By Edward W. Schmidt, S.J.
My first assignment after finishing theology studies in 1974 was to campus ministry at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Among the Jesuits there, I was probably the youngest. I remember a conversation in the Jesuit recreation room early on. Elder fathers were discussing the question: What university offices absolutely must be held by Jesuits? Certainly the president and the academic vice president. Yes, the arts and sciences dean and the head of campus ministry. Maybe the theology department chair and probably the director of development. Quite a lineup! But at that time at most Jesuit colleges and universities, those offices did have a Jesuit in charge. Jesuits took care of the apostolic mission of the school.
This issue of Conversations studies what that care looks like today. Under the general rubric of “caring for the apostolic mission,” it presents articles that study some important concepts in Jesuit education today. The title represents a translation of cura apostolica, “apostolic care” or “care for the apostolate,” to use more technical church language. This echoes an older Latin phrase cura personalis, “personal care” or “care for the person”; this term appears in articles here too. And one article expands the vocabulary to include cura catholica, “caring for our Catholic identity,” not a common term, but definitely a care.
The care that once belonged mainly to Jesuits today belongs to a wide spectrum of the campus community. Not everyone, of course, is deliberately into Jesuit identity , Jesuit ideals, a Jesuit sense of mission. But a substantial number are. And every individual teacher or staff member who works hard and wants the school to flourish, wants the students to learn and to grow, and wants the whole campus community to feel the satisfaction of work well done without a doubt contributes to the mission, cares for that apostolic mission.
Debra Mooney’s article “Doing Lay Mission Formation Well for the Care of the Jesuit Endeavor” uses a clever image to describe the low number of Jesuits in the school community today: She drops a few Tic Tacs into a bowl of red hot candies, mixes the bowl, and notes that the Tic Tacs virtually disappear. They are still there, but not always obvious. Those Tic Tacs are the Jesuits.
As I write this, I am about to be one of those Tic Tacs. I am returning to Xavier University to work in Mission and Identity and at the campus parish, going back to that first assignment of almost a half century ago. I am retiring from editing this journal, managing writing about Jesuit higher education, and actually going back to work in it! On a real campus with students and faculty and staff! It feels good! It has been a great six years serving as editor of Conversations. I have truly enjoyed our seminar meetings and have enjoyed working with Pat Howell, our chair, and Stephen Rowntree, our secretary/treasurer as well as with our hardworking, patient, and ever clever and artful designer, Pauline Heaney. But six years and putting out 12 issues is enough for me. Time to move on!
The enterprise of Jesuit education is a magnificent network of truly competent professionals. I will keep in contact with you as I read these pages in the future. Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are. Thank you for taking care.
Editorial Note: When the authors were writing the articles for this issue, the U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities numbered 28. Now, however, Wheeling Jesuit University is no longer a Jesuit school. We have left the number at 28, which was the reality when the authors wrote their work.