The 2022 IAJU Assembly culminated in regional association meetings to discuss accomplishments, challenges, and future proposals both for the regions and IAJU as a whole. All Assembly participants then gathered together in a final plenary session to report out on the regional meetings.
Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J., president of AJCU and chair of the 2022 IAJU Assembly, outlined the purpose of the plenary session: to gather suggestions from the regions for the IAJU board to use when developing its next 3-year strategic plan. He said, “While the Association was created just three years ago in Bilbao, [this Assembly shows] quite a bit can be accomplished when people take these recommendations seriously and we work together on joint projects.”
Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America (AUSJAL)
Rev. Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, S.J. presented five challenges and proposals for AUSJAL:
- Face the tension between deepening ties within the Latin American region while intensifying cooperation with other regions;
- Acknowledge how Jesuit universities promote democracy and accountability per AUSJAL’s Democracy Observatory;
- Oversee how AUSJAL members can support their sister organizations facing complex social and economic situations that may challenge their ability to pursue their Jesuit mission;
- Discern how to strengthen AUSJAL, perhaps through an Office of Communications;
- Actively integrate students into the work of AUSJAL, e.g., MAGIS exchange or increased scholarship access.
Fr. Valenzuela acknowledged the diversity in AUSJAL institution sizes, ages, issues, and endowments. However, he affirmed that the “university is a way to transform people's minds and hearts” and the importance of living together in an intergenerational and intercultural way.
The Network of Jesuit Higher Education Institutions in Europe and the Near East (Kircher Network)
Rev. Philip Geister, S.J. shared on behalf of the Kircher Network. He presented five key areas that emerged from their regional association meeting:
- Student Integration: The 2022 IAJU Assembly drove home the importance of engaging and integrating students into Kircher Network work, especially through MAGIS Exchange and the Global Citizenship Fellowship Program.
- Partnership Development: IAJU “found itself and its own identity” since its inception in 2018. Now it is time to look outward for partners, especially other networks and social apostolates that IAJU can work with going forward.
- Inter-University Support: The Kircher Network recommended establishing a hotline that universities can contact when they need support (academic or otherwise).
- Understanding Stakeholders: The next three years will be crucial to identifying and better understanding key stakeholders. These include those in public policy and those who influence university rankings, to ensure they align with Jesuit values.
- The Role of Theology: Fr. Geister shared that the region wants to be more committed to the conversation about the role of theology at Jesuit universities. He emphasized the importance of an interdisciplinary understanding of theology, which is less North America-centered, and involves more students.
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Africa and Madagascar (AJCU-AM)
AJCU-AM was inaugurated at the Deusto Assembly. Rev. François P. Kabore, S.J. acknowledged that African Jesuit universities are comparatively young, but full of great potential. The key priority for the region is increased collaboration. This is broken into two areas:
- Inter-university collaboration between Jesuit universities in Africa (i.e., focus on shared topics such as conflict and peace and environmental justice);
- Strategic and systematic collaboration with the global Jesuit network.
Fr. Kabore shared that AJCU-AM greatly welcomes any collaboration that involves multiple universities in Africa. This will allow the region to learn from older universities around the world, while also growing as a community across Africa.
Fr. Kabore concluded his remarks by encouraging the IAJU board to ensure AJCU-AM universities are intentionally included in task forces, as there are issues of great interest to the region.
Jesuit Higher Educational Association South Asia (JHEASA)
Issues of concern for JHEASA include the following:
- Fundamentalism and Issues of Democracy: This is especially the case with regional governments pursuing anti-minority and anti-poor agendas.
- Peace and Reconciliation: How can JHEASA institutions become places of reconciliation that engage with intercultural matters?
- Formation of Youth, Especially Migrants and Refugees: How can JHEASA better reach out to migrants and refugees, especially through courses and programs?
- Ecology and Justice: Regional institutions want to develop Laudato Si’ Action Plans and increase participation in MAGIS Exchange and the Global Citizenship Fellowship Program.
- Regional Collaboration: Form a task force to develop programs for faculty, staff and student capacity building in the region.
JHEASA recommendations for IAJU were:
- Prioritize networking, collaborative research and open resource sharing.
- Work with other international universities and institutions to pressure anti-poor and anti-minority governments to give up their stances.
- Continue to focus on reconciliation work, especially that which incorporates Ignatian spirituality.
- Strengthen the Environmental and Economic Justice Task Force and further involve JHEASA schools in their work.
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU)
Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. opened the conversation by reflecting on the consolation of sharing time with sister institutions from around the world at the Assembly, and the “deep family resemblance” felt throughout the week.
AJCU schools would like to hear more about racism and the treatment of indigenous peoples at the next Assembly. They would also like to engage more with the double-edged sword of technology and social media, and redouble efforts for university ministries and chaplaincies. Finally, they underscored the depth and breadth of the Jesuit commitment to the humanities by asking: “How might we continue to educate our students into freedom, into agency, into resilience, into health, and, most especially into hope?”
Fr. Fitzgerald also highlighted five areas AJCU hoped to see for collaboration across the global Jesuit network:
- Full engagement with migration
- Global formation of Ignatian leaders
- Collaborative international research projects
- Understanding the construction of gender
In closing, Fr. Fitzgerald questioned whether the 1970s or the 21st century was the apex of Jesuit education. He said, “We don’t know how much higher it can go if we all go together.”
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP)
Rev. Roberto Yap, S.J. reflected on the multicultural and multifaith characteristics of the Asia Pacific region, as well as the diversity among its Jesuit institutions. AJCU-AP recommendations for IAJU entailed:
- Continue to work on the existing Task Forces;
- Establish a Task Force on Ignatian Spirituality, with a particular focus on adapting the Spiritual Exercises for non-Christians;
- Create a Task Force on Interfaith Dialogue to share best practices between universities in multifaith contexts;
- Develop a Task Force on Solidarity, focused on solidarity within school governance and in forming lay and non-lay leaders;
- Establish strategic alliances in specific disciplines, such as business, political science and philosophy (explore teaching, formation and service within the disciplines);
- Engage individuals and resources within the IAJU network instead of turning to outside consultants;
- Recommend all Task Forces find ways to engage students in their work and allow student voices to be heard.
Following the regional association reports, other Assembly participants had the opportunity to share their thoughts in the plenary. Recommendations included:
- Encouraging Latin America to further develop the Democracy Observatory
- Creating a common project on mission and identity that engages young people
- Retaining the proposal on Jesuit university governance included in the Assembly program
- Running collaborative projects among different social centers
- Helping students (especially those who aspire to careers in politics) to live in the tension between extreme conservatism and secularism
In conclusion, all program participants expressed sincere gratitude to Boston College for hosting the 2022 IAJU Assembly and excitement for the work to come leading up to the next Assembly.