It might sound unusual to travel thousands of miles to better understand Marquette’s Jesuit identity back home, but that’s exactly what Provost Dan Myers, Vice President Michael VanDerhoef and I did after May Commencement. With Rev. John Thiede, S.J., as our guide, we trekked to Santiago, Chile, and stayed for a week in the Jesuit community adjacent to Alberto Hurtado University — Chile’s only Jesuit university.
During our stay, we joined the Chilean Jesuits serving others through diverse activities. Unlike in the United States, where Jesuits traditionally work to support academic institutions, we saw firsthand how Jesuits in Chile enhance the lives of the poor and marginalized through innovative programs. At Techo para Chile (Roof for Chile), a nonprofit, we learned how the Jesuits created an organization to provide basic housing for refugees and the poorest citizens in Latin America. Their sophisticated housing database and social inclusion and microfinance programs are transforming poor communities. When visiting Infocap, we learned how the Society of Jesus has created an infrastructure for upward job mobility by training workers with minimal skills to become certified in trades, including carpentry, IT, electricity and welding. At Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Jesuits help find the resources for thousands of immigrants to better adjust to Chilean life.
Visiting the Capilla Jesús Vida Nueva in one of the poorest areas of Santiago had a great impact on me. The small chapel is a satellite of a nearby larger church. The priest from the parish church comes to Capilla Jesús Vida Nueva for one monthly Sunday Mass. The Jesuits routinely visit the parish to offer Mass, guidance, leadership and support. One night when we visited parish community leaders, it became clear to me how tightly knit they are and the important role the Jesuits play in supporting such a vibrant community. As we got to know one another through conversation, food and laughter, I noticed the joyful atmosphere the Jesuits have helped create. Community members have almost nothing yet are truly happy, loving life and each other. I contrasted this to what I often observe at home, where we frequently have so much but experience desolation and sadness.
While reflecting on my time with the Jesuits, I came to further appreciate the unique ways they are immersed outside university walls to profoundly affect the poor and marginalized. I found myself wondering: What should we learn from them?
There’s no question Marquette needs to continue to strengthen our pillars of ministry and service. We recently welcomed Rev. Tom Krettek, S.J., back to campus to service as vice president for the Office of Mission and Ministry. We also recently named Dr. Daniel Bergen the planning director of our Office of Community Engagement. These two key leaders will help our campus provide paths for students, faculty and staff to be immersed in faith activities and meaningful service in our community. There’s also no question Marquette is making a difference. In July, Marquette was one of five universities (from more than 100 nominated institutions) selected to receive the 2016 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award from The Washington Center, a nonprofit organization.
What more can we do? How can the Marquette community more innovatively serve others in Milwaukee and around the world? I know our alumni selflessly dedicate thousands of hours to serving those in need. From my experiences with alumni who return for Alumni Awards Weekend each April, I know that dedication to service continues throughout their lives. What insights can you offer me about how and where Marquette should focus its service emphasis in the years ahead? Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Michael R. Lovell