Historic Grant will allow students
to reflect on values and the future
By Phyllis Hanlon
After years of reflection, planning and hard
work, Holy Cross recently announced the largest single foundation
grant in the College's history. The Lilly Endowment Inc.
recently awarded Holy Cross a $2 million grant with which
the College will implement the Lilly Vocation Discernment
Initiative, a five-year plan to promote its Jesuit mission
of intellectual enrichment, service to others and spiritual
Gretchen Wolfram, communications department
director for the Lilly Endowment, explains the purpose behind
the disbursement. "This initiative encourages liberal
arts schools to consider ways in which to help students make
career decisions based on a number of factors, namely, faith,
values and religion," says Wolfram. "A lot of decisions
are made in college, so this is when you want to promote
this kind of thinking."
Holy Cross takes that purpose seriously. According
to Charles S. Weiss, director of the office of grants and
corporate and foundation giving, the College invested great
thought while crafting the award-winning grant. "Every
relevant department and staff member had input. A massive
amount of information and opinion was collected," he
says. A committee comprising academic affairs, the Chaplains'
Office, student affairs and the Center for Religion, Ethics
and Culture shaped an initial draft.
Weiss notes that in fine-tuning the grant,
the mission of the College, as expressed by valedictorian
Ryan Collar at the 2001 graduation ceremony, was most apt
in conveying the message that the Jesuit purpose is to find
God in all things, and that one's years at the school should
be spent in serious reflection.
"I recall listening to Ryan's speech
last year, while we were putting the proposal together," says
Weiss, "and it occurred to me that his words were a
fine embodiment of what we're all about."
"I believe the Jesuit ideal of Holy Cross
sets it apart from other schools of high academic standing," said
Collar on graduation day. "We are an intimate community;
we share daily celebrations of prayer; we reach out to the
homeless, hungry, abused and forgotten ... We are constantly
reminded of the Jesuit ideal to be for others. Truly, both
this mission rooted in service and the academic element of
our College inform and enhance the other, together providing
us with far more than a typical educationthey have
given us direction as well, a design for what we might do
with our acquired knowledge and the power it entails."
According to Weiss, the grant from the Lilly Endowment
arrived at a momentous time in Holy Cross history. He
notes four important developments at the College
that coincided with the timing of the grant opportunity:
- The arrival of a new president, Rev. Michael C. McFarland,
S.J., who came to campus determined to ignite a dialogue
about basic human questions: What is the moral character
of learning and teaching? How do we find meaning in life
and history? What are our obligations to one another? What
is our special responsibility to the world's poor and powerless? "One
top priority of Fr. McFarland's presidency," says
Weiss, "is to preserve the Jesuit nature of Holy Cross."
- The inauguration of the Center for Religion, Ethics and
Culture, housed in the newly dedicated Carol and Park B.
Smith Hall. The purpose of this critically important Center
is to translate into action the commitments set forth in
our Mission Statement, that grow out of Holy Cross' distinctive
role as a Jesuit liberal arts college. The Center will
provide leadership, organization and a welcoming home for
an impressive array of new initiatives and programs aimed
at fostering inter-religious, interdisciplinary, intercultural
and international dialogue.
- The kick-off of the College's most ambitious capital
campaign, "Lift High the Cross." The campaign
will advance the College's mission by providing new physical
resources, personnel and programming funds. The prestige
of the grant provides an external validation that will
signal to donors the potential that the Lilly Endowment
sees in the essential, transformative role the College
can effect, given the necessary resources.
- The sweeping change now occurring in the College's faculty.
Last year, under a one-time incentive plan, 23 faculty
members retired. "These faculty understood Holy Cross
well," says Weiss. "They helped to shape the
College's culture. We have to ask ourselves who will fill
these new academic positions. The Lilly grant will be an
important tool in the recruitment process. It helps to
inform potential professors who we are and what we do."
Four cornerstones form the foundation of the
project: 1). First-year student orientation and community-wide,
mission-oriented convocations; 2). Curricular projects and
courses on reflective practice and vocational discernment;
3). Faculty and staff development on reflective practice
and vocational discernment; and 4). Spiritual formation and
ministerial service, including programs to serve an increasingly
The Office of Student Affairs, led by Jacqueline
D. Peterson, vice president and dean of students, is charged
with implementing programs associated with the first cornerstone. "We
are looking at strategies to introduce students to leadership
development from the first year on," she says. "We
want to teach the students good decision making, reflective
thinking, civic responsibility and service to others. Our
role is to encourage and reinforce the Ignatian ideal outside
of the classroom."
Holy Cross' recently implemented Gateways
program offers summer and fall orientations to new students
wrapped around the theme of "Live the mission," and
may also play a pivotal role in reinforcing the leadership
component, according to Peterson. "We'd like students
to be able to see clearly and articulate the wholeness of
their educational experience," she says. "Students
tend to compartmentalize the college experience. Our role
is to help students make the connections between the ongoing
areas of life. As we begin, this is a program. It will become
an educational process, a part of the fabric of the full
The second and third cornerstones of the initiative
concentrate on innovation in the curriculum and faculty and
staff development. Special retreats that address the question,
How then shall we live?, as well as many other such queries,
will investigate ways to incorporate the College's mission
statement into the curriculum. Faculty members will be encouraged
to integrate reflective practice into their course work.
Stephen C. Ainlay, vice president for academic affairs and
dean of the College, says, "Students are so busy pursuing
course work and outside-of-class-activities, there's a short
supply of time to reflect on personal transformation and
understand those changes. This grant will provide the structure
for that kind of thinking."
With the retirement of 23 faculty members,
Holy Cross intends to replace those teachers as well as add
as many as 25 additional positions. New faculty will be exposed
to expanded orientation programs and more in-depth involvement
with academic vocation as well as growing opportunities to
mentor, attend retreats and obtain spiritual direction. "This
dramatically improved student-faculty ratio will allow faculty
more time to spend with students, giving them the opportunities
for directed research under supervision," says Ainlay.
Rooted in the Ignatian tradition, the fourth
cornerstone speaks to spirituality, service and ministry.
Katherine M. McElaney '76, director of the Office of College
Chaplains, identifies three distinct parts of the grant on
which her office will focus. One major initiative is the
development of 22 summer internships targeted for service
and ministry. McElaney explains that 10 students will undertake
service internships coordinated under Students for Urban
Development (SPUD) and will receive a stipend. "We proposed
a high stipend to make the ministries and service internships
more commensurate with other internships on campus," says
McElaney. "We wanted to be able to give the students
a decent wage so their summer earnings wouldn't take precedence." Twelve
students will engage in ministerial internships: two contemplating
the priesthood, two non-Catholics interested in pursing some
type of Christian ministry and eight Catholics seeking work
in ministerial apostolate. "Our hope is to help 22 students
discern more seriously the meaning of work and their future
direction," says McElaney. "All internships will
include a reflective component."
The "Got dreams?" sessions will provide
fourth-year students the opportunity to explore questions
that have particular significance as they prepare for life
after college, such as "What are my dreams?" "Who
am I?" "How does God fit into all of this?" The
program is designed to assemble all the pieces of the students'
Holy Cross experience as they graduate and assume roles in
the Church and in life, according to McElaney. "These
students need to see how family, faith and work coalesce."
Lilly Vocation Fellow
Under the terms of the grant, Elizabeth Johns, professor
emerita of art history at the University of Pennsylvania,
will become Lilly Vocation Fellow. She
will direct seminars at the end of each semester as well as days of reflection
and various prayer series. "Holy Cross will get a richer and more explicit
combination of intellectual life and faith life," she says. "The
major purpose of the grant is to address vocation in the largest sense. Live
your life in the light of faith, whether it be business or medicine or homemaking," she
says. "Your work expresses your faith. This initiative is so wonderfully
congruent with the Holy Cross mission statement. It's the fundamental meaning
at the heart of the courses we teach."
Adhering to the Ignatian spirituality that
is integral to Holy Cross, according to David J. O'Brien,
Loyola Professor of Roman Catholic Studies, director of the
Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture and, also, project
director for the Lilly Grant, is a highlight of the grant. "This
will enrich the Jesuit tradition of the College," he
says, adding that the universal applicability of the techniques
of discernment will enable students to determine how faith,
values and social responsibility fit into their life decisions.
Weiss agrees and points, once again, to Ryan
Collar's valedictory address. "Ryan wished for his classmates
a 'life principle, a calling, a standard that might give
a spiritual purpose to all of our distinct ambitions,'" recalls
Weiss. "I think the Lilly Grant will be instrumental
in helping us make that wish a reality for our students."