BY CHRIS KERR | June 2, 2015
Last week faculty and staff from eleven Jesuit colleges and universities in the Heartland of the country met virtually for a conference on Jesuit education and mission entitled. Described as a gathering, “for dialogue and learning about Jesuit education, collaboration and Ignatian spirituality,” Heartland-Delta conferences (named to illustrate the geographical locations of the eleven institutions) have brought a cross-section of each of the eleven institutions together since 1994. The 700+ Heartland-Delta VII delegates virtually heard from a number of keynote speakers, had institutional small group discussions, and participated in inter-institutional dialogues.
In the context of the theme, “Balancing Our Economic Realities With Our Call to the Margins,” attendees had the chance to hear from Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Fr. Boyle shared insights from his time coming to be “with” those in central Los Angeles. His thoughts offer an opportunity for reflection on the role of service in Jesuit higher education and how we each view service in our own lives.
“The hope [of service] is to arrive at that place of mutuality where there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ — just ‘us.’
Greg Boyle, S.J.
Service is of course a core value of Jesuit higher education. If you take a glance at any of the mission statements of the twenty eight Jesuit universities in the U.S. you will find service at the forefront of how each school defines itself. This focus on service includes a commitment to serving local and regional communities; a desire to form students committed to service through their vocations when they graduate; supporting and lifting up students who commit to a year of service with programs like Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, etc.; and even an emphasis on faculty life that includes service in tandem with teaching and scholarship.
This commitment to service is likely true for each of us in our own lives. While we may not have printed missions statements, we do have ways that we have commit to serving others including our families, communities, faith communities, and beyond. However, in our desire to emphasize the importance of service, how do we and Jesuit institutions avoid creating relational dynamics that perpetuate stereotypes or societal barriers that often lead some to be seen as those who “serve” and others as those who are “served”? How do we create a reality of mutuality among all people?
Fr. Boyle challenges us to take this a step further asking:
How do we obliterate the illusion that we are separate and how do we get to that place where we stand against forgetting that we belong to each other?
Greg Boyle, S.J.
I would invite you to take 10 minutes and watch Fr. Boyle’s remarks to the Heartland-Delta delegates and consider his challenge to each of us – to obliterate those things that separate us.
How can we come to belong to each other in our communities, our workplaces, our faith communities?
Where are our the margins that we need to stand at in our own lives so that they can be erased?
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.