By Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications, AJCU
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From June 28th through July 2nd, more than 500 alumni and friends of Jesuit colleges and universities throughout the world met at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio for the first North American Congress of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni (WUJA). Held every four years, WUJA is a global gathering for Jesuit alumni to engage in collaboration and share in their mutual connections to the Society of Jesus and Jesuit education.
WUJA was established in Bilbao, Spain on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus) on July 31, 1956. Since then, global WUJA congresses have been held across the world including Rome, Italy (1967), Versailles, France (1986), Sydney, Australia (1997), Calcutta, India (2003), Bujumbura, Burundi (2009) and Medellin, Colombia (2013). The next WUJA congress will be held in Barcelona, Spain in 2021.
Planning for this year's congress began in 2013, shortly after Cleveland was named the host city during that year's congress in Colombia. WUJA's North American representatives were two John Carroll University alumni (Dave Clifford '87 and Frank Brady '70) who reached out to Dave Vitatoe, executive director of alumni relations and annual giving at John Carroll University, to begin plans for 2017.
Vitatoe said, "We thought downtown Cleveland originally might be the location but then we thought, 'We are the Jesuit university of Cleveland so let's host it here.' We worked with WUJA's global leaders to understand what their needs were for the congress, so we took that and put our American twist on this event."
Highlights from this year's congress included live-streamed keynote addresses from the new Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J.; noted best-selling author Rev. James Martin, S.J.; and Georgetown University scholar Dr. Katherine Marshall. In-person keynote addresses were delivered by Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J. (president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States); Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J. (founder of Homeboy Industries); Chris Lowney (best-selling author); and Rev. Peter Balleis, S.J. (executive president of Jesuit Worldwide Learning). Recordings of all keynote addresses can be seen here.
Con-current sessions were led by faculty at many U.S. Jesuit institutions including Boston College, Georgetown University, John Carroll University, Marquette University, Saint Joseph's University and the University of Detroit Mercy, as well as representatives from AJCU, Alpha Sigma Nu and Jesuit Refugee Service / USA. Presentations and discussions were held on a range of topics including collaboration among international Jesuit business schools, social entrepreneurship, developing alumni networks on the frontiers, best practices in mission and identity, sport and spirituality, Ignatian pedagogy, and the future of Jesuit higher education.
Special events included a photography exhibit by noted Jesuit photographer Rev. Don Doll, S.J., daily examens and communal prayer, a Jesuit ministries fair, an evening reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a musical performance by Ieva Dudaite and Marija Dudaite, classical musicians and alumnae of the Kaunas Jesuit High School in Lithuania. The congress concluded with a Mass at the Church of the Gesu, next to John Carroll's campus.
Below, please listen to reflections on WUJA and Jesuit education from seven participants and presenters from across the world: