Jesuit Higher Education – Identity, Complexity, Mission


By Germán Muñoz Díaz | Project Assistant - Secretariat for Higher Education, General Curia.

*Article adapted from Jesuit.Global

The recent gathering of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) Board members at the General Curia in Rome, on March 25-26, 2024, marked a pivotal moment in the ongoing deliberations on the promotion of Jesuit Identity and Mission of Jesuit higher education institutions worldwide. With representatives from all regional networks, the meeting delved into crucial topics ranging from strategic planning to the promotion of Jesuit values in a rapidly changing world.

The meeting started with reports by the Presidents of regional associations, highlighting key collaborations, challenges, and initiatives within their respective regions. From the increasing demand for Jesuit education in Africa to the financial challenges faced by some institutions, each presentation underscored the importance of addressing both regional and global issues while staying true to Jesuit values and mission.

A significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to serious reflection on the draft document on Jesuit identity and mission. There was a consensus among participants regarding the need for a greater integration of Ignatian principles and a recognition of the rich tradition of the Society of Jesus in higher education. The Ledesma-Kolvenbach model was highlighted as a potential framework to encapsulate the essence of Jesuit identity, with plans for further refinement and reflection in the coming months.

Interactions with Key Figures

The highlight of the second day was the interaction with Fr Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He focused his reflections on three questions: 1) Does university apostolate of the Society of Jesus make sense? 2) Is the university apostolate possible? 3) Is the complex Jesuit university world governable? He underscored the vital importance of the higher education ministry which has the great potential to make a strong impact on the larger society.

The participants also had an opportunity to interact with Fr Jose Mesa, Secretary for Pre-Secondary and Secondary Education, Sr Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary for the Synod of Bishops, and Fr Sebastian Jeerakassery, General Treasurer of the Society. Their insights and reflections on governance, institutional autonomy, and the implementation of synodality in Jesuit universities provided valuable perspectives for the ongoing dialogue on the future of Jesuit higher education.

Together for navigating a complex world

One of the focal points of the meeting was the discussion surrounding the IAJU Strategic Agenda. This document will serve as a guiding framework for the association’s endeavors in the coming years, emphasizing collaboration, innovation, and the promotion of Jesuit identity.

Looking ahead to the IAJU 2025 Assembly, discussions centered on refining the program content and structure to facilitate meaningful dialogue and engagement. Attendees reflected on the successes and challenges of past assemblies, focusing the next one on promoting Jesuit identity and mission in the context of contemporary issues such as artificial intelligence.

As the meeting drew to a close, several agreements were reached, including the confirmation of the Strategic Agenda, the appointment of a Program Committee for the 2025 Assembly, and the approval of the new IAJU website. These decisions reflect the collective commitment of Board members to advance the mission and values of Jesuit higher education in a rapidly evolving global landscape.

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