Today, many Catholic institutions stand at a crossroads. With an aging population of priests and nuns, and a rapid decline in the numbers of young people committing to religious life, schools, hospitals and many other organizations formerly led by fathers and sisters must ask themselves: what now?
Our Jesuit institutions are not immune to this. Within the Society of Jesus, there will be merging of provinces and consolidation of resources. The Oregon Province (of which Washington is a part) and the California Province will merge to create one Western U.S. Province, under the leadership of Father Scott Santarosa, S.J. Already this year, Jesuits who lived in the infirmary on the Gonzaga campus moved to the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California.
At our sister universities across the country, leaders discern how to fill key positions vacated by priests. Gonzaga faced that same question this year when Father Frank Case retired from his role as the VP of Mission. I’m happy to report that we are indeed able to fill this post (now called VP of Mission and Ministry) with another Jesuit, Father Pat Lee, S.J.
More Focus on Mission
Changes within the Society of Jesus and decreasing numbers of Jesuits on our own campus has resulted in many conversations about what Gonzaga will do. Ultimately, these have reaffirmed in us a deep commitment not only to the heritage of the past, but to the Jesuit mission moving forward. With the installation of a new VP of Mission, our University Ministry and Office of Mission will create a robust effort to help all faculty and staff fully appropriate the Jesuit mission in new and meaningful ways. A focus of our work going forward will be on how Ignatian spirituality relates the work we do today, in all disciplines.
Through University Ministry, Gonzaga has been very intentional in making our Ignation foundation the centerpiece for all components of student life. It is my highest priority in the coming year to work with the new VP of Mission to strengthen this same intentionality throughout all facets of the University, ensuring that every member of the community – from staff and faculty to alumni and parents – know and experience the relevance of our Jesuit mission in their everyday lives.
There are those who believe our Jesuit schools have lost their way, but I’m here to say that our determination to renewing and sustaining our Jesuit identity is stronger than ever. To demonstrate this commitment, Gonzaga is building a new home for the Jesuits as a gift to the Society of Jesus from the University. We expect to break ground this fall, with an opening in 2017 to coincide with the official formation of the new Western Province. Not only will our local Jesuits benefit from an updated facility with better amenities, but the residence will attract new Jesuits to the University and to Spokane.
We are blessed to have an active and supportive community of alumni, friends and parents who continually provide students with opportunities to experience the Ignatian way: through internships, volunteer opportunities and giving back. I can’t express to you just how grateful we are to call you partners in this great work.
I encourage you to read the feature story on our Jesuits – and more details about the new Jesuit residence – later in this publication. I believe you’ll be inspired by the vibrant ways our Jesuits are making a lasting difference in the lives of our students.
Thayne M. McCulloh, Ph.D.