Comments on the Mission
In the Old Testament book of Job, we find these words:
Ah, would that my words were written down! Would that they were inscribed in a record; that with an iron chisel and with lead they were cut in the rock forever.”
On the property of just about every Jesuit school, parish and institution, you will find the inscription A.M.D.G. It’s an abbreviation for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. It is translated: For the greater glory of God. These words summarize a major component of the writings and spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and patron of Ignatian ministries. In his Spiritual Exercises, he writes that we were created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord and by this means to save our souls. All other created goods are to be used to assist us in this pursuit. (#23).
At Rockhurst University, we have carved three words in the stone tower on the southern part of the campus: Learning, Leadership and Service. These words reflect how we approach higher education in the Ignatian and Jesuit tradition. We believe they capture the essence of the core principles and values of Jesuit education as it was first articulated, in 1599, in the Ratio Studiorum (Plan of Studies) for Jesuit schools. We consider the Ratio as a way of proceeding for an individual to develop his or her gifts for the greater glory of God.
Some of the core values and principles you will find in Jesuit institutions:
- Cura personalis – care for the individual in the context of the human community
- Critical thinking – a level of comfort with the questions as well as with the answers; this includes the promotion of dialogue between faith and culture as well as faith and science
- Magis – the pursuit of more as in the greater glory of God
- Contemplation in Action - a discernment of spirits in the context of free will that results in responsible action
- Finding God in all things - the quest for union with God
- Men and women for others- products of Jesuit schools are to be the “multiplying agents” in the “service of faith and the promotion of justice”
- Preparation for an active life commitment that encourages a “healthy patriotism”
- Participation in the apostolic mission of the Church of the building up the Kingdom of God
- Emphasis upon lay-Jesuit collaboration within the context of a community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, governing boards, benefactors and friends
At Rockhurst, we believe that education is a lifelong process. This is essential for the ongoing formation of an individual and the end for which an individual was created. Instruction of the intellect never ends. Rather, we hope to create or build upon one’s curiosity so that an unrestricted desire to know is always present. The more we learn, the more we encounter God in God’s creation. We create this environment with an average class size of 24; the student-faculty ratio is 13:1. While 92 percent of full-time faculty hold terminal degrees in their fields of study, our full-time professors still teach freshman courses. Our student satisfaction surveys repeatedly report how the faculty of Rockhurst readily make themselves available for assistance and consultation. In essence, Rockhurst is a community with a common purpose and mission of life long learning for the greater glory of God.
To demonstrate that we produce leaders, we could easily point to the fact that nearly 10 percent of our alumni are CEOs in their respective organizations. While this is impressive and laudable, we are more intent in seeking to form “men and women for others.” This phrase was coined and used extensively by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, 1965-1983. He committed the Society to the “service of faith and the promotion of justice.” For him, it naturally followed that the goal of Jesuit education would consist in the creation of “multiplying agents” known as “men and women for others.” To paraphrase the Ratio, the instruction of the intellect (learning) becomes complete and fortified when the will is trained (leadership) and character is formed (service). When the will is trained, it becomes second nature to aspire to leadership. Education prepares our nature to receive and cooperate with the grace of God in making a better and more just world.
Charity is an attempt to address the effects of poverty and oppression; justice seeks to alleviate the root causes of societal inequities. Here, the formation of character (service) begins on Freshman Orientation Weekend. After the goodbyes are exchanged, our new students are divided into groups for the Finucane Service Project. It introduces our new students to the Jesuit philosophy of service to others. The project is named in memory of Fr. Bill Finucane, S.J., a former director of Campus Ministry at Rockhurst. This project results in 1100 hours of service to the Kansas City community. At the completion of the project, the students return to campus to discuss their work and what can be done to change the structures causing these inequities. Such efforts and reflection continue throughout a Rockhurst University education. While service at Rockhurst is voluntary, more than 85 percent of our students participate in these community efforts resulting in some 30,000 hours annually being contributed to others. Rockhurst also sponsors service projects to South America, Central America and Mexico as part of its global educational efforts and attempts to make God’s good world better. The more we serve the more we grow in imitation of the love of Jesus Christ.
At Rockhurst, we focus upon the instruction of the intellect (learning), the training of the will (leadership), and the formation of character (service). We believe these three words capture the essence of Jesuit education that has been impacting the world for more than 400 years. We are firmly committed to this approach — that’s why we carved those words in stone.
Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J.