Guide Seeing the Light: Religious Colleges in Twenty-First-Century America

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The curricular focus on the liberal arts and a solid commitment to general education challenges students to integrate learning from a variety of disciplines. Most colleges require students to enroll in a prescribed number of hours of academic study in religion, philosophy, or ethics. For other institutions, the study of religion is optional. Cocurricular religious activities are present on all campuses. These include worship, fellowship, study of the sacred texts of the religious tradition, service, and religious support.

At one time nearly all colleges related to the Christian tradition required weekly or daily attendance at chapel; such a requirement now is the rare exception rather than the rule. Campus religious programming is coordinated by a chaplain, usually a clergy or lay minister in the affiliated religious tradition. As a staff member of the institution, the chaplain participates in various administrative and programmatic aspects of the college's or university's life, thereby helping to infuse the concerns and perspective of the affiliated religious community into the greater life of the college.

Although the institution and the chaplain may be from a particular religious tradition, cocurricular religious programs at most religiously affiliated institutions support programming reflecting the diverse religious needs of the student population. Many colleges arrange for representatives of other faith traditions to offer programs on campus.

The nature and expression of the educational institution's relationship with religious bodies vary greatly. A few institutions are controlled by the denomination; others share only a nominal relationship. Some traditions have provisions for colleges to acknowledge an "historical" relationship, acknowledging the college's founding by a religious tradition while declaring there is no current, direct relationship with the religious tradition. Most religiously affiliated colleges regularly and actively engage in shaping a dynamic relationship reflecting on changing needs in society, the church, and education.

At least two religious traditions, United Methodist and Seventh Day Adventist, conduct regular reviews of their related institutions to assess their vitality and their expression of church relatedness. The University Senate, the United Methodist review agency, was founded in , and is one of the oldest review agencies in the United States. The Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, although not part of a denominational structure, reviews and accredits several schools within the Jewish tradition. The quality of the relationship between the religious community and the college is in constant redefinition.

James Tunstead Burtchaell claims colleges and universities are disengaging from their religious foundations, becoming more secular in their approach to education. George M. Marsden characterizes colleges and universities as moving from a perspective of "Protestant establishment" to one of "established nonbelief," a move toward embracing secularization and diminishing religious tradition. Not all individuals agree fully with those perspectives. Merrimon Cuninggim describes relationships between Christian denominations and their colleges as being in a time when both church officials and college leaders are reassessing the nature of the relationship in light of trends in churches, in colleges, and in society.

Conversations among church and academic leaders can lead to renewed understanding of what it means to be religiously affiliated. Cuninggim distinguishes three phases of the relationship between the college and the church traditions that founded them: 1 church as senior partner, college as junior partner, recognizing the college's need for the church's direct support; 2 a time of equality, when neither college nor church groups has an upper hand of the other in normal situations; and, 3 the college as senior partner, more in control of its own destiny.

Most institutions fall in this final category and are no longer dependent on the church for financial resources and leadership. Critical to discussions regarding the church—college relationship is understanding common and distinctive missions. Although each share a common genesis regarding their sense of mission and service, the primary mission of the church is addressing spiritual and communal needs and responsibilities; within that same call to service is the college's primary responsibility to provide quality education reflective of the sponsoring religious community's values.

Churches and their colleges must respect and appreciate the distinctive mission of each partner. Understanding and expressing that relationship is an issue of constant concern. Since the s, Southern Baptists have engaged with their colleges, universities, and seminaries in often contentious discussions regarding relationship and control.

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Several institutions have opted to withdraw from formal relationships with the Southern Baptists in order to reduce control of the institutions. Catholic colleges and universities are engaged in discussion with the church's bishops regarding Pope John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a document outlining the church's position on the relationship between the church and the teaching activity of its universities and colleges. The Presbyterian, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Nazarene churches are engaged in conversations with church judicatories and college and university leaders to clarify and affirm statements reflecting a partnership appropriate to the twenty-first century.

Since the Lilly Foundation-supported Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-Related College has involved ninety church-related institutions in ongoing discussion regarding the church's higher education mission in the postmodern world. Faculty, chaplains, and administrators are engaged in critical reflection regarding how church-relatedness is expressed in the life of colleges and universities.

Nearly all religiously affiliated colleges and universities are legally independent institutions. Sponsoring bodies usually have representatives on the institution's board of trustees. This tradition assures there is representation from the religious body and the perspective of the religious tradition is heard. The number of seats specified for faith community representatives varies. In some situations, all trustees must be members of the sponsoring tradition; a few institutions have no specified spaces. In most instances, the percentage of representatives ranges from 2 to 60 percent.

I feel it is my duty today to urge you to set out once again in the tracks of your predecessors with the same courage and intelligence, but also with an equally profound motivation of faith and enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his Church. It called for greater engagement in networking:. In this global context it is important to highlight the extraordinary potential that we possess as an international and multicultural body. Acting consistently with this character can not only enhance the apostolic effectiveness of our work but in a fragmented and divided world it can witness to the reconciliation in solidarity of all the children of God.

It was informed by his pastoral experience, his sensitivity to different cultures arising from his life in Japan, and his instinct for inclusiveness. But he could also draw on his family roots:.

Role of Christianity in civilization

If you asked [my mother] or my father how they thought, their answers would have been very much in the line of traditional Catholic thinking. But if people came to them with problems, they had the ability to open possibilities, not just to give answers. They knew the theoretical answers, the orthodox answers, but they had this sense of adaptation. I think this has influenced me, especially when you move to other cultures and you realize that people go through experiences that are totally different than the one you had gone through.

Then, you are more ready to listen and to hear the music, not just the words—the music of the experience of others. He presided over a period of incremental change. Work was done both on the restructuring of provinces and on developing mechanisms for provinces to cooperate more effectively. GC 36 elected Arturo Sosa b. Though he is the first non-European elected as head of the Society, Sosa is a Hispanic, like two of his immediate predecessors. It evokes a moment in the story of the first Jesuit companions:. In Venice. Where was the Spirit drawing them? As they discerned new direction for their lives, they held fast to what they had already found to be life-giving: sharing their lives together as friends in the Lord; living very close to the lives of the poor; and preaching the Gospel with joy.

The tone is resilient and confident, but perhaps there is also some uncertainty about discerning the priorities amid the conflicting and overcomplex demands coming from the world and the church. At this point a little more than fifty years had elapsed since the end of Vatican II. During that time the discourse, the lifestyle, the public image, and the apostolic options of the Society of Jesus had changed and developed. But the changes had been informed by a sense of the Jesuit charism that was remarkably secure, and that had been deepened and renewed in just the way that Vatican II had encouraged.

The Ignatian spiritual tradition was opened up: the sources were made available in new editions and translation, and there were substantial changes in the giving of the p. The traditional intellectual commitment was maintained while nevertheless becoming more closely linked to peace and justice concerns.

Some shifts within the same period are nevertheless discernible. From till the beginning of the s, the stress was on the integration between the service of faith and the promotion of justice. This focus remained firm in the following decades, but the concept of justice was enlarged in various ways. It moved beyond the economic and political to include such matters as ecology and culture.

The growing importance of Asia has provoked increasing attention to interreligious dialogue. However, the ways in which this commitment is expressed in pastoral ministries on the ground have been far from uniform. Secondary education, for example, has become less prominent in Europe, but high schools have remained a priority for North American Jesuits, and many new Jesuit schools have emerged in Africa.


We will examine the nature and impact of the aforesaid changes before asking ourselves how Jesuit human resources and apostolic priorities both contribute to defining the range of options that the Society may consider, as one of its members, now seated in the throne of Peter, is implementing an agenda that Jesuits contributed in the course of the last decades. This being said, Jesuit membership has experienced important ups and downs for the whole course of the existence of the Society.

In , the Society was divided into seventy-seven provinces, four independent regions, and six dependent regions. Africa and Southern Asia had registered a modest gain, while other assistancies had seen a decrease in membership. In the whole Society, there were novices in the year before and 2, scholastics against 2, in This shows that, even if most of the decrease is due to the progressive disappearance of an older Jesuit generation, the Society experiences some difficulty in keeping its younger members. India was by far the assistancy with the most novices and scholastics , followed by Africa and , respectively.

Eastern Asia has the third-largest number of Jesuits in training, with Vietnam alone having novices and scholastics, and significant concentrations in Indonesia and Korea. Myanmar, a relatively new foundation, has now almost the same number of young Jesuits as the far more traditionally Catholic Philippines.

The proportions of Jesuits in training are also significant: 65 percent in Africa, 49 percent in India, 90 percent in East Timor, and percent in Myanmar. The contrast with elsewhere is striking: 24 percent in the United States, 20 percent in Italy, 17 percent in France, and 9 percent in Japan. The figure for the whole Society is 36 percent. Death statistics may also be significant: in , ninety-seven Jesuits died in Western Europe alone, but only eighteen in the whole of Africa, most of whom were probably veteran Western missionaries. Catholic strongholds such as Poland, the Philippines, and Latin America are undergoing a period of adaptation, the issue of which is still undecided.

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The majority of active members in the not-too-distant future will come from Asia notably India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Korea or Africa. Still, while the human resources are there, till now financial and institutional resources have remained largely concentrated in Western Europe and North America. Alongside these demographic realities, there are three important internal problems that the Society is facing. There has always been a tension between the long and serious studies required for full initiation into the Jesuit charism and the apostolic needs demanding immediate action. This tension has been exacerbated by the increasing age of the men entering the Jesuit novitiate, as well as by the decline in membership.

The formation program has become more flexible, in particular by allowing some scope for apostolic work during the normal course of studies. But there have also been in recent years frequent reaffirmations of the need to p. Jesuit studies should be interdisciplinary, seeking to understand reality from the vantage points of different disciplines, frameworks, and schools of thought.

Yet there should be a constant concern for integration, a way of correlating the diversity of what one studies towards a vision of the whole. Though the vision is clear, implementation remains sometimes hesitant, and varies according to context. How can one maintain serious philosophical and theological formation and proper training in social sciences and other specialized fields? How can the Society balance intellectual development with personal and spiritual maturation? The major Jesuit centers of formation, many of them with a strong international outlook, work at finding suitable answers in practice.

The Jesuits in Latin America have moved toward a greater integration and cooperation among the various Pan-American nations; they have identified priority centers in Colombia, Chile, and Brazil and introduced a process of greater engagement among Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Jesuits. However, they have worked especially with lay movements of Ignatian inspiration. Nevertheless, Jesuits are still looking for ways of working with laity that would be more organized and satisfactory for all parties involved. Style of cooperation and ways of sharing responsibility widely vary.

It remains to be seen whether, besides the gradual development of a culture of cooperation that can be observed in many Jesuit works, bolder initiatives will eventually see the light of the day. From the s onward, cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by Jesuits have been brought to light, particularly in the United States.

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A Jesuit was convicted in Boston in ; in , the Oregon province pleaded guilty to having hidden information on abuses in Cheverus High School. One of the Jesuit teachers involved was found to have committed other abuses in the College of Sankt Blasien and, later on, in Chile and Spain.

Still in Germany, in a special investigator released a report commissioned by the German Jesuits stating that former students claimed they had been abused in Jesuit schools, many of them having suffered beatings. In recent years, the central government of the Society has asked all provinces, and the institutions under their supervision, to develop ethical guidelines, systematic training, ongoing formation programs, and protocols aimed first at preventing abuse, and second at managing appropriately any cases or allegations of abuse that might arise.

Compulsory training sessions have been organized in most provinces, addressing not only sexual abuse as such but also any forms of intimidation, corporal punishment, physical mistreatment, and psychological harassment. The January issue of Promotio Iustitiae published by the Social Justice and Ecology secretariat is dedicated to prison ministry throughout the world.

Though colleges became a priority for the Society of Jesus soon after its foundation, the importance given to secondary education today varies from country to country. In France, the Society still has some responsibility for fourteen high schools, but most of them do not have any Jesuits working full time within their walls Toulouse, Marseille, Paris, and Lyon are exceptions.

At the same time, the French province has set up a center providing Jesuit educational resources and ad hoc training, both for these schools and for numerous other institutions. In developing countries where the state does not yet fully provide schooling for all, Jesuits remain committed to creating and maintaining educational facilities. When it comes to tertiary education, there are around two hundred Jesuit establishments in the world.

The US Jesuit institutions are the most prestigious of them, and most are active in developing international cooperation. Jesuit central government is insistently asking for greater networking between Jesuit universities throughout the world, and for their active involvement in academia and society at large.

Shortly after his election, Father Arturo Sosa restated such goal:. The Society of Jesus was founded by men of deep faith, who were trained in universities.

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They adopted a lifestyle of faith that impelled them to think critically and creatively about all aspects of the world, understood as a common home. We Jesuits seek to collaborate in the development of creative thinking that may propel the new age of Humanity towards social justice, dignity and peace. We wish to do this always in partnership and in collaboration with others. Our societies today are faced with radical challenges.

How can we live with religious, spiritual, and confessional diversity, in cultures often marked by secularization, by secularism, or by fundamentalism? How can the people of the world live together in justice and with mutual respect? How do we live on an earth with limited natural resources? In the present context, in which the number of Jesuits is diminishing in some parts of the world and growing in others, we need to continue our efforts in this field, seeking to adapt our efforts to present realities.

The message sent by GC 36 to Jesuits living in zones of war and conflict mentioned, among other names, Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who was killed in Homs Syria p. Movements 9. Genocides Powers Borders Books Digital Products Journals. Disciplines Religion Judaism. About the Book What does it mean to be a Jew in the twenty-first century? From Our Blog. About the Author Aaron J.