May 30, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Care of the Other

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By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

Some 470 years ago, St. Ignatius left all of us a way to look at this world and our lives, to understand his vision. Saint Louis University formalizes this in our Mission Statement as the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity, not just for our own curiosity or benefit, but to give God greater glory and to serve others. In the four centuries since the foundation of the Society of Jesus and the beginnings of our mission—our apostolate—of education in the light of Ignatius and his vision, many terms and phrases have developed to explain, or to attempt to explain, this overarching ideal. These shorthand sayings have sometimes found meaning throughout our long history which have wandered away from Ignatius and the early Jesuits. They've become, perhaps, taglines whose real meanings have been blurred by time and overuse.

One key phrase used at many Jesuit universities is cura personalis. Today it is usually understood to mean the care of the whole person in our work with students. For many it is tied to "customer service" which we ought to offer our students, all of our constituents and to each other, even. These are very good objectives, of course, but we may have let them become too narrow as time has gone by.

Ignatius first used cura personalis as a directive to Jesuit superiors describing the way they should treat the Jesuits for whom they are responsible. In the movement of time and experience, this leadership guideline was adapted to a more holistic instruction on how we should approach working with all people, fitting clearly with Ignatius calling us to find God in all things, in all parts of creation, available in all of human life. It became a way to live the belief that God is in all parts of every human being... in every part of each of us.

In the growth of our institutions, cura personalis became associated, almost exclusively, to the way we should treat our students. For Ignatius, though, this relational guide was meant not for just the people we work for, but the people we work with, our companions.

As we settle into summer, and its slower pace, we can practice a wider realization of this very specific part of our Mission, this clear direction from Ignatius, himself. We can not only continue to care for the students we will serve this summer and the new students who will begin their lives at Saint Louis University through SLU 101, but we can also extend this distinctive cura personalis to the people with whom we work. Our mission is not only to serve our students, but also to serve all we meet, all with whom we live and work, to find God in all things.

...The pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity is not something bound to a period of time, or the location of a specific other across a desk or counter. Our Mission and the vision of Ignatius call us to find the truth and the presence of God in all and everyone with whom we come into contact.

Working on campus or not,
have a blessed and re-creative summer.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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