October 15, 2013 — Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, capped his two-week visit to the United States with a meeting with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) on Oct. 10-11, 2013, at Loyola University Chicago. The historic meeting was the first in which Fr. Nicolás met with both the presidents of all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and the chairs of the Boards of Trustees for each institution. The importance of lay leadership at U.S. Jesuit schools was one of the many issues discussed during the meeting.
“In the United States, the laity has come into its own in taking real authority for church ventures,” explained Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of AJCU. “Father General is impressed by this, and it is new to him. He wanted to get to know these board chairs and thank them for taking this kind of responsibility and for guiding the schools.”
In addition to the presidents and board chairs, representatives of the Jesuit Curia in Rome, U.S. Jesuit provincials and rectors of several Jesuit communities also attended the meeting.
“Father General also wanted to talk about rethinking how Jesuit schools can have the maximum impact on the quality of education all around the world, with a focus on Jesuit schools in this country helping Jesuit schools in other countries and learning from them,” said Fr. Sheeran. “It’s not a one-way relationship.”
According to Fr. Sheeran, Fr. Nicolás challenged the group to think about how the schools can cooperate better together, as well as make a bigger impact in the larger world.
The first day of the meeting included time for the group to get to know one another by comparing notes about what got them involved in Jesuit education. Presidents and chairs worked together in small groups to discuss their goals for their schools.
On Friday, the final day of the meeting, Fr. Nicolás gave a talk to the board chairs, the presidents and the provincials. Afterward, he met with the chairs so they could speak candidly with him about what they see as the futures of their schools and American Jesuit education.
“In the United States, the laity is taking increasing responsibility for major Catholic ventures, and Father General wanted to thank and to be in touch with the lay people who are doing this kind of work at Jesuit schools,” Fr. Sheeran explained.