Participants in this year's Certificate in Jesuits Studies program traced the footsteps of Saint Ignatius and the early Jesuits through Madrid, Arévalo, Burgos, Loyola, Aranzazu, Pamplona, Xavier, Zaragoza, Verdú, Montserrat, Manresa, Barcelona, Castel Gandolfo, and Rome. Above, the group in Pamplona, where in 1521 then-soldier Íñigo López de Loyola received a cannonball injury that led to a long recovery period, during which he underwent a spiritual conversion. (Photos by Mark Kotsopoulous)

Twenty educators and other professionals recently expanded their understanding of the spirituality, history, and leadership methods associated with the Society Jesus through a one-of-its-kind program offered by Boston College. The Certificate in Jesuit Studies, a nine-credit summer program organized by the University's Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies (IAJS), combines experiential learning and pilgrimages in Spain and Rome with graduate-level coursework at BC that examines the Spiritual Exercises, the history of American Jesuits, and contemporary leadership strategies.

According to IAJS Director Casey Beaumier, S.J., Boston College is the only Jesuit college or university offering a program such as this, though other universities are beginning to consider it.

“When people want to learn about the Society of Jesus, more and more they look to Boston College,” said Fr. Beaumier, noting the recent opening of the IAJS Portal to Jesuit Studies. “BC is a hub of Jesuit resources. We are stewards of the gifts of the Society of Jesus.”

Nearly all of this year’s certificate participants were involved in Jesuit education at the high school or college level.

“There are very few opportunities for Jesuit higher education and Jesuit secondary education to mingle,” said Fr. Beaumier. “This experience magnifies the efforts at both levels. The participants feel a bigger sense of how this all fits together, which is very good for Jesuit education.”

Jessica Graf and Steven Titus

Program participants Jessica Graf of Boston College and Steven Titus of Iowa Wesleyan University.

Participants began the program in mid-June in Spain, immersing themselves in the life of Ignatius and the Jesuit order through visits to key places, readings, and study of a variety of written and visual primary and secondary sources. The sites visited included Loyola, Ignatius’ hometown and place of his conversion; Pamplona, where Ignatius was wounded; Montserrat, where Ignatius made his confession and cast off his old identity, and Manresa, where Ignatius did his penance and wrote the Spiritual Exercises. Students then headed to Rome to visit many sites, including Santa Maria Maggiore, the basilica where Ignatius celebrated his first Mass in 1538.

“[Our participants] love their Jesuit education or being part of the Jesuit network of schools,” added Fr. Beaumier, who also is the inaugural director of BC's Loyola House residence for those discerning possible Jesuit vocations, and who recently was named vice president and University Secretary. “When people with such an affection have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Jesuit history and spirituality, while praying and studying and interacting with others, they leave happy.”

The participants wrote daily reflections during their time in Europe. BC Assistant Director of Residential Ministry Jessica Graf, with fellow participant Iowa Wesleyan University President Steve Titus, wrote of a young Ignatius:

“From the age of about 13 to 26, some of the most formative years for any young adult, [Ignatius] was sent away from his family in Loyola to Arevalo. This young man romanticized the idea of fame, glory, and was often distracted by vanity in many ways of his life.  We deeply appreciated how his identity was shaped so young, which only further lifts up and highlights the life of this man who ultimately realized he could not win the interior battle he was fighting until he surrendered to Christ.”

In July, the program shifted to the Boston College campus, where students spent three weeks in full-day, graduate-level courses examining the dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises, the history of American Jesuits, and several contemporary leadership strategies through case studies, workshops, and guest lectures. Courses were taught by Fr. Beaumier and IAJS Associate Director Seth Meehan.

“It was hard work, but it was well worth it,” said participant Lar Duffy, an English teacher at Gonzaga College, S.J., a high school in Dublin, Ireland. “The experience was a unique and thrilling one, beginning with travel to and investigation of historical Jesuit sites in Spain and Italy, and continuing with our work in Boston. A cohort of Jesuit educators and administrators, with some not directly connected to Jesuit institutions, contributed to vibrant and immersive discussion of issues past and present.”

He added that he was eager to share what he learned with his colleagues at Gonzaga, where he serves on a committee overseeing Ignatian formation.

Burns Library

At BC's Burns Library, staff show program participants items from its holdings.

Another participant, Woods College of Advancing Studies Associate Dean for Enrollment Management Claudia Pouravelis, noted that the certificate program already had a direct influence on the structuring of a new student formation program, the Woods College Manresa Experience.

“The Woods College is very committed to ensuring our students have an understanding of Jesuit values and what it means to be a Boston College student,” said Pouravelis. “I participated in the Certificate in Jesuit Studies program because I wanted to gain better insight into the Jesuits so I could effectively communicate their charism to our students.”

Members of the BC community and past participants of the certificate program served as guest speakers throughout July. Church in the 21st Century Center Associate Director Karen Kiefer spoke about the center’s work, including Agape Latte, and Christian Dupont and his team showcased the Jesuitica Collection at Burns Library. In addition, the BC Jesuit community and St. Peter Faber Jesuit Community both hosted a dinner for participants.

Loyola Marymount University Vice President for Mission and Ministry John Sebastian and Susan Cook, a teacher at St. Joseph’s Prep in Boston, participants in the 2016 certificate program, shared the impact the experience has had on their work.

Pouravelis added that the summer experience had personal impact on her as well.

“The certificate program helped me think about and reaffirm my own vocation to Catholic higher education, to Jesuit education, and to Boston College, strengthening my aspirations to serve as a lay leader in the field,” she said.

Fr. Beaumier noted that participants interested in becoming leaders in Jesuit schools, colleges, and universities can apply the nine-credit Certificate in Jesuit Studies towards a master’s degree in the Lynch School of Education or School of Theology and Ministry.

“We want Boston College to be the foundation for the academic discipline of Jesuit Studies,” he said.

Not all of program participants were currently in the field of Jesuit education. One was a Jesuit-educated man who desired a deeper understanding of the religious order’s history as well as of Ignatian spirituality.

“The program exceeded my expectations every day and in every way,” said Steve Rabatin, a commercial architect from Rochester, Minn. “[It] has given me leadership tools, knowledge and a fresh Ignatian perspective that will serve me well in my work and as I strive to be a better husband, brother, son, and friend.”


-- Kathleen Sullivan and Patricia Delaney | University Communications