Engaging the Spirit
Members of the Georgetown community often hear about the University’s traditions that stem from its founder, Archbishop John Carroll, S.J. The “S.J.” after Carroll’s name signifies his membership in the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order started more than 450 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The society’s priests and brothers are known as Jesuits.
The Society of Jesus has a number of characteristics and values that have given energy to the University and are present in its mission statement, institutional documents, and iconography. The Office of Mission and Ministry has compiled a list of the values (with definitions) to help faculty, staff, and students understand the distinctive nature of the educational community. It is the University’s hope that people embrace the community’s various faith traditions and appropriate the Jesuit values in their own distinct ways.
The following values are core to Georgetown’s Jesuit spirit:
Academic excellence describes the great importance that Jesuits have placed on the life of the mind as a means for uncovering truth and discovering meaning. Georgetown’s emphasis on academic excellence is reflected in the careful selection of faculty and students, the quality of teaching and the importance of research.
“Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (for the Greater Glory of God):
This motto of the Society of Jesus appears over the entrance to Wolfington Hall (Jesuit Residence) and above the stage in Gaston Hall. The phrase identifies the religious purpose of all Jesuit endeavors. It is not simply doing good that Jesuits propose, but rather doing what will better or more effectively reveal God’s active presence in our work and in the world. Discerning what is better is always a principle of Jesuit decision-making.
Community in Diversity:
Georgetown welcomes and sustains rich diversity among its students, faculty, and staff. And it supports the community through a variety of resources that include the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action; the Diversity Action Council; the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access; the Patrick F. Healy Fellows Program; the Coordinator for LBGTQ Community Resources; and a wide array of student cultural and performance groups.
Contemplation in Action:
St. Ignatius believed that prayer and reflectivity should so guide our choices and actions that our activity itself becomes a way of entering into union with and praising God. Contemplation is a critical dimension of the spiritual life and it is reflected in Georgetown’s commitment to prayer, worship, and retreats. Analogously, in the academic life, a spirit of reflectivity is a critical aspect of intellectual inquiry.
“Cura Personalis” (Care for the Whole Person):
This Latin phrase was first used to describe the responsibility of the Jesuit Superior to care for each man in the community with his unique gifts, challenges, needs, and possibilities. This value now is applied more broadly to include the relationship between educators and students and professional relationships among all those who work in the university. “Cura Personalis” suggests individualized attention to the needs of the other, distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns, and an appropriate appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.
Educating the Whole Person:
St. Ignatius believed that God could be discovered in every human endeavor, facet of learning and experience, and field of study. Consequently, he promoted the development of the spiritual, intellectual, artistic, social, and physical aspects of each person. Georgetown’s commitment to educating the whole person is evident in its strong core curriculum, wide array of academic programs, and commitment to athletic, living-learning, and religiously centered communities.
Faith and Justice:
In 1965, the Jesuits made a significant institutional commitment to “the service of faith and the promotion of justice.” This commitment links the authentic following of the Gospel of Jesus with an obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression, and injustice. While not all members of the Georgetown community would base their commitment to justice on these religious principles, the institution’s commitment to promote justice in the world grounds its Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, and inspires numerous University projects with the underserved.
Reflecting themes from the Second Vatican Council, the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus made a significant commitment to ecumenical and interreligious engagement and understanding. As the Georgetown University community comprises a wide variety of religious traditions, the Office of Campus Ministry supports Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Muslim chaplaincies, and numerous interreligious events and services. In addition, the university sponsors the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; the Program for Jewish Civilization; the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs; the Catholic Studies Program; and a partnership with the Woodstock Theological Center.
Women and Men for Others:
The Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1981, employed the phrase “Men for Others” in a notable 1973 presentation in Spain. He provocatively challenged the alumni of Jesuit schools and universities to be engaged in the struggle for justice to protect the needs of the most vulnerable. Today, this phrase has become more inclusive and its spirit is evidenced in Georgetown’s promotion of service-learning; its local, national, and international service projects; and the commitments of its graduates to serve in organizations such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps.