From left to right: Fr. Vin Biagi, SJ, of the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus; Jane Bleasdale of St. Peter's Prep; Sue Baber and Dr. Kristin Ross of Loyola School; and Dr. Joe Petriello of the USA Northeast Province
Deliberately Jesuit: East Coast Mission and Identity Leaders Gather at Xavier High School

On February 9 and 10, Ignatian identity directors from Jesuit middle and high schools along the East Coast gathered at Xavier High School for their annual meeting. Representatives from 23 schools from Boston to D.C. came together to pray about, reflect on, and discuss ways to deepen the Ignatian identity of their institutions.

The program included a report on the International Seminar on Ignatian Spirituality & Pedagogy (SIPEI) which was held in Manresa, Spain in November 2014; discussion of online Ignatian formation; a reflection on the work of the Ignatian educator by Fr. Jose Luis (Lito) Salazar, SJ, a professor of theology at St. Peter’s College and a former Xavier faculty member; and a presentation on women in Jesuit education by Dr. Kristin Ross, the principal at Loyola School, New York.

Fr. Salazar encouraged the Ignatian identity directors to be wary of the commodification of Jesuit spirituality and encouraged them to reflect and pray on the words Ignatius used to speak about the work of the Society, “to help souls.” He wondered how the work today might be different if “the helping of souls” was the starting point for our discussions. In this day and age, “helping souls” is a phrase less ably commodified.

Following the event, Marianne Gallagher, pointed out that many Jesuit secondary schools like Georgetown Prep, where she serves as religion department chair, offer community members an ever-increasing number of ways to understand and engage in the vision and values of Ignatius. “We have several initiatives in play to introduce faculty and staff to the Spiritual Exercises, ranging from opportunities for midday reflection and prayer together; the occasional ‘lunch with Ignatius,’ which offers conversation about Ignatian prayer; an online formation experience; and opportunities to pray the 19th Annotation. Students are also introduced to Ignatian prayer, whether through the practice of the Examen or by delving deeper into the prayer method of the Exercises as a practicum in a Christian Spirituality course. Parents, too, are encouraged to enter into discussions and reflection as to how they can better model the qualities of the Grad at Grad.”

Dr. Joe Petriello, assistant to the provincial for secondary and pre-secondary education (a role he shares with Fr. Vin Biagi, SJ, and Ms. Meg Florentine), commented, “The Jesuit provinces are committed to the ongoing growth and development of the faculties and staffs of our schools in all things Ignatian. This gathering is one more sign of the commitment of the provinces and those doing the work in the schools to forming outstanding, committed Jesuit educators.” 

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