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jesuit community at boston college

Jesuits and Boston College: BC's Mission, Jesuits' Mission
Six Propositions for a Conversation

A paper written by Jesuits working at Boston College in the winter and spring of 1994, for discussion with colleagues in the University

Telling our stories is a time-bound activity. A particular version suits a historical moment and its issues. Our experience unfolds and develops, however, so we are always refining the plot of the story and emphasizing new themes. Twenty years ago Jesuits at Boston College described their work in a pamphlet that focused on educating men and women amid the societal changes of the early '70s. Boston College and the world around us are different places today. We need to find words that suit our experience in 1994. Thus, this pamphlet. We do not speak for the whole community that is Boston College.

We speak for ourselves, the Jesuits working here in 1994. We try to put into words our vision of Boston College and the questions we have about how to work here effectively as Jesuits. We conceive this as a contribution to a dialogue among all those who have visions of what Boston College should be. It might help, as you read it, to imagine it surrounded by the traces of these other visions and by still further ones that will come into existence as comments on this one and refinements of it.


Two Questions

Jesuits founded this college in the South End of Boston in 1863 to give the sons of immigrants an intellectual formation that would provide a Catholic moral and religious framework for their lives and prepare them to be citizens of the growing American republic. For the better part of a hundred years Boston College was a small, street-car institution, directed and largely staffed by Jesuits, with a curriculum saturated in scholastic philosophy and theology. Today, these features have changed in almost every respect. Many of these changes have taken place in the last twenty-five years, symbolized by the inauguration of a predominantly lay board of trustees in 1971. When Jesuits wrote the 1974 statement the central issue seemed to be the character of undergraduate education. Today we face a more encompassing question, the mission of Boston College as a university in the century ahead. Two questions intersect here: How do Jesuits envision Boston College's identity as a university that is Catholic and Jesuit? And how does this vision guide the choices we make as Jesuits about our work here? The questions are inseparable and yet they cannot be answered by Jesuits alone. Jesuits are a small minority of the faculty and staff here, some 45 in full-time positions and another 15 or so who work part-time, many beyond normal retirement age. Only nine of the 44 trustees are Jesuits. Boston College's distinctive identity will be the work of many men and women whose convictions shape its identity.


The Problematic World We Live In

The character of Boston College matters because of the central role universities can play in the struggle of men and women across the world to achieve lives that befit their full dignity as human beings. The outcome of this struggle depends in great part on the kinds of knowledge a society has at its disposal and the quality of education it gives to its young. Yet seldom has there seemed to be less agreement among Americans about the norms by which we should evaluate and use our knowledge. As a society we possess enormous resources and wonderful technologies, and seem capable of great feats of creativity and inventiveness, but the benefits of these gifts and achievements are shared inequitably. Oppression, violence, the absence of the minimal conditions for well-being, are the ordinary lot of vast numbers of people across the globe. The prosperity of the few coexists with the suffering of the many. Paradoxically, as the world grows more interconnected by communications and trade its citizens feel more oppressed by its complexity and more divided from one another by chasms of history, religion, and ethnic loyalties. We lack a common vision of what it means to be human and distrust the very political and social institutions that could address our problems.

Universities mirror the confusion of this rich, fast-moving, often unreflective, certainly unequal society. American intellectual culture at the end of the century is busy but fractious. It offers a startling menu of ideas, but agrees on little that it considers essential for students to know. Disciplines are fragmented. The reigning theories in many fields are sceptical even of the possibility of arriving at any knowledge of ourselves and our world that transcends our immediate cultural circumstances, and this scepticism offers little comfort. It seems to underline a spiritual emptiness that hungers for a nourishment that we do not even know how to name. Amid this intellectual turmoil universities struggle to find niches that will enable them to survive stringent economic pressures. They tailor their programs to market demands, compete for scarce resources from government and private donors, and woo students with consumer amenities. This competition hastens the attenuation of any distinctive institutional mission and identity.

What is the mission of Boston College in this needy and discordant world? How can Jesuits best contribute to this mission?


A Different Vision

Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in 1534, lived in a world no less troubled by change and competing truths than our own. If he were speaking to our situation, he would begin by urging us to see the light surrounding the sometimes too-evident darkness. Unlike religious traditions that have distrusted or fled the world, Ignatian spirituality sees the world of nature and culture in and around us as graced at its core by God's self-giving, therefore worth our work and our study. This point of view discloses God to the discerning eye and discloses God drawing all that is of our world and all that is human into God's own life. Our very yearning for fulfillment directs our search Godwards and will be satisfied only in the possession of God for which we have been made. This mystery at the heart of our existence invites discovery and, as we discover it, compels us to ground our lives in its truth and to speak about it to a world hungry for meaning.

A university can play a privileged role in this view of the world. No other institution so explicitly embodies the fundamental human desire to know and the determination to form the young by the best we can know. And no other institution is so clearly suited to bringing critical intelligence to bear on the longings and struggles of men and women to achieve a world that befits their dignity. In the university the physical world, the edifice of culture, and the varieties of human experience all come under inquiry, and the wisdom that we can learn from this inquiry can guide the formation of the young and can be brought to bear on the needs of the social and political community. In the view of the world that animates Ignatian spirituality, therefore, a university can express a profound humanism, constituted by the desire to understand the world and the direction of our lives, to educate others in this understanding, and to use our wisdom to achieve justice.


Debating the Jesuit Mission in Academic Life

How do those of us who spend our lives in universities embody a vision like this concretely? Jesuits across the world today are conducting a debate about the mission of higher education and Jesuits' roles in it, especially as the declining number of Jesuits calls into question the priorities we are used to taking for granted in our work. In the past Jesuits' most distinctive commitment was to forming undergraduates intellectually and morally for the lives they would later lead. In the U.S. most of the colleges founded by Jesuits for this purpose have grown into universities with graduate and professional programs. Some would say that in the process these institutions have adapted too thoroughly to the standards of secular academic life, with its notable strengths but also with all its shortcomings. In the 1990s, the argument would go, these institutions offer upper-middle-class students a vaguely liberal education colored by a rhetoric of spiritual values whose most visible embodiment is a chaplaincy, a theology department, and volunteer service programs. Particularly in graduate programs and in the research agendas of faculty, these institutions take most of their values from mainstream American academic life, offer curricula not notably different from what is available elsewhere, and work to advance the same kinds of knowledge as do secular institutions. A recent and strikingly different notion of educational mission has led some Jesuits to see universities as instruments of cultural, social, and political analysis in the service of a biblical vision of justice and as means of educating students to an awareness of these issues. In El Salvador this choice has recently led several Jesuits and their colleagues to their deaths. This Jesuit debate about the university and Jesuits' mission in it continues. One way of formulating its central question for ourselves at Boston College might be: Is there a model of university work, appropriate to our American context, that takes seriously the spiritual and intellectual development of students and also puts the structures of knowledge and investigation proper to the university at the service of a vision of a just human community?


De Facto Responses

At Boston College Jesuits and lay colleagues could be said to be answering this question already, in a variety of ways. A number of programs, initiatives, and structures have come into existence, which can be grouped together as attempts to embody ideas of education and of the social use of knowledge based on a transcendant vision of human life and work.

  • The most explicit examples would be entire academic programs that are based on a religious or social view of human good, such as the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry or the Graduate School of Social Work.
  • More particular examples would be curricular programs that explicitly address values or are oriented around specific choices among values, for instance, the Pulse and Perspectives Programs; the Capstone courses; the Faith-Peace-Justice undergraduate minor; the School of Education's focus on urban schools; the ethics courses in the undergraduate and graduate programs of the Carroll School of Management; and the Law School's efforts to integrate legal ethics, jurisprudence, and a clinical program that serves the poor. [Nursing, Social Work?]
  • A quite different model is suggested by research institutes that address how social or religious values and perspectives intersect with issues of contemporary culture and public life, for example, the Social Welfare Research Institute, the Lonergan Institute, and the Jesuit Institute. The current Jesuit Institute faculty seminars, for example, deal with natural science and belief, religious values and the use of technology, the alienation of intellectual and professional elites from religion in contemporary culture, the Catholic Church and the AIDS crisis, and public schools and the Church.
  • Student life is another area where numerous structures and programs attempt in varying degrees to make social, moral and religious values explicit. Examples would be the Emerging Leader Program, in residence halls the Faculty Fellow Program, and distinctive living arrangements such as the Salt and Light Company and substance-free floors.
  • Another model is pastoral activities focused on students (and to a lesser extent faculty and staff members) — liturgies, retreats, counseling, spiritual direction, Jesuits in residence halls, and so forth — which deal with the spiritual or explicitly religious dimension of the lives of those in the university community.
  • Yet another model is represented by the numerous service programs (undertaken by the chaplaincy, Student Affairs offices, and others) in the city and in other parts of the country and abroad, which students and faculty and staff participate in. Also relevant in this context are graduate service programs, especially the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and the Jesuit International Volunteers.
  • The oldest model of a religiously oriented education that we can see operating at Boston College is the most generic. Not a particular program or structure, this model consists simply of the fact that many men and women, Jesuits and lay people, teach, do their research, are involved with students' lives, and administer the affairs of the University from a conscious perspective that theirs is a vocation that has a moral and spiritual dimension, which should be explicit in whatever ways are appropriate in a university.


Are There Still Questions?

This variety of activities and programs is reason for satisfaction, but is it evidence enough to answer fully the question about whether and how a religiously grounded view of education and its role in public life can animate the life of a modern university? Perhaps an answer can only be given in some such form as this, by pointing to concrete examples of a vision at work. The richness and flexibility of these structures certainly suggest that at Boston College we are still operating from a position of strength.

But would we really say that we have squarely faced all the implications of the drastic separation of religion and the life of the mind in contemporary intellectual culture? Are we confident that this attitude plays no significant role in the way most of us teach and talk to one another and do our research? As a university, do we speak to contemporary society out of a tradition of moral and religious reflection, or do we simply borrow the vocabulary and concerns of the culture around us? Do our agreements about how our students should be educated go much deeper than the conventional liberal sentiments of mainstream American intellectual life? Would we really say that our pedagogy and our research are deeply informed by an awareness of the needs of the global community we live in? Are we satisfied that the moral and religious development of students outside the classroom is solid and evident?

Or, more practically, among the existing programs and structures that seem to embody a distinctive vision of Boston College's identity, do we know which ones really work? Are they all healthy and well supported? Which of them deserve more of our time and energy? This last question is a particularly acute one for Jesuits, since all of these programs compete for the time and energy of a diminishing number of us. Which ones, or which combination, will enable us to carry on most effectively the ministry of the word that flows from Ignatian spirituality and has been central to Jesuit work since its beginning?

Most important of all, are all of us who form the Boston College community and share responsibility for its welfare confident that we know what steps will prevent Boston College from slowly losing its religious identity without our noticing it? Few of the hundreds of American colleges and universities founded with a religious vision have kept their identities intact. Intellectual culture in the wake of the Enlightenment has so profoundly separated religion from public discussion and decision making that a de facto if not a principled secularization has been the norm for most contemporary academic life. Do we have the will and the intellectual means to move in a contrary direction? Do we have the freedom and the confidence in our beliefs to open up these questions to one another's experiences and convictions and to seek a common understanding of the issues and what is at stake in them?


Needed: A Conversation

In spite of the positive things going on at Boston College, these questions still need answers. We can experience them as threats to our sense of well being, but we can also see them as challenges to a dialogue that will energize our imaginations and our work. Living at the point of tension may be the inevitable vocation of those who want to take both religious belief and contemporary intellectual life seriously. Ignatian spirituality tries constantly to discern where God is acting among diverse experiences and points of view. This attitude suits a university, whose mission is by nature a collaborative project, one that has to take account of all the knowledges and points of view that we can articulate. It requires humility in the face of our own ignorance and reverence before a mystery that is always disclosing itself in ways that surprise us. A university achieves this mission preeminently through dialogue. Therefore, we invite our colleagues to identify their own models of Boston College and of their work here and to compare them with the one implied in the six propositions below. Whether they share our religious faith or not, our colleagues nourish our reflection as Jesuits, as we hope that our dialogue is sustaining for them. Even when we come from different religious and social and political traditions, to be in a university is to be committed to values that create a large common ground for our conversation: reverence for the truth and a desire to use our learning for the good of the human community. On that basis we hope that we can pursue a dialogue among visions and models that will clarify Boston College's mission and our engagements as Jesuits here.

The outcome of this story is by no means predictable. Whether a university that attempts to bring inquiry and teaching into a fruitful relationship with a religious view of the world can long survive is an open question. There is no obvious model we can imitate at Boston College when we envision enhancing the dialogue of religion and the intellectual disciplines, giving students the tools to integrate their intellectual and spiritual development, and bringing this reflection to bear on the way we live. If such a project can be accomplished, we may have to invent its plan ourselves. Boston College has grown in unprecedented ways in the past two decades and seems poised for a new understanding of its role as a university. That identity we invite our colleagues to join in discussing and in bringing to reality.


A Presupposition and Six Propositions

To this end, we suggest the following six propositions about Boston College as a Catholic and Jesuit university — not to foreclose discussion but to stimulate a conversation about the themes that can define the mission of Boston College and engage our idealism as Jesuits.

The presupposition underlying these propositions is that a university is oriented to the uncompromising and unrestricted pursuit of truth and excellence in all the disciplines, theoretical and practical, undertaken by its faculty members. This principle is essential to our understanding of Boston College as a university. The religious, moral, and pedagogical values proposed below do not compromise our view that serious scholarly inquiry is absolutely crucial to the vitality of the university.


1. The fundamental principle on which our view of the university rests is that all inquiry can deepen faith and that faith by its nature demands understanding. The two are intrinsically connected.

This principle has been the core of the effort of Christian thinkers, from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to Karl Rahner, to work out a synthesis of faith and intellect. Historically, however, it has proven difficult to hold its two elements in productive tension. In the 17th century religion and reason began to take different sides in arguments about the world, human nature, and political society. By the 19th century Catholic theology had withdrawn behind seminary walls, and much scientific and political discourse was cast in terms hostile to religion. These were the conditions under which most American colleges shed their religious identities. Catholic colleges and universities held onto a distinctive character longer by emphasizing philosophy, especially ethics, and by fencing out modernity and contemporary secular culture so far as possible. But the long creative tradition of Catholic theological thought was thus cut off from the most formative intellectual developments of the 19th and early 20th centuries; neither influenced the other significantly.

When the social and human sciences developed, they took as their model the apparently value-free methodologies of the natural sciences. These disciplines — history, economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology — joined the natural sciences in establishing the empirical ethos that marks the 20th-century university. Paradoxically, however, these disciplines have forced into the light precisely the issues their descriptive and quantitative methodologies had originally aimed at avoiding: the problem of the concrete choosing subject, of how meaning is constructed that can guide choice, and of the consequences of constructing meaning in different ways. In the late 20th century these are the questions that are at the center of intellectual debate. They are also strikingly similar to the questions religious thinkers have consistently tried to answer.

Religion and secular intellectual culture need to open their horizons to one another's insights. Both raise important questions and need each other to answer them fully. The perspective that can bring them together is the principle that the dynamism inherent in the desire to know is completed only in the self-disclosure of God, and its corollary, that faith necessarily evolves towards its own self-possession in understanding. A university realizes this principle if it is a community of inquiry whose disciplines are constantly in dialogue with one another to formulate the central questions that move men and women to wonder about the world and their lives and to find ever more adequate answers for these questions. The most concretely visible way of doing this is to foster the kind of discourse that brings religious concerns into dialogue with the disciplines of knowledge.

A Jesuit view of the university is grounded, then, in the project of recovering the intrinsic connection between knowledge and faith and of moving towards a reflective unity that gives direction to research and teaches habits of mind and heart conducive to students' fullest intellectual and spiritual development.


2. In a university the knowledge gained through inquiry brings with it the responsibility of acting justly for the common good.

Though the nature of knowledge and the biblical picture of God's kingdom would both seem to lead to this conclusion, universities have traditionally proposed to students a largely disengaged appreciation of the humanities and the sciences. Professional education did prepare students for public life, but its ethical ideal was like that of liberal education, the responsible individual agent. Today, when we are much more aware of how political and economic structures bring about collective injustice and oppression, and understand better the relationship between these structures and the values woven into our culture and the ways we think and behave, this view of education seems radically incomplete.

A worldwide gathering of Jesuits in 1975 summoned Jesuits to reflect on the connection between faith and working for justice. This summons is a contemporary version of Ignatius's central question: What knowledge and what choices really lead us to the greater good? This is a demand of the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew scriptures. It is an unequivocal teaching of the Gospels. We might even say that it is a consequence of the very idea of education. The more we know about the suffering of men and women and the causes of these ills, and the more we can imagine ways of remedying them, the closer we come to the imperative to use our knowledge in action. Research, critical reflection, pedagogy, and practical experience should be connected in the kind of informed action that brings about a society where all men and women can share fully in the blessings that should be theirs as human beings. A passion for justice ought, therefore, to characterize all our work and the education we offer to our students.


3. A Catholic university embodies the calling of the Church as a community to reflect on the relationship between the Gospel and human culture and to speak to the world and the Church about what it learns from this reflection.

The Church is often described as a community of disciples, gathered through faith in Jesus. This community experiences his power through the symbolic activities that shape its life: baptism, marriage, holy orders, and so forth, but especially around the Eucharistic table where Jesus' own life and death are recalled and represented. The community has an institutional structure and a mission, to call men and women to holiness, to witness to its understanding of the Gospel, and to work to make the Gospel vision of human life a reality in the world.

Christianity is a religion of the book. Its Jewish roots and the Greek context in which its theology developed guaranteed that it would place a high value on understanding its experience of God, and, indeed, universities as we know them grew out of Catholic Christianity. The Second Vatican Council has made it clear that it is the Church's task to bring the Gospel into relation with all of human culture. A university is one of the preeminent places where this can happen.

A university has to have its own proper autonomy to do this work. When the mind frames inquiries, develops hypotheses, follows evidence, and critiques accepted understandings in order more adequately to express the truth, we believe that the truth that it is moving towards is the gift of God's self-disclosure. But the outcome cannot be anticipated or prescribed. The disciplines of the university have their own autonomy and can be brought into relationship with religious faith only through dialogue.

The relationship of a Catholic university to the institutional Church is similar, a communion based on dialogue. The university fills an indispensable function in the Church's life, as the preeminent place where intellectual reflection, human culture, and a Gospel vision of the world intersect and influence one another. But, to do this, a Catholic university must respect the freedom and autonomy of the mind's desire to know.

At the same time a Catholic university must manifest its religious identity as a community; otherwise its identity is merely notional and not functional. It does this in various ways: by bringing the disciplines it studies into dialogue with religious faith in its different forms, by creating a place for this dialogue in the curriculum, by stimulating the kind of research that brings this dialogue to bear on current public issues, by giving serious attention to theological reflection, by educating men and women for ministry and leadership in religious organizations, by fostering a lively liturgical life on the campus, by providing pastoral support for the spiritual development of its members, and by giving them opportunities to express their convictions in service to others. These are the signs of a genuinely Catholic university.


4. University education is about students' intellectual, moral, and spiritual development. It is informative and formative at the same time.

Each student has to grow through a trajectory of development that takes many forms but has one goal, mature understanding and the wisdom to use this understanding well.

The intellectual criteria for judging this formation, from the first undergraduate years to the highest level of professional and graduate education, are familiar to anyone immersed in university life. But a university founded on a religious view of life also proposes that students' moral and spiritual development is inseparable from their intellectual development. Students should find in classes and in the involvements of campus life challenge and support for their growth in judgment and in action that shapes the ethos of their lives. Their education should help them deepen their sense of wonder and curiosity, cultivate their ideals, widen their understanding of human life and their sympathy for others, and form principles that will enable them to choose how best to live for their own good and the good of other men and women. It should also be an education of the heart, enabling students to explore and deepen their understanding of themselves and of the central relationships that constitute their humanity, to recognize the meaning of their desires and aspirations, and to see that these form a trajectory that began in God's self-offering and will reach a conclusion only when they share in the fullness of God's life.

This is a demanding vision of the goal of education, one acknowledged in the Homeric phrase BC takes as its motto, "ever to excel," which echoes in turn the Ignatian principle of striving for the "greater" good. These sentiments should color all that we do in a Jesuit university. At every level students should be challenged always to go further, not to be comfortable with mediocrity but to judge their studies and their goals by the highest standards they can imagine.


5. A university is a community. It discloses its values by the way it behaves as much as by what it says about itself.

A view of education inspired by Ignatian spirituality aims at developing in students a moral and spiritual wisdom integrally related not only to knowledge but to the conduct of life. This requires a delicate pedagogy that aims at both informing and forming, which cannot be the preoccupation only of the classroom. Everyone in the university community contributes to it. Every interchange — in offices, in dining rooms, on playing fields, in student residences — can advance or hinder this development.

A university also proposes to reflect critically on the society and the culture of which it is a part. All universities do this to some extent, but a countercultural and prophetic stance should play a distinctive role in a university responding to the imperatives of the Gospel. This ambition imposes on the university the responsibility of embodying in its own behavior — of its members towards one another and of the university towards it neighbors — the ideals it espouses.

The distinctive quality of relationships among men and women in a Jesuit university should be care for each person's good; respect for the freedom each one needs to grow intellectually and spiritually; and concern for the good of the communities, local and global, of which we are a part.

This distinctive attitude ought to be evident in how we deal with some of the important issues in contemporary university life: how to enable students to experience a campus life that facilitates their full intellectual and spiritual development; how to help students imagine career choices that respond to their own ideals and to the needs of the larger community; how to mitigate the tension faculty members experience between scholarship and service; how to mentor younger colleagues in the face of a competitive and individualistic professionalism; how to support scholarship and professional work that benefits the common good and enhances solidarity between intellectual and cultural elites and those most in need; how to put institutional resources at the service of our neighbors in the communities around us.

The institutional community we live in will always fall short of our ideals in noticeable ways, but it makes a great deal of difference if we consciously propose these ideals as standards by which to measure our behavior as a community.


6. The university is intercultural and global.

In the late twentieth century, cross-cultural encounters and political–economic interdependence have become facts of life for ordinary men and women as never before in human history. New forms of interaction across the boundaries of nation and tradition open formerly unimaginable possibilities for true community among the men and women of the earth. Nation-states are beginning to recognize that transnational problems like environmental degradation, the forced migration of refugees, and threats to human health such as the human immunodeficiency virus and the drug trade require transnational responses. Global economic interdependence calls the very idea of a "domestic economy" into question and invites us to recognize that the good of each is linked to the common good of all. Ancient religious and cultural traditions cannot avoid new forms of interaction and the need for new understanding of each other.

These new encounters also threaten to bring increased conflict. Employment opportunities in developed countries are vulnerable to the movement of capital across national borders. The plight of hundreds of millions of very poor people in less-developed countries is directly affected by fluctuations in global financial and commercial markets that can be rightly called hegemonic. Dangerous new forms of nationalism and defensive cultural self-assertion are on the rise. The religious dimensions of cultural identity play increasing roles in a number of the violent conflicts that wound the body of humanity today.

The university has an indispensable role to play in shaping responses to these challenges. The importance of education and research formed by global and cross-cultural understanding should be practically evident in all aspects of the curriculum, in the composition of faculty and student body, and in the roles played by the university in the world beyond the campus.

Pursuit of such a cross-cultural and global understanding is in deep continuity with the Catholic and Jesuit traditions. Realism requires us to acknowledge that both of these traditions have sometimes shared in historical actions shaped by the impulse to cultural, economic, and religious domination. At their best, however, these traditions have sought relationships with peoples with different histories and identities based on mutual understanding. Christianity began as a small Jewish Palestinian sect but quickly incorporated wisdom drawn from Greek and Roman thought into its self-understanding and theology. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas drew on intellectual resources he had learned from Jews and Muslims in developing the most influential strand of Catholic theology yet formulated. From the beginning of their history Jesuits were present on the cutting edge of interaction between European culture, politics, and religion and the newly encountered worlds of India, China, and the Americas. Often the first dictionaries and grammars of the languages of these peoples written for Europeans were written by Jesuits. The dialogue with these cultures sought by early Jesuits were often mediated both through exchanges of scientific knowledge and efforts at mutual religious understanding. A commitment to the defense of non-European peoples against misunderstanding, exploitation, and even enslavement was one of the factors that led to the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773.

The possibilities for education that is genuinely intercultural and global are enhanced by Boston College's actual and potential links with the worldwide Catholic community and the global network of Jesuit-related institutions of higher learning and research. Creative efforts to further realize this potential are hold great promise for the developing identity of the university.

The university must become a place where the newly interdependent world we are entering today is both present and more adequately understood. If the university is to be Catholic, it must be catholic or universal in ways that reflect this global reality in its research, its teaching, and the concerns that animate the people who give it life.


Dialogue and Discernment

We return, therefore, to the two questions with which we began: As Jesuits how shall we envision Boston College's identity as a university, and how does this vision suggest ways of working here as Jesuits to realize it? The answer would seem to be implied in the six propositions advanced above and in their corollaries. The spirit of Ignatian discernment and the principle of collegial cooperation suggest, however, that Jesuits cannot settle these questions by ourselves. We need a process of collaborative dialogue with the men and women in the university who share our concerns about contemporary culture, about the role of education in it, and about Boston College's mission as a university founded on a religious vision of life. This dialogue has to be situated in the particular experiences of truth and of the quest for understanding that have shaped our professional lives as well as in the convictions that orient our lives as human beings.

This paper sets out the views of Jesuits working at Boston College, but it is still very much a working paper. Its purpose is to stimulate the kind of conversation across the University community that illuminates how all the members of the Boston College community imagine the defining principles of our collective identity as Boston College. This conversation is not something new. It has a long history, it has taken various forms in the past, and we hope that it will continue with new vigor in the coming years.

Ignatius Loyola would say, however, that it is deeds, not words, that finally matter. The conversation that we envision implies outcomes in action. As Jesuits we want to realize in a way suited to our own time the hopes that led our predecessors to establish this institution 130 years ago. Their ideals took shape in continuity with the vision of Ignatius 300 years earlier but under the influence of a different time and different needs. Our age has its own agenda and its own challenges. These offer us an opportunity to realize again the aspiration of every academic community — to grasp hold of the truths our times require — and the dream that we envision in the image of God's kingdom — to have a share in creating a world that will participate in perfect charity and justice. The future shape of Jesuit presence in this university will almost certainly be different from what it is today. The differences are what we have to create, by the choices we make now. These choices depend directly on the quality of our discernment about the things we are being called to give up and to take on.

September 1994