Monday, March 25, 2013

Remembering our Mission, Imagining our Future - Part II

The Jesuits of Saint Louis University have organized a Jesuit Mission Series for the SLU community.  The three-part series began on February 28, with a presentation by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, on our “Catholic and Jesuit Heritage.”  The text of Fr. Tetlow’s presentation is available here. A video of the presentation is available here.  An introduction to the series by Fr. Patrick Quinn, SJ, is available here.

The second  installment of the series takes place this evening – Monday, March 25, 4:00-5:30, in Room 117 of the School of Nursing.  Fr. John Padberg, SJ, will address “The Meaning and Purpose of the University.”  Fr. Padberg has been the Director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources since 1986.  He is renowned for his passionate commitment to scholarship, spirituality, and institutions of learning and culture – and as a storyteller extraordinaire.

Fr. General Kolenbach once said to Fr. Padberg, “Your love of God…has manifested itself in deeds, and not just in words – although quite often your ‘deeds’ have issued in the publication of many ‘words.’  Our Jesuit brotherhood has been richly blessed because of your great passion for our history and our life.”  We at SLU have likewise been richly blessed by the presence and contributions of Fr. Padberg.

All are invited – students, staff, faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni.  Please join us in reflection and discussion (and refreshments) devoted to helping us as a community to articulate who we are and who we want to be as we move forward in SLU’s history!

Here at the Heithaus Haven, we would like to provide a space in the comments section for continued conversation following the presentation – conversation that we hope will inspire us to action.  Please join us in the comments section, following Fr. Padberg’s presentation. Or, if you are so inspired, send us a reflection for publication as a blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Claude Pavur, S.J.March 26, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    In his lecture, Fr. Padberg spoke well and learnedly of the Jesuit tradition in education, of its overarching aims, and of the need for Jesuit institutions to make decisions according to particular situations and developments of the day. Such a talk broadens our vision and enables us to raise to pertinent questions.

    It especially leads me to ask, How do we need to be transformed (institutionally)? Who is going to feel responsible to do *anything* in particular? And *what* are they going to do? How will we even know that we are moving corporately and with adequately grounded, adequately deliberative consensus in the right direction, following what authorities and principles?

    This line of questioning raises the issue of authority structures and their proper formation and deliberation and legitimation and oversight.

    Jesuit education arose in a mostly monarchical day; now our particular world is very much democratic in orientation, even while the dynamics of the Strong Man still dominate the modus operandi in many structures, including businesses and universities. What keeps this model going is that the Strong Man gets things done. When it works well it can unite people for higher and better ends. The "monarchical principle," to use another, more benevolent name for it, has been found useful again and again, particularly in crises. But to avoid the darker side of where this principle can lead, we need adequate checks and balances, ongoing validation and legitimation, whether formal or informal or both. That is why votes of No Confidence must be taken very seriously.

    Now the issue of shared governance is important, but it is insufficient to focus on that as an end in itself. Governance of any type has to be in the right spirit with the right information for the right ends with the right understanding of details. There also has to be an effective mechanism for timely definite action and a differentiation of responsibilities. We need to remember that our mission is not "free-floating," i.e., dependent on the majority votes of the community or committees or units. We have obligations and we have committed ourselves to fulfilling certain expectations (held by students, parents, alumni, benefactors, the Church, the Society of Jesus, and secular society). We are working in the context of a very large, very complex canvas.

    Father Padberg pointed out Jesuit education arose partly with the "desires and needs of the people" in mind. But as we know, there are the desires and needs of the converted self, and then there are those of the unconverted self. The desires and needs must be subject to some soul-searching scrutiny. It may be part of the calling of Jesuit education not to conform to but to resist the spiritual deformations of the day.

    We need deeply converted and knowlegeable and properly discerning leadership, "authentic leadership," or all our talk will fall bootlessly into the Abyss. We need structures that make that authority as effective as possible.

    In sum, we have a great history, great ideals, and a great calling. Let's continue to learn about the tradition that was the subject of Fr. Padberg's talk. But let's also get practical. I ask again, "Who is going to feel responsible?"


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