees may register via an on-line registration form through UIS, by choosing the "Forms" transaction and selecting the Human Resources list, followed by "Employee Dev Pgm Request." For more information, contact DiFabio in the Employee Development Office at ext.2-8532, or by e-mail at carole.difabio@bc.edu.

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