Our mission statement reads in part “Fostering a culture of understanding and dialogue, Brebeuf Jesuit seeks and welcomes students from diverse religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Students at Brebeuf Jesuit are called to discover and cultivate the fullness of their God-given talents as a responsibility and as an act of worship.” The great blessing is that we also believe the same for the adults in the building. Welcoming faculty and staff from diverse religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds ensures a culture of understanding and dialogue from the classroom to the business office.
As an assistant principal and mission and identity officer, one of my main responsibilities is to develop and cultivate personal, professional, and spiritual growth within the faculty and staff. Adults who are Catholic, Jewish, mainline Protestant, non-denominational Protestant, unchurched, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Adults who are married, single, young, not-so-young, male, female, immigrant, locally born, holding various degrees, and from a diverse racial background. How do we handle adult formation within such a wide lens?
I was privileged to attend the International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education in Boston, 2012. There I went to a dialogue session on faculty formation. I remember a Jesuit from India reflecting on he always begins formation with love. No matter the faith, the gender, or the nationality, all of humanity encounters the divine through love. I totally stole this idea!
We begin with a two year formal formation program. This program is required of all new faculty and staff – regardless of previous experience in the field of education. We begin with the life and mission of St. Ignatius. Moving through the history of the Society of Jesus and reading foundational material from history to excerpts from the Ratio Studiorum we examine and reflect on how we are called to welcome the whole child in our midst. We spend the first year in monthly dialogue, reflecting on core values of faith, cura personalis, and discernment. We read Kolvenbach and O’Brien. We read excerpts from JSEA’s Foundations as well as GC 32 and GC 35. All the way to this year’s material on the new Universal Apostolic Preferences. Each meeting has prelection questions for reflection and activities in dialogue (Circle of Voices, Chalk Talks, role plays) to deepen the experience within the individual.
Year Two focuses on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm. Listening to veteran faculty and staff share their stories with context, experience, reflection, action, evaluation allows for relationship building and understanding. One of the most popular sessions of Year 2 is in the Makerspace. Our CIO, JD Ferries-Rowe, sets up an activity with participants forcing them to step out of their comfort zone to experience learning with Legos, 3D printing, podcasting, and animation. I am always impressed with how nervous adults are trying something new (like we ask our students to do every day) and yet by the end of the hour the adults are laughing and deeply engaged with each other. The year culminates with a personal capstone project where they take their day job and apply the IPP to a lesson, initiative, or activity. I have heard how the IPP enriched work with parents through financial aid practices, alumni engagement, lesson planning, technology initiatives, and campus trash audits.
Continuing growth is a challenge in the busy lives of adults. Every year, each faculty and staff member write a spiritual growth goal as part of the annual evaluation and growth process. Adults engage in book studies and personal retreats within their faith tradition (online or in person). Some participate in the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. Some participate in our strong Campus Ministry Retreat program as retreat leaders and mentors. All adults participate in an annual, school offered retreat. This year’s retreat was entitled “Called to Discover and Cultivate Our God-given Talents as a Responsibility and an Act of Worship”. We heard from colleagues on their understanding of what it means to develop and cultivate through student advising and art. After whole group reflection, we broke out into two rounds of Discovery Sessions led by over 24 colleagues. In these sessions we actively stepped out of our comfort zones and discovered our talents (or lack thereof) in cooking, singing, prayer walking, painting, brain-based instruction, drum circles, and even Pickleball. We laughed, we shared, and we grew. The day ended with Mass as one body in Christ.
In short, our formation programs build community and holy ground. Exactly what we hope our students experience every time they walk into our classrooms, our offices, our sports fields, our chapel. By creating spaces for adults to gather in dialogue, we model how to do the same with our students and parents. Stop by Brebeuf if you are ever in the neighborhood. It is truly a sacred place where we encounter the divine through love.