The Jesuit and Catholic Soul of Gonzaga

August 12, 2019
President Thayne McCulloh with Michelle Wheatley, Acting Vice President for Mission & Ministry

Over the course of the 2018-19 academic year, Gonzaga continued to place intentional focus on its Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic identity and practice – but in an important new way. One significant achievement was completion of the Mission Priority Examen, a new process required of all Jesuit colleges and universities, to explore areas of strength and weakness in Jesuit and Catholic mission identity and practice. Faculty, staff and students in every area had the opportunity to provide input, and then peer reviewers from other institutions evaluated our findings.

This Examen experience led to the identification of four institutional priorities, including a Work Values project, a comprehensive Jesuit Identity Initiative, a reaffirmed mission-based commitment to Diversity, Equity and Cultural Fluency, and Administrative Restructuring to support the vitality and viability of our institution, in service to its mission.

While collecting and pondering all of the feedback received during that process, Gonzaga continued the work of deepening its mission offerings in many ways. We merged University Ministry and the Office of Mission into one Office of Mission and Ministry, to reflect our conviction that in a Jesuit context, “mission” and “ministry” are ultimately connected. That team offered a Catholic Identity Series and other opportunities for intellectual engagement and reflection throughout the academic year.

Amid the structural change and the expansive efforts of the Examen, we responded to the contemporary clergy sexual abuse crisis in various ways. We facilitated open conversations regarding Gonzaga’s relationship with the Society of Jesus; held meetings with the rector of the Della Strada Jesuit Community, Fr. Tom Lamanna, S.J., and with the provincial assistant for higher education in the Jesuits West Province, Fr. Bob Niehoff, S.J.; hosted a Liturgy of Lament designed and led by faculty, staff, students, and the rector to acknowledge the sins of the church and to stand with victims; and appointed a University Commission on Gonzaga’s Response to the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis.

What we learned in the Mission Priority Examen

The final Mission Priority Examen report reaffirmed the importance of a shared commitment to mission among all areas of university life. It also identified gaps in current programs and infrastructure where we will put intentional focus:

Clarity and Accountability: Clearly, courageously and consistently communicate and embody mission values, aligning decision making, resource allocation and priorities

Hiring for Mission: Strengthen our ability to identify candidates who are inspired by and want to contribute to our institutional mission

Formation and Education: Enhance opportunities for campus members to learn about the Society of Jesus, the Catholic tradition, Ignatian spirituality, Jesuit pedagogy and contemporary mission leadership

Integration: Ensure that our mission identity is integrated in curricula across disciplines, organizational practices and decision making, and all areas of university life

Jesuit Engagement: Nurture and deepen relationships with the Society of Jesus, creatively co-laboring in the mission of the University


Ultimately, we see tremendous possibility ahead of us. And we ask you – our parents, alumni, benefactors and friends – to join us: by leading, learning, mentoring, contemplating, writing, praying and otherwise participating however you can. We are so grateful to have you alongside us, sharing in this work for the benefit of a long future in Jesuit higher education. May God continue to bless you, and all of us, abundantly.


Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., President,
with Michelle Wheatley, D.Min., Acting Vice President for Mission & Ministry


You can read full messages on many of these topics at