Greetings from Dr. Michael R. Lovell
Being able to incorporate my Catholic faith into my professional life was a main factor that led me to Marquette almost two years ago. I felt blessed to be coming to a place where each day I would have opportunities to progress in my personal faith journey. I have not been disappointed. Whether stopping in the Madonna Della Strada Chapel in Zilber Hall to pray or attending daily Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel or going to confession at Church of the Gesu or participating in Eucharistic Adoration in Schroeder Hall, I am surrounded by people and spaces that help keep my life grounded in faith.
From the start I knew one of my biggest challenges would be upholding Marquette’s 134-year tradition of providing exceptional Jesuit education without having had formal training about the Society of Jesus. I had a significant amount to learn about how Ignatian Spirituality is integrated throughout campus. What I did not realize was how much support would be available for my personal Jesuit formation. Nearly everywhere I turn, people within the Marquette community offer books and articles on Jesuit history and philosophies. These documents have been a true gift, and I have greatly enjoyed learning about St. Ignatius and the principles of Jesuit education. When asked about my first year at Marquette, my wife Amy said she thought I’d read more books since joining Marquette than during the previous 20 years. Reflecting on my readings, I can’t help but feel that God — without my knowledge — had provided me with experiences throughout my life to prepare me for leading this Jesuit institution.
One of the most powerful Jesuit formation experiences I’ve had was provided by our Ignatian Colleagues Program, a silent, weeklong retreat under the spiritual guidance of Rev. James Kubicki, S.J., national director of the Apostleship of Prayer. I ate alone, slept alone, and, when I took a break from my readings and contemplation, biked or ran alone. There were no calls to the office, no checking email and no radio or television. Father Kubicki took me through the Spiritual Exercises guided by the book, A Closer Walk with Christ: A Personal Ignatian Retreat, written by Rev. Raymond Thomas Gawronski, S.J. For 30 to 40 minutes each day, Father Kubicki led me through the life of Jesus Christ from Jesus’ point of view, helping me see and feel His life through His eyes. The experience was inspiring and overwhelming and allowed me to further discern God’s plan for me.
During the retreat I read about actor Bruce Marchiano. He was preparing to portray Jesus in a movie and prayed constantly for insights into Jesus’ life. Marchiano asked to see the world literally through Jesus’ eyes to best inform his acting. When he received the insight — only briefly — it nearly crushed him. Marchiano’s response was uncontrollable tears because he saw an unhappy society following its will and not God’s plan.
This silent retreat was a multidimensional gift. It exemplifies why I am blessed to be at Marquette University. The retreat was a gift from my family (especially Amy) to allow me the time away from home. It was a gift from Marquette to have written in its employment policies the opportunity for lay staff to make spiritual retreats. It was a gift from St. Ignatius, conceived centuries ago and still applicable today as we seek to better understand God. And, ultimately, it was a gift from God that this process was created as a way for people like me to continue life’s journey on a path that leads to Him and His grace.
Dr. Michael R. Lovell