Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, who will direct the project, said the initiative will provide students "with resources and opportunities to help them integrate their academic and spiritual development, deepen their present lives as students, and make life and career choices within a faith perspective, conscious that they are called to use their gifts in the service of others."
The project will have four focal points: a third-year re-orientation program for students; undergraduate internships in church ministry; faculty and staff seminars on the role of vocation in undergraduate formation; and an interactive World Wide Web site for students to explore issues on vocational formation. Boston College is one of 20 colleges and universities in the US, and the only New England institution, to receive a Lilly grant for implementing programs related to vocation.
"Our goal is to produce graduates of Boston College who have a clear sense of how their talents match the world's needs," said Fr. Appleyard.
Vocation is not necessarily a calling to the priesthood or to a religious order, he said. "Every person has a vocation. The challenge is to find answers to the questions: What am I going to do with my life and what values do I want my life and career to represent, whether that career is in business, scientific research, the arts, teaching, church ministry or any other field?"
Last year, the Lilly Endowment awarded BC a $50,000 planning grant to create a detailed proposal for programs supporting the University's mission to integrate students' intellectual and social formation under the central principle of vocation. Center for Ignatian Spirituality Director Howard Gray, SJ, served as chair of the planning grant's steering committee, which also consisted of Fr. Appleyard, graduate student Christopher Boscia, Prof. Patrick Byrne (Philosophy), University Counseling Director Thomas McGuinness, Asst. Prof. Kathleen Mahoney (LSOE) and Campus Minister for Retreats Sister Joan Mahoney.
"We realized Boston College has some wonderful formative experiences through academic courses, service programs, retreats and internships," said Fr. Appleyard. "But perhaps we can do a better job of helping students to integrate these experiences and see what kind of professional lives they lead to."
The planning stage involved a wide range of members of the University community and included seminars, focus groups and retreats. One participant, Carroll School of Management Associate Dean for Undergraduates Richard Keeley, said, "It became clear that we all - faculty, staff and students - are involved in an ongoing discovery of vocation. For relatively few will the discovery of vocation be straightforward; others will be pursuing the answer along various twists and turns."
Fr. Appleyard outlined some of the specific areas the vocation project will address. The third-year orientation program reaches out to undergraduates in the summer between sophomore and junior years, an especially critical time in their development, he said. Students will be asked to think about what talents and gifts they have discovered or others have recognized during their first two years at BC, and how the University could help them develop these talents toward a possible career path.
The church ministry summer and academic year internships will fill a gap for BC undergraduates, said Fr. Appleyard, who noted that there are internships or field placements in business, communication, nursing and education, but none in the area of ministry. These internships would include opportunities to work in parishes, dioceses, national church organizations, religious philanthropic foundations and religious education organizations.
Fr. Appleyard said the seminars and workshops for administrators, faculty and staff are intended to broaden the role these key groups play in students' vocational choices. Faculty and staff will be freed from some of their responsibilities to join workshops or semester-long seminars that explore how their professional work relates to students' academic, personal and spiritual formation.
The $2 million grant will underwrite in part the programming outlined in the University's vocation project proposal. Boston College has committed to financing the project beyond the coverage provided by the Lilly funds.
"Lilly's grants have significantly influenced the discussion about religion and higher education," said Fr. Appleyard, "and this new emphasis on vocational discernment could have a major impact on how religious colleges and universities think about undergraduate formation."
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