By Rita Buettner and Stephanie Weaver, Office of Marketing and Communications, Loyola University Maryland
As the new strategic plan for Loyola University Maryland was entering its final stages in June 2016, members of Loyola’s Board of Trustees joined Loyola's president, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., and members of his cabinet for a pilgrimage through Spain and Italy.
The eight-day pilgrimage led the participants from Bilbao, Spain, to Rome, Italy. They first stopped at the castle where St. Ignatius of Loyola lived with his family before continuing on to Xavier, home of St. Francis Xavier, where they had the opportunity to see religious articles belonging to him that are not typically on display to the public.
They also visited Montserrat and Manresa. Montserrat is the town where, after his conversion, Ignatius prayed and committed himself to Christ, leaving behind his sword at the statue of the Blessed Mother. He pledged to spend the next year in penance and prayer and continued on to Manresa, where he encountered the Holy Spirit and wrote what is known today as The Spiritual Exercises. Before the pilgrimage concluded in Rome, the participants attended a public audience with Pope Francis.
The three Jesuits on the trip—Fr. Linnane, Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., special assistant to the president for mission integration, and Rev. Jack Dennis, S.J., Loyola Trustee and president of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis—happened to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of their ordinations. While in Rome, they concelebrated Mass at an altar in the Vatican.
“This was not merely a retreat, or a time only for prayer and spiritual growth. It was an unparalleled experience to consider what matters most to me and to this university we are shepherding as committed, dedicated leaders,” said Fr. Linnane. “I was struck by the numerous opportunities the trip offered for reflection on the history of the Jesuits and their role in education.
"As you immerse yourself in history and culture and share experiences with your fellow travelers, something powerful happens. You not only engage in your own reflection and self-discovery, but you bond as a group, and you become rejuvenated, centered and focused in a new way on the origin of the Jesuit mission that is at the heart of the work we do here at Loyola,” he explained. “You are also able to understand the global perspective of the Jesuit mission and the roots of this whole endeavor.”
Guided by Ignatius
From the earliest conversations about the next strategic plan for Loyola, one theme rose to the surface: The Loyola community was craving deeper engagement with the University’s mission. All members of the community—including Loyola's leaders—were seeking greater purpose, inspiration and direction. The idea for the pilgrimage reflected that interest, offering a journey of exploration that mirrored and enhanced the journey of self-discovery that would shape the strategic plan for the future of Loyola University Maryland.
As the plan evolved during 24 months of examination, observation and reflection, the discussions focused on how Loyola was distinctive—and has the potential to be distinctive in the future. The charge was to bring the vision to life: Loyola University Maryland, anchored in Baltimore, will be a leading national liberal arts university in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition.
It was a significant task, particularly because the creation of the plan was embraced in a Jesuit way, reflecting on what Loyola University Maryland was, and discerning what it could and should be in the future. Ultimately, more than 300 members of the Loyola community lent their voices to the plan, within 15 work groups, raising the bar for collaboration in a strategic planning process for the University.
“It’s exciting the way the process worked, and how so many people were engaged from all areas of the University,” said Fr. Linnane. “From the beginning, there was an interest in the Jesuit, Catholic mission of Loyola University Maryland and how that might be more effectively experienced by our students and all members of the community.”
The Birth of a Plan
By taking a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Ignatius, Loyola University Maryland leaders were able to return to Loyola's Evergreen campus with a renewed focus on the mission of the founder of the Jesuits. That mission and heritage have been infused into Loyola's plan, which embraces four pillars: Ignatian Citizenship, Ignatian Educational Innovation, Ignatian Engagement, and Ignatian Vitality and Sustainability. Loyola is implementing the plan, The Ignatian Compass: Guiding Loyola University Maryland to Ever Greater Excellence, from 2017-22.
The Ignatian Compass looks to the teachings and philosophy of St. Ignatius to prepare Loyola to address critical challenges that are now facing higher education in the United States. The strategic plan calls upon all members of the community to confront these challenges together and to be more nimble and more flexible—reflecting the nimbleness of Ignatius himself—to deliver upon educational goals with ever greater excellence.
"Today's universities recognize that to stay the same is to fall behind. The Ignatian Compass offers Loyola University Maryland the opportunity to look back at the mission that St. Ignatius embraced even before he formed the Society of Jesus, and consider how we can enhance the education and experience we are offering our students," said Fr. Linnane. "Together, we want to push the envelope to make sure our students are getting the very best, distinctive educational experience that forms them intellectually and spiritually and personally—and that they graduate from Loyola prepared for all that the future holds."