Cura Personalis In Action

Aided by a $2 million Jesuit gift, Center for Ignatian Spirituality enters second year

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

For five months last spring, University Housing staff spent 90 minutes a week talking with Center for Ignatian Spirituality Director Howard Gray, SJ, about the most demanding, and rewarding, part of their job: the personal and spiritual formation of students.

Using a case study approach in this examination of cura personalis , Fr. Gray invited the staff members to discuss their response to a series of hypothetical situations: a student dealing with high parental expectations; hall residents exaggerating the extent of property damages from a fire; or a freshman asking where to find sex-related information.

"The University Housing staff really appreciate and want to be involved in Boston College's mission, and they understand young people's struggles and successes in college," said Fr. Gray of the participants. "There's a keen sense that somewhere between control and permissiveness is another model, one which will help students to make ethically sound decisions in their lives. It was important for us to explore that model."

The center - aided by a $2 million gift from the Boston College Jesuit Community - is in its second year of making such explorations of spirituality, faith and profession possible for University administrators, faculty and staff. According to Fr. Gray, the donation has literally made all the difference in enabling CIS to begin, and continue, its interaction with the Boston College community.

"The center is a work-in-progress," explained Fr. Gray. "But there would be no work, and no progress, without the financial resources so generously provided through the Jesuit Community. The gift represents a commitment to strengthening Boston College's distinctive mission. It provides the center with financial stability to carry out our tasks: communicating the meaning of the mission; offering programs to faculty and staff to facilitate their participation in the mission; creating opportunities for people within the University to exercise leadership in implementing the mission; and providing resources for other colleges and universities as they pursue similar goals.
CIS Director Howard Gray, SJ.

"While we are still in the process of getting a major matching gift to establish an endowment that will enable us to do even more, what's happening now is quite exciting," he continued. "Through the center's current programs, we're hoping people can generate ideas and possibilities for more programs."

Using the Jesuit Community gift, Fr. Gray said, CIS has hired administrative staff, making it easier to perform the daily chores required in an academic institution. But the funds also enable Fr. Gray and his staff to work on special projects, such as producing an informational brochure on the center as well as a directory of spiritual and apostolic opportunities for BC students.

"The ability to have some creative time, to invite guests over, serve lunch and talk - that is all very important to a center like this," Fr. Gray said. "None of it is possible, however, without resources."

This academic year, CIS is pursuing what Fr. Gray terms a "grassroots set of conversations" on the role of faculty and staff in student formation. More than 50 persons, divided into four groups, are participating in these discussions, which focus on the assets and liabilities of the modern university model in preparing students for life.

"We are looking at how we can work better within that educational model to help students develop their potential, to raise their consciousness about the world in which they live and cultivate a meditative appreciation for what they are learning," he said.

Fr. Gray noted that outreach to other academic institutions - the University of San Francisco and Xavier and Loyola-Marymount universities are among those he has visited - is another critical area of his job.

"The question of how a religiously affiliated institution can be professionally competent and remain within its religious tradition is a compelling one," he said, "and Boston College is not alone in trying to answer it. But BC, with the Chaplaincy, Jesuit Institute and CIS, is a place that has put significant resources into its Jesuit and Catholic character."

In the meantime, Fr. Gray continues to listen, or talk, as needed, and the conversations do not only take place in a formal, ongoing program, such as that with University Housing.

"I've had people just drop by and ask, 'Can you come give a lecture for my class?,' or 'Can you suggest a way I might look at this issue?'" said Fr. Gray. "From the beginning, the center has offered a means for reflection and that can come in a variety of ways. The center is still evolving and with the support we've received, we feel confident that this growth will help us continue building a rapport with the University community."

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