St. Peter Canisius Medal

The IAJU award for Extraordinary Service to Jesuit Higher Education

Who was Saint Peter Canisius?

St. Peter Canisius was born in Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 1521. After earning his Masters Degree from the University of Cologne, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1543 through the influence of Peter Faber, an original companion of St. Ignatius Loyola. Through his preaching and writing, Peter Canisius became one of the most influential Jesuits in the early Society. During his lifetime he founded over 13 colleges throughout what is today Central Europe, including the University of Innsbruck. He urged moderation and reconciliationwhen dealing with Protestants and those with different views. He was a remarkably effective preacher, theologian, and administrator. He died in 1597 and was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1864. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pius XI.

2022 St. Peter Canisius Awardees

The inaugural medallists honoured this year, like Peter Canisius, have been selected for their resilience, their willingness to engage and accompany, and their courage in the face of hostility. They are examples of the Society's four preferences.

AJCU - North America: Nancy Tuchman and Mike Schuck

AJCU-North-America nominates Dean Nancy Tuchman and Professor Mike Schuck for the inaugural IAJU Saint Peter Canisius award, for their profound contributions to environmental stewardship and care for our common home, using a distinctly Jesuit framework.

As a Professor of environment sustainability, Dr. Nancy Tuchman is a prolific scholar. With her academic partner, theologian Dr. Michael Schuck, Dr. Tuchman organized the creation of the first free, on-line textbook for students and colleagues alike. Their co-edited textbook,"Healing Earth", combines the study of the environment with serious reflections on the ethical and moral challenges that confront humanity and all natural systems. Their work, involving the collaboration of over eighty scholars, relied upon the interdisciplinary approaches that are essential to understand the complex systems that impact"Our Common Home", and, by extension, the poor and marginalized members of our human family who suffer the most from a warming planet. This interdisciplinary textbook has been translated into several languages, including Chinese.

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In addition, Dr. Tuchman is the Founding Dean of the first Jesuit School of Environmental Sustainability. Her passion for environmental stewardship along with her depth of scientific knowledge of biological systems and ecology translated into a powerful network of serious environmental science basic and applied research. But Professor Tuchman moves well beyond the laboratory or even the classroom; in fact, she endeavors to integrate her research with the theological underpinnings required to mitigate the impacts of climate change with alacrity and sense of purpose.

Besides launching the “Healing Earth” textbook, Professor Schuck has been THE force behind promotion of the “Laudato Si” University movement, working closely with and for the Decastery for Integral Human Development. Currently, he shepherds a committee representing close to 100 Catholic institutions. Dr. Schuck has brought his passion for heeding and implementing “Laudato Si” to Jesuit Education globally. By carefully explaining the relationship between Pope Francis’s ideals and commitment to preserving our environment and its impact on the poor and the powerless, he has been a champion of Jesuit higher education’s shift toward ecological justice.

Both of these scholars have exemplified the Society of Jesus’s preference for care for our common home. They are powerful examples of "contemplatives in action" for our students, as well as "women and men for and with others." “Their work is cutting-edge, collaborative, engaging, timely, and even prayerful.”

JHEASA: Fr. Ignacimuhu Sarvarimuthu

The Jesuit Higher Education Association of South Asia, nominates Fr. Ignacimuhu Sarvarimuthu, the former vice chancellor of both Madras and Bharathiar State Universities, the only Catholic priest selected to run two state- owned universities in India.

During his four decades of service as both an administrator and research faculty member and mentor, Fr. Ignacimuthu has been a prolific scientist with 11 Indian patents and 2 US patents in his name. (There is also an insect which goes by the name Ignacimuthu!) He is a recognized expert in the fields of biotechnology, bio-infomatics, bioethics and the environment with textbooks in each of these fields.

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He is best known for his work in plant biology having authored 40 books, edited 20 science journals and written or co-authored over 800 research papers. And has submitted more than 400 gene sequences to the GENBANK. He is a member of the National Academy of Agricultural Science in India and is a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of England. Stanford University’s science faculty list him in the top 1% of influential scientists. The Government of Tamil Nudu, where his work has positively impacted agricultural productivity, awarded him Tamil Nudu “Scientist for Life” in the year 2000.

Fr. Ignacimuthu’s work has had enormous positive impact on the ability of farmers to manage crop disease in ways that are natural and sustainable. He has guided over 50 dissertations and assisted in another 50, inspiring many students in the sciences to pursue careers that will lead to the betterment of the health and well-being of their fellow citizens. Two of his books, “Environmental Spirituality”and “Praying with Creation”combine his keen knowledge of science with his deep faith and respect for nature, promoting the Pope’s encyclical, “Laudato Si,” and the Society’s Preference to Care for our Common Home.

KIRCHER: Fr. Salim Daccache

The Kircher Network, representing Europe and the Middle East, wishes to honor Fr. Salim Decacche, the Rector of St. Joseph’s university in Beirut, Lebanon, for his extraordinary accomplishments shepherding St. Joseph’s over the last ten years. Despite the devastation to Beirut, the collapse of the economy, and the renewal or religious tensions, Fr. Decacche has deftly and courageously maintained a positive spirit and by prayer and sheer willpower has kept both the University Hospital and the University running.

Fr. Decacche was born in Bouar, Lebanon in 1950. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1975 and was ordained in 1983. He holds two doctoral degrees one in Philosophy from the University Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, and one in Education Sciences from the University of Strasbourg- in France. He is a Professor of Islamic Philosophy and the Syriac Language.

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He also serves on numerous boards including the Society of Jesus’ Dar el-Machreq Publishing House, the Administrative Committee of the Bible Society for Lebanon and Syria, the Management Council of Jesuit Schools in the Bekaa Valley(5 schools), and as Director of the Lebanese Association of Friendship and Islamic-Christian Dialogue. He serves on the board of the International Association of Universities (IAU)and is Editor of the cultural magazine al-Arab centenary al Machriq, and finally President of GLADIC, the Lebanese Group for friendship and Christian Islamic dialogue.

Fr. Decacche became the rector of Saint Joseph’s in August 2012 and is President of the Board of directors of USJ Hospital “Hôtel-Dieu de France. The Beirut explosion damaged 5 campuses of the University: Immediately following this, he launched a humanitarian mission to help the woundedas well as insure that the University Hospital’s emergency room could recover from the blast and assist victims in critical condition. His efforts went further, helping with the rehabilitation of damaged houses, supplying hygienic kits and medicine, as well asmental health care for the many victims. Fr. Decache and his team committed to reconstruct campus infrastructure, the most recently restored being the famous Oriental Library. USJ has been ranked 15th place as “Workplace of the Year”by T-H-E and is named among theworld’s universities with real impact in Crisis Management by the World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI)”.

St. Joseph threw open its doors after the explosion. He received students from the Lebanese public universities enabling them to complete their studies with no charges. Fr. Decacche has created several scholarship programs and has worked with JRS to make higher education possible for Syrian refugees and another for disabled persons. USJ is ranked first for Quality Education in Lebanon. A most pressing concern at the moment is a dangerous “Brain drain” at the university, which has already lost 20% of its faculties. To halt the exodus, he has launching a recovery action plan to insure the future of the institution.

Fr. Decacche is well-recognized and well-respected in Lebanon and abroad. Recently, he was unanimously elected President of the Universities Association of Lebanon and received The National Order of the Legion of Honor from the French Republicfor his commitment to Higher Education.

With his dedicated team of deans and senior administrators, Fr. Decacche, hopes to continue meeting the needs of students whose futures would otherwise be bleak had it not been for the generosity of S. Joseph’ university.

*Dr. Jorge Huete, vice-rector general of the UCA, received the medal on behalf of the UCA. A month and a half later, after leaving for a scientific event in Argentina, Dr. Huete was banned and prevented from returning to the country. *Dr. Jorge Huete, vice-rector general of the UCA, received the medal on behalf of the UCA. A month and a half later, after leaving for a scientific event in Argentina, Dr. Huete was banned and prevented from returning to the country.

AUSJAL: Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), Nicaragua

The Association of Jesuit Universities in Latin America wishes to nominate for the St. Peter Canisius Medal the Universidad Centroamericana, UCA, Nicaragua. This University was founded on July 23, 1960 as the first private university in Central America. Entrusted to the Society of Jesus and inspired by Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy, it is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in Nicaragua and the Central American region for guaranteeing a formation of excellence based on academic rigor, current and interdisciplinary research of the highest level, and for projecting itself socially from its centers and institutes through programs and projects of social impact.

In its more than 60 year history, the UCA has educated many generations of young Nicaraguans in truth, justice and peace, encouraging in its graduates ethical values and genuine commitment to social transformation.

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The collaborative work between Jesuits and lay people, based on respect, ethics, professionalism and shared values has allowed the UCA to adapt to the times, transcend its walls and remain for these 60 years as the leading university in Nicaragua. Out of a deep commitment to humanism, UCA serves those most in need, granting scholarships annually to more than 5,000 low-income students.

UCA has strengthened its internationalization strategy by signing agreements with leading institutions such as Seattle University, Fairfield University and Boston College in the USA and the Borja Institute of Bioethics and ESADE Business School, Spain, among others. Based on this collaborative work, UCA carries out its activities from a global and visionary perspective, which is visible in its participation in research networks, conferences and workshops, design and execution of virtual programs, transfer graduate programs, as well as technologies, technological systems, and student exchange and faculty mobility programs.

The community of UCA is comprised of people from different cities and regions of Nicaragua and the world, from various religious creeds and socioeconomic levels, all animated by the commitment to serve others with honesty and competence.

In recent years, in the context of the socio-political crisis affecting the country and directly affecting higher education institutions, the UCA has shown resilience and social commitment, working tirelessly to face the difficulties, restructuring administratively and reformulating its academic work to ensure its sustainability without compromising its highquality training and all its activities, consistent with the Mission and Universal Apostolic Priorities of the Society of Jesus. All this effort has generated greater appreciation from the Nicaraguan society and broad sympathy and international solidarity.

Because this academic institution has stood for being a pioneer in the creation of policies and programs that focus on issues that other universities have shied away from, and because of UCA’s commitment to the flourishing of every human being, to human and cultural diversity, and to the care of "the common home", AUSJAL wishes to express its appreciation for the leadership of UCA and the faculty who have committed themselves to this important Jesuit institution. AUSJAL and IAJU wish to recognize the entire university and its leadership with the St. Peter Canisius Award for outstanding contributions to Jesuit Higher Education worldwide.

Due to the difficult situation that Nicaragua is currently going through, we ask all member institutions of IAJU and AUSJAL to collaborate with their academic work and integral formation following the Jesuit work of being academically and apostolically in solidarity with them.

AJCU- Africa and Madagascar: Fr. Angelo Gherardi

Jesuit Higher Education in Africa and Madagascar has had many outstanding servants. Most of our higher education institutions are relatively young. One complex of higher education institutions has paved the way for new foundations for higher education roughout the continent and Madagascar. These schools were founded by an entrepreneurial and tireless Jesuit, Fr. Angelo Gherardi, SJ. AJCU-AM wishes to nominate Fr. Angelo for the St. Peter Canisius Award.

Fr. Angelo Gherardi built and developed one Medical School in D’Njamena, the capital of Chad, plus two (2) Hospitals, two (2) nursing schools, and six (6) district level health centers in other parts of Chad for the training of health care personnel. Originally from Torre dei Roveri (BG), Fr. Angelo joined the Society of Jesus in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1964. He has spent more than 40 years of missionary life in Chad with one goal: to live charity without confusing it with welfare. This goal has become a reality in the various works that have been realized through his effort over 40 years.

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Thanks to his tireless work for he poor, a district hospital wich serves the general public was built with 120 beds serving in an area inhabited by 120,000 people.Connected to the hospital for primary care activities are 10 Health Centers (CS). Goundi hospital with its 10 Health Centers was directed by Fr. Angelo and is currently one of the most efficient structures in the country. Today, it assists over 50,000 people a year.For this activity, Father Gherardi earned the prestigious Sasakawa award from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996.

In addition to the health service, he contributed to the construction of 2 nursing schools, an agricultural school, the operation of several elementary schools and a high school in Chad.

AJCU- Asia Pacific: Xavier Learning Community

The Association of Jesuit Universities of Asia Pacific wishes to nominate Xavier Learning Community for the St. Peter Canisius Medal.Xavier Learning Community (XLC) is situated in Mae Chan District in the Province of Chiangrai, less than 20 minutes from the Golden Triangle. Chiangrai Province is a major tourist area in Thailand, where many iconic temples and tea plantations are located. It is also home to many hill tribes, some of which have become community-based tourist sites.

Chiang Rai is perfectly positioned to serve as the logistic hub for the greater Mekong sub-region. It borders both Myanmar and Laos and is located 250 miles south of China’s Yunnan Province. It is also a valuable gateway to Vietnam and India. In view of this, it is crucial that XLC students have skills and knowledge such as English, Chinese, business management, tourism and hospitality to support the economic potential in the region.

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XLC is a residential institute that sees itself to be a culturally diverse institution for the uplift and empowerment of young people. It is aimed at educating especially the youth of these ethnic groups in northern Thailand and neighboring countries. It endeavors to form them to be humane and competent leaders and to reach their full potential based on the Jesuit tradition. Providing opportunities to develop professional expertise, skills necessary to live and survive in the 21st century. XLC is committed to forming men and women of integrity working for and with others to build a just and harmonious world.

Until XLC has transitioned to become a full-fledged college, it cannot grant its own academic degrees to its students. In response to this, XLC has enrolled the students in a four-year study program at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. This will culminate in a Bachelor’s degree in English.

With remarkable creativity, foresight, and determination, the XLC Experience can be summarized in three key word: Faith, Academic rigor, and a sense of community.

Students of all faiths and backgrounds are welcomed, and the campus features areas that invite students to pray, meditate, and live their faith. A structured schedule permits students to focus on their courses, both online, and in the classroom. Students contribute to the life of the campus in various ways, and participate in regular activities to reflect on their community life.