"Our first year was one of introductions and we were able to make contact with virtually every part of the University," said center Director Howard Gray, SJ. "Now, we're looking to strengthen the rapport we achieved and begin having fruitful conversations which help BC create a truly ecumenical environment, where the integrating principle is the Jesuit and Catholic tradition. "
Created through an agreement between the University and the Jesuit Community at Boston College, the center develops programs on Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality, organizes retreats and other activities that help faculty and staff to integrate Ignatian values in their professional or personal lives, and encourages those wishing to lead this process in their areas of the University.
The center's first year of operation, said Fr. Gray, featured visits with representatives from major academic and administrative areas of the University, including the School of Education, Carroll School of Management, Undergraduate Admission, Human Resources and Development. It also involved taking "a systemic, structured approach," Fr. Gray said, such as sponsoring an eight-session workshop on cura personalis (care of the whole person) and student living for Housing administrators and staff.
Center Director Howard Gray, SJ.
Fr. Gray sees the appointment of the advisory board as helping the CIS define its policy. The board's members are Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ, SOE Dean Mary Brabeck, Publications and Print Marketing Director Ben Birnbaum, and Prof. Emeritus James Skehan, SJ (Geology and Geophysics), coordinator of one of the University's most popular spiritual retreat programs.
"During the first year, I began talking with people on issues like educational process, ecumenicism and communication," said Fr. Gray. "The exchanges were quite valuable and having a core of people with whom these talks can continue on an ongoing basis will be very beneficial."
Over the course of the fall semester, Fr. Gray said, the CIS will broaden its outreach to the campus by publishing a brochure and maintaining a World Wide Web site. The center also has been compiling a directory of spiritual opportunities - from campus liturgies to retreats to service programs - that will be available to the University community.
"We know some things will likely be missing from the directory," he said, "but it's a start. We hope it will be a useful resource for people, one we can update as needed."
Another major task the center will undertake this year is a series of meetings with administrators, faculty and staff to talk about their views on student formation, and the particular areas of need at Boston College. Fr. Gray said 75 invitations were sent out during the summer, and the center received almost 50 responses. The respondents cited issues such as mentoring, advising and the quality of student life in residential halls as among the most prominent.
Fr. Gray said the meetings could serve as a source of information and action proposals for the University Council on Formation to be formed by University President William P. Leahy, SJ.
"It is distinct from the president's initiative, but follows similar lines," he said. "In any case, as we have stated before, what the center does is not meant to be a substitute for the reflection and conversation already taking place; it is meant to support and enhance."
The center also will continue its outreach beyond Boston College, added Fr. Gray, who presented talks on Ignatian spirituality and education during the past year at Xavier and Loyola-Marymount universities, among other venues.
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