By: Alex Hale ~Staff Writer~
What is the entire purpose of a Jesuit school like Xavier? Why do we attend Xavier? Is it to simply pursue a career? Is it because our parents went here? Do we simply just want that piece of paper at the end of the day that allows us to join the middle class? Or is there a greater purpose to going to a Jesuit school?
Xavier as an institution has put its focus on issues like the Pizza ATM and the success of the basketball team to draw prospective students in for admissions. This is fine because of the financial issues we face as an institution.
However, the point of coming here is to be exposed to Jesuit values and spirituality. Xavier is not supporting our Ignatian values once students get here, and that’s a problem. Many students who come from Jesuit high schools are able to find Ignatian values in places like the Center for Faith and Justice if they purposely seek it out, but still too many are barely exposed to those values.
I sat down with Brother Burns, who has passionate opinions on this matter, in the Center for Mission and Identity. He says that as much as his office may try, there has to be an open line of dialogue.
Looking at the spirit celebration alone shows how true this unfortunately is. All classes and offices were shut down on campus for the single mass we celebrate together as a community, and yet many students walked through the mass while it was going on to go somewhere else. This reaction isn’t out of spite toward mass or Ignatian values, but rather the understanding that the story of Ignatius has never truly been shared with many students.
So how do we return to these values and expose students to the amazing story that is St. Ignatius of Loyola? There is no single good answer to that question, but there are undeniably things that can be done. Regis University in Denver is one of our Jesuit sister schools. Not too long ago, they were trying to figure out what made them unique and what differentiated them from other schools. They chose to focus on their Ignatian heritage primarily and hope that everything else would follow.
Today, they have a vibrant Jesuit campus that’s aware of its identity. They focused all their resources on developing retreats. They now have a silent retreat based on the spiritual exercises, a discernment retreat to calm juniors and seniors about their future choices and a version of our Get Away retreat, as well as Kairos. They have a series of art devoted to the story of Ignatius and spirituality. They are not hiding their values or avoiding conversation about them – they are engaging the topic and making it easier to begin to think about things.
So how can Xavier better fulfill its mission as a Jesuit school? There are plenty of things that can be done, as long as university leadership works to prioritize them.
For example, at Manresa, instead of a short info session on Jesuit spirituality, what if an entire day was devoted to the story of Ignatius? What if our Student Government Association (SGA) challenged the administration to look at what we value as an institution and place a priority, both in spirit and financially, on our Ignatian heritage? We could start an art series for Jesuit values here like they did at Regis, and we can open up new spaces on campus to talk about hard topics.
This goal may seem lofty, but it is truly worthy of an attempt. I refuse to believe that the story of St. Ignatius is a boring story of this holier than thou man and that the Jesuit order on campus is just attempting to suppress other views.
Regardless of one’s theological beliefs, the story of Ignatius is an inspiring one of a real man who had real struggles until he turned his life around. It makes me very sad to know that some students may graduate from Xavier not knowing who St. Ignatius was and why he’s important.
We as an institution can and should do better. We are Xavier Musketeers, and our education is worth more than just a Pizza ATM, basketball and a piece of paper. Let’s find out why we truly came to this school, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.