Approved by the Board of Trustees on December 9, 2005
Deeply rooted in the centuries-old tradition of Jesuit education, Gonzaga University aspires to develop the whole person through contemplation, intellectual dialogue, and engagement within a vibrant Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic learning community. We exist to develop generations of leaders whose actions reflect a faith that promotes justice, the pursuit of truth, a dedication to service, and a commitment to ethics and the common good.
The Gonzaga ethos, in practice, can be seen as one of “overlapping commitments,” where we as a community agree on values and principles, some of us for religious reasons (whether Catholic or Christian or from other religious traditions), some of us for humanistic reasons, and some from our grounding in the Jesuit spirituality. We see these three terms as informing and bounding our ethos, creating a common field. While each of us may have a different location within this field, closer to one boundary than another, depending upon our grounding inspiration, all of us are presumed to operate within the same field.
The Mission of Gonzaga University is at once Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic. Our sense is that the Mission, and thereby the community, is better served when statements about these terms are also symmetrical. For example, we require a Jesuit way of proceeding that supports and complements Catholicism, and a Catholic Church that supports Jesuit education; a humanism that is supportive of Catholicism but also a Catholicism that is supportive of humanistic values, and so forth.
The term “Jesuit” refers to a religious order of men within the Catholic Church, who have committed their lives to the service of God in specific works. Through the profound influence of the Jesuit intellectual tradition and the vision of the Spiritual Exercises, the Constitutions, and documents of its General Congregations, Jesuits and their colleagues participate in the work of the Society of Jesus. In the context of the University, “Jesuit education” includes major themes: helping students to find their own calling from God through the creation of a discerning heart that can identify their true desires; the cultivation of a faith that promotes justice; and the formation of “persons for others”-- students who graduate with a desire to give something back to their community. “Jesuit” also means helping students recognize and confront the realities of sin and suffering in the world—not only through study but through solidarity with the marginal in our society by direct hands on, face-to-face engagement. We should aspire to form committed Christians and engaged citizens allied in the building of a more humane and just society.
The term “Catholic” refers to a specific Church, which expresses itself through living the Gospel of Christ, and understands itself through time in its Councils and traditions.1 The Jesuits and their colleagues carry out their Mission as a vocation within this Church. The Catholic Church provides the opportunity for the cultivation of a vibrant and mature faith life, and a means of reaching out to the world with a message of hope: a belief in the love of God. The Catholic Church includes a sacramental, moral, and intellectual tradition which seeks dialogue beyond itself to reach that horizon of hope and love. A significant way in which the University serves the Church is by providing a forum in which Catholicism can enter into critical (that is, intellectually reasoned and responsible) dialogue with other voices and other fields of knowledge. It has been said many times over these last several years, that the Catholic university is a significant “place where the Church does its thinking.”2
The term “humanistic” is understood to include the quest for self-knowledge and the formation of a virtuous character.3 We impart to our students a critical understanding and appreciation of our common human nature, the moral heritage of their culture and society, as well as some exposure and education in cultures and societies different from our own. We also impart to students a similarly critically informed understanding and appreciation for their own religious traditions and an exposure and education to other religious traditions prevalent in our global community. Humanistic, in its original meaning, “of the humanities,” is meant beyond academics to include the development of the whole person, helping students to integrate their lives into a harmonious whole and learning to prize and respect the flourishing of others, however different from themselves. This latter sense links “humanistic” to both “Catholic” and “Jesuit,” which have a concern for the faith that promotes not only individual, but social justice.
The integration of the three therefore requires an integration of faith, justice, ethics, service, and leadership for the common good into a vibrant learning environment.
1The Catholic Church has most recently articulated its relationship to Catholic universities through the apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae. In addition, the Documents of Vatican II, and the Social and other encyclicals, have shed great light on the need for, and the value and nature of, Catholic higher education.
2Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, former President, Notre Dame.
3Within the Jesuit tradition, “humanism” is seen as distinct from “secular humanism” (see Preface).