Jesuit educators to gather at Fairfield U and talk ‘social justice’

Next week, represenatives of the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities will gather at nearby Fairfield University to talk about how to “strengthen the tradition of social justice” that is a hallmark of Jesuit higher education.

The meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities will also include people from Nicaragua, India and Colombia.

According to a release, panels will consider “diversity issues, graduate education, international immersion, teaching social change, and Africa and social justice,” among other issues.

Winston Tellis, professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Fairfield, said: “The attendees will share their continuing concern for the plight of the poor and disadvantaged around the world, and reflect on an appropriate response. The presentations include a wide range of topics on academic and experiential efforts in the developing world. Attendees should leave with a renewed sense of purpose and feel encouraged by the support from peers.”

You know that the many Catholic critics of modern Jesuit colleges, who say the colleges offer a wishy-washy sense of Catholic identity, will surely note that the conference has no clear theological focus. I could practically hear certain commentators saying that any group of profs, Catholic or otherwise, could be teaching diversity issues and social change.

Then again, they won’t be at the conference.

Father Rick Ryscavage, a Jesuit and director of Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life,says:  “Jesuits had an enormous influence on the creation of some of the greatest papal social encyclicals but within the Church today I find some confusion over how to situate Jesuit values – such as the promotion of justice – within the broader tradition of Catholic Social Thought. My talk will try to connect the Jesuit impulse of  ‘faith doing justice’ with the social doctrine of the Church.”

Loving thy neighbor during hard times

Donations to non-profits are way down. No surprise.

On Friday, Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life and the Knights of Columbus are together hosting a “summit” on the role volunteers can play in helping their communities to recover from the financial crisis.

It will be at the Marriott East Side in NYC from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Among those groups sending representatives: Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the National Fraternal Congress, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, General Electric, the Foodbank of Greater New Jersey, Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Goldman Sachs and Volunteers of America.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, says: “A lack of concern for our neighbors within our financial system contributed greatly to the critical economic situation we face today. By sharing our ideas, experience, and creating a solid plan for the future of volunteerism, our nation’s volunteer-promoting organizations, from a variety of sectors – have the ability to be a wonderful force for good as they facilitate neighbors helping their neighbors to rebuild their lives and their communities.”

And Fairfield President Jeffrey P. von Arx, a Jesuit, says: “The global economy is facing one of its biggest challenges in a generation. While this economic crisis is still very much in its early phase, what seems indisputable is that we are about to enter an extended period of increased hardship within our communities, and increased poverty of resources in communities and nations around the world. It is certainly incumbent on our governments to respond to this crisis with alacrity, but we also know that governments can only do so much, and that we will have to look to our religious institutions, to our Universities, and to the non-profit and volunteer sectors in general to rise to the occasion and find creative solutions to the problems that we need to confront.”