Faith-Justice Institute to Celebrate 35th Anniversary
Monday, March 5, 2012
PHILADELPHIA (March 5, 2012) – Saint Joseph’s University’s Faith-Justice Institute, an academic center promoting social analysis and critical thought around faith and justice issues through community-based learning, will celebrate its 35th anniversary on Monday, March 19. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m., with a Mass celebrated by C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J.,’72, president-elect of Saint Josephs, in the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial. A reception and celebration follows the Mass at 5:30 p.m. in the Doyle Banquet Hall, Campion Student Center.
An interdisciplinary center housed under the Office of Academic Affairs since 2009, the Institute was established in 1977 by the late Edward Brady, S.J., its founding director. The Institute was developed from SJU’s existing Peace Studies Program after the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, which called for the service of faith in the promotion of justice as central to the Jesuit mission.
“This anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to commend the remarkable work everyone involved with the Faith-Justice Institute has accomplished in the interest of creating a more just society,” says Saint Joseph’s Provost Brice Wachterhauser, Ph.D. “Moreover, the Institute’s commitment to developing civic-minded students in the rich tradition of Ignatian values is integral to the University’s mission.”
“For 35 years, the Institute has been dedicated to instilling, in all of its constituents, a transforming commitment to social justice, and we look forward to recommitting its resources in the future,” says Virginia Goulding-Johnson, Ph.D., Institute director.
Through its many programs and initiatives, including service-learning courses taught by SJU faculty and staff, the interdisciplinary Faith-Justice Studies minor, academic immersions and the Sr. Francis Joseph Outreach Lecture Series, the Institute has used its educational context to explore the ethical implications of the major human problems the world faces.
The Institute’s impact can be seen in its alumni, particularly those who have gone into leadership positions in similar centers and programs. Ann Marie Jursca Keffer, M.S.W., assistant director of the Institute, also notes some impressive numbers. “Upwards of 6,100 Saint Joseph’s students have taken 390 service-learning courses through the Institute, and 62 faculty and staff members have participated in a reciprocal partnership with Fey y Alegria in Boliva, an educational organization that provides a direct experience to understand the real concerns of the poor,” she says.
“Engaging with organizations and individuals in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., breaks down walls between the campus and the community, recognizing both as resources for learning and social change,” says Carrie Hutnick, service-learning placement coordinator. “The courses are distinctive because they focus on intentional learning, civic participation and personal transformation for all those involved.”
Jursca Keffer adds that while it’s important for students to learn about poverty statistics in the classroom, what is transformational about the experience is the opportunity to meet the human beings behind the statistics. “Their world opens up when they meet ‘John’ or ‘Tracy’ at one of our community partnerships,” she says. “When they help prepare them for a G.E.D. certificate, the experience is life-changing for all participants, but especially so for our students.”
More information about the celebration, which is open to the public, may be viewed here.