A guided Examination of Consciousness in review with 50 colleagues from 30 Jesuit schools across the USA present at the Jesuit Schools Network Diversity gathering in Philadelphia, 42% of whom come from schools in the Central and Southern Province.
By Peter A. Musso, Ed.D., Director | School Support
Before we start our guided Examination of Consciousness in review of the week, I get comfortable at my seat, sliding back from the conference table, putting aside my notes. Slowly, I transition from the busy-ness of our Jesuit Schools Network Diversity cohort gathering (Philadelphia, PA), entering into a state of relaxation.
Resting my feet firmly on the floor with arms comfortably at my side, I am aware of those around me . . . the 50 colleagues from 30 Jesuit schools across the USA present in this room today, 42% of whom come from schools in the Central and Southern Province. I take in a few deep breaths . . . breathing in the spirit of companionship and love we have been a part of these days. I slowly exhale . . . the challenges and tensions . . . giving them away, into the air around us.
Where have I been keenly aware of the presence of God?
Are our Jesuit schools the model of success we were in the 20th century? How will a closer look at equity and inclusion in our schools allow us to be better? As a Jesuit educator, why do I buy into the notion of good families,good neighborhoods, good books, good investments . . . not straying too far from perceptions of what is good? What is White Privilege and what does White Privilege do for and to me?
As an Ignatian educator and colleague in the Jesuit Schools network, how do I merely tolerate others? How have I worked to integrate and be integrated into others? How do our schools help us in the quest to integrate? Knowing who I am, why was I hired? And how do I respond to, “This is the Jesuit Way”? As a network of schools, how do we reconcile that some were founded upon and continue to perpetuate inequity? And how do we bring this conversation and resulting action to colleagues and students?
God shows brightly through the questions we raise and on the faces of those gathered to celebrate our work, to challenge one another, and to take our Jesuit institutions who serve students to greater levels of awareness and action consistent with Christ’s message and actions.
God shows brightly through events that console us and even in our desolations . . . in our peeks and in our valleys. God shows on the faces of students in our schools, particularly those who struggle to see that God dances in celebration of the uniqueness of each person and revels in joyful song at the possibilities when we embrace one another and care for one another and support one another.
With a sense of gratitude, I begin to wander back through my experiences this week, recalling conversations about race and equity with nationally-recognized speakers Eddie Moore, Jr., and Shakti Butler. I remember a breakout session presented by Freezell Brown, from Brebeuf Jesuit (Indianapolis) who challenged us to approach the work as ourselves, asking us to consider, “What do I have that contributes to the world? What are my frameworks? Do I have an opportunity to shape the work to include my own individual gifts and talents of the person who I am?
It is with this gratitude for my experiences that I enter into an exploration of my emotions. Calling to mind the peaks and valleys of my experiences, how am I feeling about where I am today? Am I feeling a sense of desolation? Or one of consolation? In whom and in what do I find current peace?
As I continue to reflect upon the totality of these experiences this week, I pray with some of those moments.
St. Ignatius instructed retreatants to ask for the grace that they had hoped to receive in and through prayer. Looking to the future, what grace do I desire? What is it that I want?
I desire allies.
“I was reminded that we should not be like Jonah who ran from God’s call to go to Nineveh, but we should stay the course knowing that God will send allies to help us navigate through the storms. These are all things that were in my mind prior to Sunday, April 10th, but this experience of total validation caused a stirring in my soul, and placed these things back in my heart where they belong” (Armando Gilkes, De Smet Jesuit).
Finally, today I give thanks for grace, and I resolve to move forward in action.
How will we continue equity and inclusion work nationally and regionally? When will we develop a common job title and descriptors for the work we do in schools? How can we develop a national or regional mentoring program for equity and inclusion colleagues? How can professional development in our schools include work on equity and inclusion? And how can we embed our work into academics and teaching? How do we identity strategies for supporting GLBTQ students and colleagues? How do we identify strategies for hiring faculty of color? How is the gathering of diversity directors and school representatives not simply a “drop-in” piece, but a contribution to the foundation for our future? What do future strategies such as UCS diversity director support conference calls and the UCS diversity and admissions regionalconference look like next year for colleagues in our province schools? And how can our schools explore equity and inclusion through honest benchmarking, baseline data, strategic plans, and action-based progress?
How do we use the experiences of our gathering to be better?
“I’m hopeful that our diversity team at St. Louis University High can bring back several concepts to our school . . . changing the language we use from Diversity to Equity and Inclusion . . . establish an Office of Equity and Inclusion to create a space for students and to share the work of moving toward a more inclusive community . . . the creation of affinity groups for students, teachers, and parents. The success of these groups in other schools and even at the corporate level have inspired us to think about them at SLUH” (Schuler).
“I walked away with so many ideas of what I can do to further the mission in my own school: affinity groups, gender discussions, books to read within an Ignatian Learning Community comprised of faculty and staff, speakers to bring in and then discuss with the students . . .” (Vela).
“I will be glad to inform the leadership teams and appropriate people at the high schools our alumni attend about this very relevant knowledge. . . . How do we get everyone (especially those in positions with power) on board? How can we have a paradigm shift as a whole, if our entire team is not on board? This is a very serious inquiry and as a unit. We need to figure out a solution to include those people as a means to fully commit to changing the archetypes of our schools, families and communities for the greater glory of God” (Williams).
The Jesuit high schools and pre-secondary schools of the US Central and Southern Province represented 42% of the participants at the Jesuit Schools Network diversity cohort national gathering in Philadelphia, PA.
Read about the great conversation that came out of De Smet Jesuit High School's program, "Generation Rap: A Conversation About Race Across Generations," including tips on combatting racism.
Examen of Consciousness framework provided by: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen.
The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.