Boston College: Tragedy, Belief, and ‘Seeing’ in Faith

“We gather as members of the BC community with our feelings—shock, sadness, fear, hurt, sorrow, bewilderment, and, I suspect, anger as well. . . . How do we carry on? . . . We are called to be people who represent faith and hope and healing for those most in need of it.” (Fr. William Leahy, SJ | President of Boston College | 4.16.13)

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Boston College is a Catholic-Jesuit institution.  This unique character seeks to animate and guide every corner of the university community.  From student affairs to advancement and from athletics to liturgy, BC’s distinctly Catholic-Jesuit identity differentiates it from other, non-Catholic, non-Jesuit institutions.  Yet, how is this difference manifest in our community, in our students, and in our staff?  

Boston College, MIT, Harvard, and all the institutions that call Boston home were affected in the wake of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.  Our initial reactions to these events may have been similar: anger, fear, sadness, etc.  However shaken though we were, our communities were shortly drawn from fearful isolation to prayerful communion through vigils and prayer services.

Boston College was no different.  On Tuesday, April 16th, St. Ignatius Parish was entirely filled (overflowing, actually) with individuals who, in faith, sought healing and grace through the Holy Mass.  Yet, just as Boston College’s unique Catholic-Jesuit character differentiates it from its peers, what did the celebration of the Mass suggest about the Boston College community’s identity?

In the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, faith is understood to be more than belief.  Faith is an addition to our own sight.  It allows us to see further meaning and to see certain things that are only able to be seen by believing.  Yet, faith is often lived in darkness – such as in the wake of tragedy.  Faith does not make the darkness go away, rather, it allows us to see where we would not have been able to see before.

The Boston College community’s unique Catholic-Jesuit is defined by its ‘faith’ – by its commitment to seeing the world in a certain way.  This vision is different from many other of its peers institutions because Boston College’s Catholic-Jesuit character has a faith that seeks understanding the world and all its creation as inherently good because it is in relationship with something greater than itself – God.  The Mass celebrates God’s gifts that allows us to see more clearly – to see that we are always in relationship to something greater than ourselves, that we are stronger when we are one in mind and spirit, and that above all, despite all the world’s imperfections, that God, our Creator and Father, is Love.

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Aside

William P. Leahy, S.J.
President
and
Jack Butler, S.J.
Vice President for University Mission & Ministry

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Invite you to join the Boston College community

For a

Mass for Healing and Hope 

In the Aftermath
of the
Boston Marathon

St. Ignatius Church
5PM
Today
Tuesday April 16, 2013 

Sacramental Anointing
Will Follow Mass

All are Welcome 

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities: Principle #8

Principle #8: The effective administrator assists students in discerning and responding to their vocations, understanding potential professional contributions, and choosing particular career directions.

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The Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7): “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”

Christians believe that their lifework is accomplished in partnership with the God who gives us life and talents. Student affairs professionals often guide students in their discernment of life-choices. At Catholic colleges and universities, these privileged conversations can help students in their search for meaning and purpose, by integrating their beliefs, gifts, ambitions, and hopes with the world’s needs.  This discernment process seeks to equip students to balance and integrate professional, personal, and relational commitments.

Assessing this Principle

1. What does this principle mean for the institution?

2. How do you apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

      a. To what extent are career and other life choices understood and articulated in terms     of vocation?

     b. How do career services staff, faculty advisers, and others engage students in a discernment process that integrates their vocation and their career choices?

     c. To what extent are there opportunities to implement this integration in areas such as the career center, academic advising, the curriculum, and campus ministry programming?

     d. To what extent are student affairs staff and other professionals in these    areas prepared to assist students in this discernment?

     e. How are students invited to consider “careers” in church leadership and    ministry, not exclusive of, but including, religious vocations?

3. What evidence do you have to judge the effectiveness of your efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will you do with the information you have gathered about effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective

“The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one-that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.” (Lumen gentium 40, 41)

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities: Principle #7

Principle #7: The effective administrator seeks dialogue among religious traditions and with contemporary culture to clarify beliefs and to foster mutual understanding in the midst of tensions and ambiguities.

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“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32)

Student affairs professionals who work in the Catholic tradition and serve in institutions of higher learning have a twofold call: to articulate a compelling truth as we understand it and to search for an informed truth as we explore it. While the first is supported by the rich heritage and reflection of a faith community, the second entails openness to other traditions and experiences. Educational institutions thrive on dialogue respectful of differences of points of view, and the consequent uncertainties and tensions are vital to the learning mission of colleges and universities. Thus student affairs professionals serving in Catholic colleges and universities honor other faith traditions and experiences and invite them into dialogue for purposes of exploration and insight.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for the institution?

2. How do you apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

a. In what ways are students exposed to religious traditions through   curricular and co-curricular offerings, and through contact with faculty, staff, and fellow students?

b. How are students engaged in reaching mutual understanding between and           among religious traditions and between their own faith (Catholic or other) and contemporary culture?

c. How is dialogue respectful of different points of  view implemented?

d. To what extent are student affairs staff prepared to sponsor and encourage           dialogue and mutual understanding?

e. What interfaith space(s) are available for students on campus?

3. What evidence do you have to judge the effectiveness of your efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will you do with the information you have gathered about effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective

Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man’s fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness?

To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living. At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path.

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.

(Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI)

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities: Principle #6

Principle #6: The effective administrator invites and accompanies students into the life of the Catholic Church through prayer, liturgy, sacraments and spiritual direction.

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Catholic colleges and universities assist all students to develop an active and meaningful relationship with God.  This is accomplished through such activities as traditional and contemporary prayer opportunities, small faith sharing groups, retreats, spiritual direction, and (upon request) RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults] instruction. In addition, liturgical and sacramental opportunities are scheduled on a regular basis for Catholic students. Each student’s personal relationship with God can be further deepened by application of the charisms and spiritual practices of the institution’s founding religious order, where applicable.

In many Catholic institutions the campus ministry staff is part of the student affairs division. In other Catholic institutions student affairs professionals collaborate with members of the campus ministry staff. In welcoming students to the salvific richness of Jesus Christ, student affairs professionals have a responsibility to understand and articulate the Catholic faith and to support and work with campus ministers to provide pastoral care and leadership to students seeking spiritual growth.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for Boston College?

2. How do I apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

            a. To what extent do opportunities exist for all students who are seeking an active and meaningful relationship with God, regardless of their faith tradition?

             b. What opportunities on campus exist to celebrate the rich liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church, including traditional devotions?  

             c. What sacred space(s) are available for students on campus?

             d. What opportunities exist on campus for collaboration between campus  ministers and other professionals on behalf of students’ spiritual development?

           e. What opportunities exist for the spiritual development of all members   of the campus community, including the student life staff? 

3. What evidence do I have to judge the effectiveness of my efforts?

 4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will I do with the information I have gathered about my effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective: “We think that prayer is something private. We no longer believe, I think, in the real, historical effect of prayer. Instead, we must be convinced and learn that this spiritual commitment, which unites heaven and earth, has an inner force. And a means to arrive at the affirmation of justice is to commit oneself to prayer, because in this way it is transformed in my and others’ education for justice. We must, in brief, re-learn the social sense of prayer.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004).

 

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals in Catholic Colleges and Universities : Principle #5

Principle #5: The effective administrator challenges students to high standards of personal behavior and responsibility through the formation of character and virtues

Students’ personal choices around issues of alcohol or drug use, the treatment of others, sexual behavior, and other moral and health related issues can and should be informed by Church teaching. When there are tensions between such teachings and current social mores, these differences serve as powerful teaching opportunities.

Student affairs professionals in Catholic colleges and universities should partner with Church or pastoral leaders to provide ongoing opportunities for conversation and other programs to support students in making appropriate choices that show respect for self and others.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for the institution?

2. How do you apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

            a. How are expectations for behavior, character, and virtue development discussed and communicated in relation to institutional mission?

            b. To what extent do student affairs staff members develop an understanding of Catholic moral teaching and its application in Catholic higher education?

            c. How do student affairs staff members help students develop the capacity for responsible decision making that is informed by church teaching?

             d. What opportunities exist to explore issues such as alcohol and drug use, treatment of  others, sexual behavior, and other moral and health issues in light of church teaching and Gospel values?

             e. What opportunities for inclusive dialogue and learning exist when there are tensions between Church teaching and current social mores?

3. What evidence do you have to judge the effectiveness of your efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will you do with the information you have gathered about effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective

“It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables us to live as he lived (cf. Gal 2:20), in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters” (Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor).

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals in Catholic Colleges and Universities : Principle #4

Principle #4: The effective administrator creates opportunities for students to experience, reflect upon, and act from a commitment to justice, mercy, and compassion, and in light of Catholic social teaching to develop respect and responsibility for all, especially those most in need.

Because the framework of the Catholic social tradition is vital to the work of student affairs professionals in Catholic institutions, it is important for these professionals to become familiar with the tradition and to incorporate it into learning opportunities for students. Central to this work is deepening students’ awareness of local, national, and international injustice and grounding this understanding through creative partnering with diverse, underserved communities. Ample opportunities for action and reflection will help all to grow, individually and collectively, in their knowledge and practice of this rich tradition, thereby contributing to the common good and building a more humane and just world.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for Boston College?

2. How do I apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

           a. How is Catholic social teaching used as a framework to approach key campus  issues?

           b. To what extent do service opportunities include reflection that is informed by    Catholic social teaching?

           c. How do these experiences provide opportunities for students to partner with     underserved communities?

          d. To what extent do student affairs staff members in all areas learn about Catholic social teaching and incorporate it into their work?

          e. What activities or programs exist to help students deepen their awareness of    local, national, and international injustice?

3. What evidence do I have to judge the effectiveness of my efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will I do with the information I have gathered about my effectiveness?

A Catholic Perspective:

“Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20)…. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas et Veritate, 2009)