A Matter of Mission
Fostering the Jesuit tradition in Saint Joseph’s lay leadership
By Marisa (Fulton) Benjamin ’03 (B.A.)
“The ICP challenges its participants, much like our Jesuit institutions do our students, to gain a deeper understanding and awareness of self.”
Sarah Quinn ’89, ’09
Bob McBride’s daughter Grace, just 12 years old at the time, convinced him to do it. If he said yes, it would mean more time away from her, her brother and his wife, in addition to his work responsibilities as SJU’s associate provost for enrollment management. Yet, he felt called to become involved in the 18-month program that would take him on an international immersion for more than a week, require him to participate in a silent retreat for several days, travel during the summer for a workshop, devote hours to online classes, and embark on a rigorous and revealing self-examination. Grace knew the time was right for her dad to do the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP).
“She was able to see the opportunity clearly while the time commitment made it fuzzy to me,” says McBride.
Today, he describes his feelings upon ICP completion in January 2017 as “bittersweet,” saying the program has taught him a great deal about himself, changing the way he approaches his work at SJU and his family, and making him a stronger, more purposeful leader.
A national program of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), the ICP was established in 2009 to empower lay campus administrators and faculty to more deeply and intentionally integrate the Jesuit and Catholic mission into their leadership roles, decision-making styles and interaction with colleagues.
“Anyone who leads an institution needs to fully understand, appropriate and foster the mission of their institution,” ICP Executive Director Joseph DeFeo, Ph.D., explains. “The ICP provides senior-level leaders and faculty the opportunity to become the ‘owners’ of the Jesuit and Catholic charism, spirituality and pedagogy, which is the foundation of these institutions.”
More than 350 men and women from all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities have completed the intensive and introspective formation program, with 14 from SJU. Working together in small cohorts, participants fully immerse themselves in Jesuit teachings through workshops, readings, retreats, spiritual reflection and an immersion trip.
“Experiencing firsthand what life is like on the fringes of society really cemented, in my mind, what life must be like for those in need,” McBride says of his immersion on the Mexican border. “It opened my eyes to social justice issues and helped me think about how to make an impact through my role at SJU.”
McBride partnered with fellow ICP participant Terry Travis, senior associate vice president for advancement, to examine not only how to help more students from lower-income families with financial aid, but also to look further into how to best support their overall campus life.
“When you experience Ignatian spirituality and the Daily Examen, you call to mind the things for which you are grateful and the ways you have encountered God that day,” Travis says. “It has a profound effect. That positive baseline changes your life and affects how you reflect on the decisions in front of you every day. Am I open to more encounters with people? Am I focused on the right thing? Can I learn something more from this that I haven’t thought of before?”
In working to better the University, ICP participants also better themselves, according to Sarah Quinn ’89 (B.A.), ’09 (MBA) assistant vice president and board liaison/assistant corporate secretary. She will complete the program next year.
“The ICP challenges its participants, much like our Jesuit institutions do our students, to gain a deeper understanding and awareness of self,” says Quinn. “We are invited to become better people. With that invitation comes an inherent responsibility to use that understanding and awareness not for personal gain, but to make the world a better place in whatever way we are called to do so.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Brady, Ph.D., a member of the program’s second cohort, understands how the ICP encourages administrators to engage more deeply in the Jesuit tradition.
“While no formation program for lay people can replicate a Jesuit’s formation and lifelong commitment, ICP stands out for its integration of the intellectual, spiritual, service and practical applications of Ignatian principles and pedagogy.” Mark C. Reed, Ed.D.
“The program made me feel personally responsible for promoting the Jesuit mission through my work as an educator,”
Brady’s experience inspired her to connect her commitment to urban youth with enhanced educational opportunities for SJU graduate students. With a Connelly Foundation grant, she developed the Alliance for Catholic Education at Saint Joseph’s University (ACESJU), a two-year program that allows recent college graduates to work in underserved Philadelphia Catholic schools while obtaining a master’s degree in education at SJU.
Kim Allen-Stuck, Ph.D., assistant vice president for student success and educational support, found the silent retreat to be transformative. With the assistance of a spiritual director at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, the self-proclaimed extrovert says she lived largely in silence for six days, listening for guidance from God.
“I left feeling so open and light,” she says.
Allen-Stuck is grateful to SJU and the ICP for giving her the opportunity to learn, grow and develop her leadership skills, inspired by the teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola.
“It’s important that lay people working at Jesuit institutions feel and understand the Ignatian tradition of leadership,” she notes.
SJU President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., was a member of the ICP’s inaugural cohort and the first program participant to become elected president of an institution.
“While no formation program for lay people can replicate a Jesuit’s formation and lifelong commitment, ICP stands out for its integration of the intellectual, spiritual, service and practical applications of Ignatian principles and pedagogy,” Reed says. “ICP had profound personal and professional implications for me and was a critical leg in my life’s journey.”
Benjamin is a freelance writer.