In the service of a shared mission

Shared mission was the inspiration for the July 2009 integration of two Jesuit institutions in California - Santa Clara University and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. Like the Jesuits in Massachusetts who shepherded the reaffiliation of Weston Jesuit School of Theology and Boston College (see In Trust, Summer 2009, page 12), the West Coast Jesuits decided that joining forces would help them further their mission and the charism* of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

With canon and civil legalities satisfied, the school of theology, which serves about 200 students, is remaining on its own Berkeley campus as the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) of Santa Clara University. Though 50 miles from Santa Clara, it will be a graduate school of the university, which has about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students and is California's oldest institution of higher learning. By staying in Berkeley, the Jesuit School of Theology will remain part of the nine-member Graduate Theological Union, an ecumenical consortium with a large theological library and cross-registration privileges with the University of California.

Staff at both institutions suspected that the affiliation would be a good fit, according to Father Kevin Burke, executive dean of the Jesuit School of Theology, and Father Michael Engh, the university's president. Both of them Jesuit priests, Burke and Engh acknowledge that the process of discernment took several years, beginning with their predecessors, former JST president Father Joseph Daoust and former Santa Clara president Father Paul Locatelli. Engh advises seminaries that might be considering an affiliation with another school to take seriously the necessity of involving everyone - board, faculty, staff, and students - from the first stages. "It is important to establish the steps," he says, "from signing documents and deciding who will run programs to establishing areas needing technical support and integrating faculty handbooks. Changes won't happen overnight."

"We are aware we are bringing two institutional cultures together," Engh says. "JST is strictly a graduate school while the university has a wider student population. But we already see that we can hire the JST students to teach undergraduates, and we are starting an initiative on sustainability and environmental justice that can involve theology, engineering, law, education. There are many possibilities."

Father Burke uses a business analogy to describe the governing structure of the newly integrated institutions. JST, he says, is a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the university, with its own board of directors that approves matters pertaining to ecclesiastical degrees. Seven members of this board are Jesuits who hold the veto power that satisfies church requirements. As a subsidiary, it operates under canon and civil law and meets requirements of its regional accrediting agency as well as those of the Association of Theological Schools and the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education.

*In the Catholic tradition, charism refers to a divine gift of grace conferred for the benefit of the Christian community. Religious orders such as the Society of Jesus (whose members are called Jesuits) were founded for specific purposes - for example, to provide missionaries, teachers, or nurses. The particular mission of the order, usually articulated by the founder, is its charism.

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Article from: Autumn 2009

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