World Union of Jesuit Alumni Draws Global Audience to John Carroll University

By Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications, AJCU
dhowes@ajcunet.edu | (202) 862-9893

Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the JEsuit Conference of Canada and the United States, addressed guests at WUJA 2017 (Photo by AJCU)

Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the JEsuit Conference of Canada and the United States, addressed guests at WUJA 2017 (Photo by AJCU)

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.

John Carroll University Interim President Dr. Jeanne Colleran welcomed guests to WUJA (Photo by AJCU)

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.

Young Media Panel (L-R): Deanna Howes (AJCU), Caitlin Huey-Burns (Real Clear Politics), Andrew Rafferty (NBC News), Rev. Sam Sawyer, S.J. (America Media) (Photo by John Carroll University) 

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.

James a.F. Stoner (Fordham University), Robert A. Giacalone (John Carroll University), Rev. Gerald Cavanagh, S.J. (University of Detroit Mercy) (Photo by AJCU)

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:

Rev. Don Doll, S.J., Professor Emeritus at Creighton University

I was pleased to be able to bring these photographs of refugees to this conference because somehow I think the photographs make the situation of the poor and marginalized real. Its nice to talk about working for the poor and working for justice but to see the actual situations where people are experiencing hardship and suffering greatly in our world really brings home, I think, the urgency of our work and what we need to do.

Conor O'Kane, Director of Campus Ministry at Fordham University (Boston College '99)

My experience with Jesuit education has been profoundly transformative. Going to a Jesuit university and Jesuit high school really taught me the value of education not just for myself but for the world, using my gifts and talents to help grow and expand the opportunities that I have but also to meet the needs of others in the world, including those on the margins.

Mary Meiman (Wheeling Jesuit University '16; WJU Admissions Representative) & Kristen Shimko (Wheeling Jesuit University '18)

Coming from the youngest and the smallest of all the U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities, our network is a little bit limited, so to connect with those who have the same Jesuit background that we’re coming from, to meet people from India, Micronesia and Brazil, has the been the best part of this conference.

Sumit Khemka (Alumnus, St.Xavier's School, Ranchi, India)

My Jesuit education has had a major impact, making me more of a holistic person; it has enriched many things in my life.

Rev. Ryan G. Duns, S.J., Doctoral candidate at Boston College (Canisius College '02)

The classroom itself is a vehicle to enter into the experience of the human heart. There’s an English avenue for literature, there’s the theological avenue with tradition, and there’s a chemistry avenue. In each one of these, there’s content but there’s also conversation.

Ieva Dudaite & Marija Dudaite (Alumnae, Kaunas Jesuit High School)

Our very first concert that we gave publicly together was at the Kaunas Jesuit gymnasium (high school) in Kaunas, Lithuania. Every week we had Mass and always prayed before class, and we sang in the choir. Each week, each class was in charge of singing and preparing for Mass, decorating the Church and rehearsing for singing. It was really a responsibility and a great system that brought us closer to the qualities of service and engaging us with God.

Dave Vitatoe, Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at John Carroll University (John Carroll University '00)

You enter into an institution like John Carroll or any of the 28 or any of the high schools, and you immerse yourself with all of these wonderful people who have a similar worldview of caring for your brothers and sisters. That rubs off on you and you may not understand it going through, but years later, you’ll reflect on all the people that you associated yourself with and how that made you a better person.

For more information on the 2017 World Union of Jesuit Alumni gathering at John Carroll University, please visit wujacongress2017.org. To learn more about Jesuit global collaboration and complete a survey on networking, please click here. Photos from WUJA are available on AJCU's Facebook page.