The provincials of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States have announced a new initiative that dramatically reimagines a Jesuit’s intellectual formation. Through a partnership with Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y., the “Initiative for Future Formation” will strive to integrate the four pillars of Jesuit education: academics, community life, apostolic experience and spiritual formation.
This new program specifically focuses on "First Studies"— the period of academic studies that follows the two-year introduction to Jesuit life and spirituality known as the novitiate. In keeping with the desires outlined by former Superior General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, the provincials envision an integrated, interdisciplinary and innovative master’s degree program that will be more intentionally integrated into life in the broader community around the school.
"As the scholastics live among the poor and find ways to work with them, they will also focus on learning from their neighbors," said Fr. Michael Harter, SJ, assistant for formation. "This approach envisions the poor of the neighborhood as their teachers rather than as recipients of their ministry."
According to a letter from the Jesuit Conference, the program will "integrate Ignatian spirituality and intellectual formation, in particular the study of philosophy and theology, with the lived experience of the poor, in order to form Jesuits capable of engaging the world in which we live in the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called to serve the Church."
The reimagined First Studies program at Fordham will be rooted in the vibrant, ethnically-mixed Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. Father Mark Ravizza, SJ, said of this element, “The opportunities of New York are tremendous, and the Bronx is an excellent place for our younger men to understand the needs of the world.” Ravizza, associate professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University, has been appointed General Counselor to Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, and has spearheaded the Initiative from its inception.
This initiative will be a year-round program. At least one semester of the program will be devoted to intensive language studies with the Mexican scholastics in Guadalajara. In addition, the technology of distance learning opens up the possibility of mini-courses or modules with Jesuit scholastics in the Philippines, Africa or India.
Fordham University, which has been a part of Jesuit formation for more than five decades, has been selected to develop the pilot program. The best practices of their model can be adapted by the other First Studies programs currently located in St. Louis and Chicago. As the pilot is developed, the other schools will be making parallel adaptations to their programs.
The program is scheduled to begin in Fall 2021.
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