Steeped in tradition

The Ignatian Colleagues Program provides John Carroll’s leaders an opportunity to learn more about Ignatian spirituality and the Jesuit educational heritage to help advance the University’s Jesuit Catholic mission

By Sue Valerian

St. Ignatius Loyola

An initiative of the Jesuit institutions of higher learning in the Heartland/ Delta region of the country, the Ignatian Colleagues Program now is supported by 24 of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in America and the Jesuit provinces of the Heartland/Delta region. Headquartered at John Carroll University at the invitation of JCU President Robert L. Niehoff, S.J., the program, which trains university leaders to preserve the identity of the institutions for which they work, is directed by Edward Peck, Ph.D., former associate dean of John Carroll’s graduate school.

Fr. Niehoff, who supports the relatively new national program enthusiastically, welcomed its headquarters at Carroll.

“It’s a great pleasure to have the Ignatian Colleagues Program on our campus,” he says. “The ICP, under Ed’s direction, has become the Jesuit lay leadership formation program that many of us in Jesuit higher education and the Society of Jesus have been looking for.”

About the program

ICP is a national program designed to educate administrators more deeply in the Jesuit tradition of higher education, so they can better articulate, adapt, and advance the Ignatian mission on their campuses.
– Executive director: Ed Peck, Ph.D.
– Headquarters: John Carroll University
– Participating schools: 24 Jesuit universities nationwide
– More information:

The commitment
The program began in 2008 shortly after the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus reaffirmed its desire to encourage Jesuits and their colleagues to collaborate more closely as companions in mission and engage in a process of mutual formation for partnership. Peck says the ICP and related programs aren’t just about declining numbers of Jesuits, but rather about shared responsibility.

“Even though the ICP may have emerged at a time when there are fewer Jesuits available for higher education, there’s always been a need for well-informed and engaged partners in mission,” he says.

The program provides lay participants with a variety of opportunities to learn more about Ignatian spirituality, Jesuit Catholic education, and the commitment to justice during an 18-month period. Like Jesuit schools, the program is open to people of all religious faiths and traditions.

“Participants don’t all have to be Catholic, but rather, they need to share a common commitment to understand and advance the mission,” Peck says.


As of this past summer, 40 people from throughout the country, including two from John Carroll, have completed the program. Currently, 85 more are enrolled in the second and third cohorts, including five more faculty, staff and administrators from John Carroll. Each university’s president selects the participants from among leaders across their campus, resulting in a broad spectrum of participants in each cohort of about 45 people.

The program involves a significant investment on the part of the participants and institutions.

“The presidents, provincials, and local coordinators who support the ICP believe this is an important investment in the future,” Peck says.

Retaining the Jesuit identity

Local support for the Ignatian Colleagues Program received a boost this year when, in August, Paul V. Murphy, Ph.D., took over as assistant to the president for mission. Murphy, professor of history and the director of John Carroll’s Institute of Catholic Studies since 2005, will meet individually with the University’s participants in the ICP and bring them together for group discussions. His participation with the ICP is just one piece of a larger role for Murphy: serving as a key ambassador to preserve and grow John Carroll’s Jesuit identity.

“It’s crucially important to the future of Jesuit higher education that we be attentive to the mission of this University,” Murphy says, adding the identity is what helps John Carroll stand out among other Ohio liberal arts universities, and that’s key to attracting and keeping students. “Given the price of higher education, there better be a good reason for students to be here.”


Murphy’s move into his new role is a natural one partly because he, along with Mark McCarthy, Ph.D., co-chaired the University’s Mission Coordinating Committee the past few years. The committee took over after Fr. Howard Gray, S.J., left the position Murphy has filled.

“I’m grateful Paul has agreed to take on this important role,” says Robert L. Niehoff, S.J., president of John Carroll. “With his strong background and connection to the John Carroll University community and commitment to Jesuit higher education, I have great confidence in Paul’s strategic foresight to help John Carroll and Jesuit higher education maintain and carry forth the critical Jesuit mission and Ignatian identity, which is the foundation of the University.”

Murphy has been studying and teaching about issues of mission and identity for much of his career. As director of the Institute of Catholic Studies the past five years, he has overseen a Catholic Studies minor for undergraduates and organized an annual Catholic Studies lecture series. During that same period, he taught courses about the Jesuits and church history. Before coming to John Carroll in 2005, he spent more than 15 years teaching history, including Jesuit and church history, at universities in Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco.

“My role has been to help enhance the Jesuit mission for quite awhile,” he says.

With a dwindling number of Jesuits, it’s necessary lay people carry the mission forward.

“The reality is the church is going to become more dependent on universities like ours,” Murphy says.

The opportunity to help others find God in all things, to find that synthesis with religion and culture excites Murphy about his new position. One of his goals is to make the position more visible on campus by organizing brown-bag lunches with speakers who are experts in Ignatian and Jesuit traditions. He’ll also hold student workshops for campus tour guides to help them communicate the school’s mission and identity better to prospective students and their parents. But he won’t pressure anyone into thinking the way he does.

“We’re not here to indoctrinate, in any kind of coercive way, those who are here who aren’t Catholic or who aren’t open to the things we are,” he says. “But it’s important to me to communicate what it means to us. I hope my office is a place where people feel free and safe to talk about what the challenges and opportunities are at a Jesuit university.”

Perhaps most importantly, Murphy wants to help raise the money needed to establish a permanent place for an office of mission and identity at John Carroll.

“You can talk all you want about mission and identity, but we need the right budget to support it,” he says. “We have to be serious about this.”

Each participant attends a four-day orientation in Chicago and then returns to campus to complete a series of online workshops created by a national group of content experts working with Peck. The program also includes a week-long immersion trip to Central America and an experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Participants are asked to leave the program with an action plan, or mission project, to incorporate what they learned into their daily jobs. The program ends with a four-day capstone experience about Ignatian discernment.

“During the capstone experience, participants widely reported feeling much more prepared and willing to articulate the Jesuit mission of higher education in new ways and work collaboratively with people back on their campuses to advance the mission,” Peck says.

Jesuit colleagues
In addition to Williams, John Carroll participants include Karen Schuele, Ph.D., dean of the Boler School of Business; John Day, Ph.D., academic vice president; Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., vice president and executive assistant to the president; Nicholas Santilli, Ph.D., associate academic vice president for planning and assessment and institutional effectiveness; Lauren Bowen, Ph.D., associate vice president for academic programs and faculty diversity; and Mark Storz, Ph.D., associate dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor in the Department of education and Allied Studies.

Bowen is on track to finish the program in January 2011. Raised by a Methodist mother and an atheist father, she considers herself culturally Protestant and professionally secular. So when Fr. Niehoff invited her into the program, she asked the program’s director more than once if she was right for it. Peck assured her she was. After a year in the program, her outlook has changed.

“Before ICP, I understood intellectually the Jesuit tradition and values, but I didn’t allow myself to experience them,” she says.

Bowen believed she was able to communicate and support the Jesuit mission but was unfamiliar with living it. But now, particularly after what she describes as a transformative trip to El Salvador, she feels more a part of it.

“I now understand myself as a participant in an organic and dynamic mission that’s steeped in a rich tradition and anchored by clear values,” she says.

In part, that means inviting passion and caring into her work.

“What I’ve learned to do a little bit better is stop trying to distinguish between reason and emotion so rigidly,” Bowen says. “They’re not separate and distinct. Humanity is as important as intellectual debate.”

At the same time, Bowen has come to another realization: paying attention to the whole person, not just the intellectual side.

“It’s about my own habits of mind and my ethos of being – not just about the programs I design and the courses I teach and the committees I chair – but how I conduct myself and how I interact at the individual level with everyone I meet and with whom I work,” she says.

The program encouraged Brian Williams, vice president for enrollment, to examine how he performs his job daily. Williams’ main responsibility is to continue increasing the number of qualified high school graduates who experience John Carroll. But since completing the ICP earlier this year, Williams is embracing another newly emphasized responsibility: to better communicate the University’s Jesuit Catholic mission to prospective students.

With fewer Jesuits to lead universities such as John Carroll, faculty and administrators like Williams are relied on increasingly to help carry out each institution’s mission.

“The challenge is to take what I learned over 18 months about what kind of experience one can expect for the next four years and try to share that with my staff and my prospective students,” he says. “What does it mean to be a Jesuit university, and what does that mean to a 17, 18 year old?”

The Jesuit mission – to think beyond oneself, to strive for something deeper – can get lost among teenagers bent on finding a job after graduation, so, according to Williams, the University’s goal is to help them understand the greater value of a John Carroll degree.

“What are you going to do with it, and how is it going to make a difference in the world?” says Williams, who wants students to ask themselves these questions. “It’s that constant reminder that sets a Jesuit education apart. It’s not just about your talents, but how you use those talents.”

Storz completed the ICP with Williams. As a Catholic, the experience wasn’t so much transformative as it was a welcomed chance to reflect on his own spirituality. He described the retreat in Denver as the most important part of the program for him.

“It was an opportunity to spend eight days in quiet in the mountains … and talk about and reflect on my own spirituality, which we don’t get to do in our busy lives,” Storz says. “It was a real gift.”

Storz’s ICP project is to create a series of workshops about Ignatian pedagogy and help graduate assistants incorporate the Ignatian method of teaching into their classrooms.

“The more we have an understanding of the history and the mission of the Jesuits, the better we can be partners with the Jesuits in promoting education,” Storz says. “Ultimately, it’s about the students. We want to continue to promote this tradition among them.” JCU

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