A Year of Discernment

August 09, 2018

A letter from President Thayne M. McCulloh

(Originally published in Gonzaga Magazine, Fall 2018)

Since the founding of the Society of Jesus, reflection has been a significant hallmark of Jesuit education and our way of proceeding. Nearly five years ago, Father General Adolfo Nicolás asked the American universities each to engage in an institutional reflection on their mission and identity as Jesuit and Catholic. This year, it is our turn to actively engage in this process, now known as the Mission Examen Process. Alluding in its name and essence to the Spiritual Exercises, the Examen is conceived as a tool for discerning how God is at work in the life of an institution.

All 28 of the Jesuit colleges and universities have been asked to engage in this work – which includes review by an external visiting team – and to submit their findings through a National Coordinating Committee to (current) Father General Arturo Sosa.  At Gonzaga, our Mission & Ministry leaders – Father Pat Lee, S.J., vice president, and Michelle Wheatley, assistant vice president – have developed a plan for this work that offers opportunity for every faculty, staff and governing board member, as well as students, to provide input. Every school and department is reviewing mission-related documents and engaging in thoughtful reflection to identify areas where our mission focus is strong and areas where we need added emphasis or improvement.

While there is a compliance element to this process, my hope and intention is that the impact will be far more significant than a final report, submitted for review. My hope is that the result will be a clearer, more commonly held understanding of what we mean by “a mission of the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church today,” and how the Holy Spirit is calling us to be more clearly and intentionally mission-oriented in our work. It is also my hope that this process serves to affirm our commitment to the Society of Jesus and our deep desire to thrive as an apostolic work in the modern era.

bookmarks include the steps of a personal examen reflection 

Examen is at the core of what it means to be Jesuit: the continual reflection on where God is moving, how to become ever more attentive to God’s voice, and how we are to be more directly guided by that movement in our everyday lives. We seek the “Magis” – the “ever greater” in service to God – and this year of questioning and inward searching will help us to better identify how to go about that as Gonzaga, today.

I couldn’t be more excited about this effort, or more grateful for the participation of our people who are indeed the heart of our institution. As the work continues and we adopt new perspectives on living our Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic values, we will publish updates on our website, and I invite you to take a look. Good things will inevitably arise from this, and we want to share the journey with you, our parents, benefactors, alumni and friends.

Gonzaga has been blessed, through times both good and challenging.  Despite our many successes, I am keenly aware that we would have been unable to continue in our mission without the amazing support of many incredible people. Our most recent campaign, Gonzaga Will, is just the latest representation of that vital support, and I would be remiss if I did not express my deepest appreciation for your amazing support of this university. Your contributions have provided much-needed assistance not only for physical learning spaces on our campus, but also to the health of our endowment, that we might continue offering competitive scholarships to those who wish to be part of the Gonzaga family. Thank you for your part in those endeavors.  May God bless you now, and in the days to come.


Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil