AJCU Presidents Attend Launch of International Association of Jesuit Universities

Contact: Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
(202) 862-9893, dhowes@ajcunet.edu

 Conference Participants in Bilbao, Spain (photo by University of Deusto)

Conference Participants in Bilbao, Spain (photo by University of Deusto)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Wednesday, July 11th, the presidents and administrators of more than 200 Jesuit institutions and organizations from across the world attended the signing of a charter that established the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU). The signing occurred during a week-long gathering at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain, where leaders in Jesuit higher education met to engage in dialogue on the critical issues impacting their institutions today, and collaborate on ways to address them.

According to its charter, “The mission of the IAJU is to contribute to the progress of the Society’s apostolate of higher education through the application of its decrees and documents in order to promote the development of a more just and humane world for the greater honor and glory of God.”

The charter was signed by Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who met with each regional delegation during the meeting, and spoke about the university as “a source of reconciled life.” He said:

Through its commitment to the university, the Society seeks to contribute to turn the word of Jesus into a historical truth: ...I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Reconciliation is possible when there is life. Life produces reconciliation, which in turn makes life full. Reconciliation is a way of returning to life and making it grow toward fullness. A full life entails a kind of love capable of giving one’s life so that all may have life. The growing commitment of the Society of Jesus within the university’s endeavor takes on its meaning through the desire to effectively contribute to enabling a dignified full life for each and every human being, both in the present and in the future.

Among the members of the United States delegation was the president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., who also signed the charter and was named one of two U.S. delegates to the IAJU oversight board. He said:

The Deusto Conference got IAJU off to a solid start. There’s a lot of work ahead as regional associations of Jesuit institutions will need to be developed in major parts of the world, and the existing regional associations will have to learn how to use IAJU, the umbrella organization, to facilitate student, faculty and research exchanges. Gradually, Jesuit education will develop the worldwide collaboration that today’s technology and modes of travel make possible. The formation of IAJU is a great step forward.

The president of Le Moyne College, Dr. Linda LeMura, was named the second U.S. delegate to the IAJU oversight board, and served on a panel about income inequality. She said:

The fair and equitable distribution of income is one of the most pressing and vexing issues our world faces. By its very nature, it impacts virtually every aspect of our global society, from government to labor to education to the environment, to name but a few. The complexity - and importance - of this issue cannot be over-stated. I was heartened by the vibrant discussion that took place and the resolve shown for using our collective will and influence to address income inequality.

Several other presidents of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities attended IAJU, and offered the following reflections:

Like Melbourne in 2015, the 2018 Deusto conference was a bracing opportunity to step back from all that occupies me day by day at Xavier University and remember the horizon against which all that day-to-day work takes its deepest meaning. It was, by turns challenging, inspiring, consoling, enriching—and at times even a great deal of fun. I’ve brought back many strong, wonderful memories: a conference opened by a king; Father General’s address to us at the Loyola basilica; conversations formal and informal around our common work; the thunderous ovation as the assembly approved a statement condemning the grave situation in Nicaragua; and powerful liturgies through which the global face of the Church and of the Society shone radiantly. I think it’s safe to say that all of us, each in our own way and time, glimpsed something of a future for us together that is possible. Now comes much hard work, of course. But, in Bilbao, our journey was well begun.
— Rev. Michael J. Graham, S.J., President, Xavier University
Father General Sosa called on all Jesuit colleges and universities to work for reconciliation and peace, echoing the words of Pope Francis during our last General Congregation. For the University of San Francisco, this means that we must re-double our efforts, through all of our degree programs and all of our extracurricular activities, to form graduates who will change the world for the better. Our great diversity makes us the ideal Jesuit work to model reconciliation and peace by means of our radical hospitality, inclusive excellence, charitable dialogue, critical thinking and imaginative scholarship - all fueled by a profound hunger for universal justice. Our alumni are already agents of a better world, and they inspire our current students to follow in their footsteps.
— Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco
For our stewardship of Fairfield University’s mission and our efforts to be a model of the modern, Jesuit, Catholic university, the conference was invaluable as we heard from Father General in regard to his vision for Jesuit higher education in the 21st century, and began in earnest to seed the global collaboration which is essential to our institution and its impact.
— Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., President, Fairfield University

Additional remarks came from administrators of Jesuit institutions and organizations in North America:

It was a joy to attend the conference and formal inauguration of IAJU in Bilbao. The gathering of like-minded colleagues from across the entire globe reminds us of the universality of our educational project—across cultures, political systems, and starkly varied economic conditions. The gathered group bolstered each other through our discussion of Ignatian leadership, formation, inter-religious dialogue, social justice, and peace and reconciliation. Many excellent ideas were shared by global colleagues and we all walk away inspired and better armed for the tasks we face, both as individual institutions and a collective. I know that Marquette University and the rest of the AJCU institutions are looking forward to what we can contribute and gain from the now-global network of schools.
— Daniel J. Myers, Ph.D., Provost, Marquette University
The organizers and volunteers at the University of Deusto put together liturgies and social time that deepened our sense of community and common purpose. The highlight for me was witnessing the heads of each regional association sign the Charter of the IAJU. This was done on the altar of the sanctuary at Loyola, next to the Casa Santa of St. Ignatius, which was significant to all and deeply moving for me personally. In my ministry as Assistant for Higher Education in Canada, I will share with the six colleges in our network the exciting possibilities for future collaboration such as Jesuit Worldwide Learning, Alpha Sigma Nu and the proposal for Magis, a multilateral mobility opportunity. I was impressed by our common Jesuit mission, enriched by the diversity of this gathering, and the warm welcome we received in this cosmopolitan city.
— Rev. John Meehan, S.J., President Emeritus, Campion College at the University of Regina
At Deusto 2018, the global reach and impact of Jesuit higher education were powerfully present, as were the aspirations of our Jesuit leaders. ‘By relying on our identity, we seek to bind people’s lives to a more humane world, advocating justice and reconciliation among individuals, peoples and the environment,’ Fr. Sosa challenged as he asked attendees to commit to these outcomes. The newly chartered IAJU gives us the venue to connect and network as we work to accomplish these goals. It truly was a privilege to present Alpha Sigma Nu as a model of an organization utilizing its member network to promote the mission of Jesuit higher education and the goals of IAJU. We will gladly welcome new chapters, and also look forward to supporting the creation of ASN-like organizations in other regions around the globe.
— Kate Gaertner, Executive Director, Alpha Sigma Nu

To learn more about IAJU, please visit iaju.org. Videos and photos from the Deusto conference are available at iaju.deusto.es/media/pictures. For additional coverage from AJCU member institutions, please click on the following school names: Canisius CollegeCreighton UniversityLe Moyne College, Spring Hill College and the University of Detroit Mercy.