From interim president Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J.
Here is a quick quiz for you: How many of the four pillars in Marquette’s mission can you name?
At many universities, your chances of answering a question like that, even partially, would be practically zero. But not here. Across campus, enthusiasm for our mission and its grounding in Catholic and Jesuit traditions is high. In fact, members of the assessment teams that conduct accreditation site visits at Marquette every 10 years often find it mind blowing to discover they can engage members of our community in conversation at random — students, faculty, staff and even some visiting parents and alumni — and hear about those four pillars: excellence, faith, leadership and service.
This embrace of purpose and principles at Marquette reflects some important truths. First, a deep sense of mission has been central to Jesuit education since the days of St. Ignatius Loyola. From its start, Marquette has been here to help students become men and women for others and to give greater glory to God.
Second, we don’t leave mission and identity to chance — far from it. We weave our Catholic and Jesuit spirit into daily campus life through worship, retreats, reflections, service and the foundational role of the University Core of Common Studies in the education of all undergraduates. We benefit from the guidance of the members of the Society of Jesus among us, and work continuously to enable the lay members of our university community better to give leadership on all matters related to mission, including faith development. And we continuously find new relevance in our mission through special programs and events, including our annual celebration of Mission Week.
Now in its 13th year, Mission Week has become an indispensable part of life at Marquette, a week set aside each February to gather and explore the meaning of our mission and its influence on our role in the world. This year’s observance will run February 2–7 and feature soul-stirring discussions and addresses exploring the theme, “The Art and Practice of Forgiveness,” across diverse faith traditions. A highlight will certainly be remarks by Immaculée Ilibagiza, the author and Rwanda native who survived 91 days in the cramped bathroom of a pastor’s house during her country’s genocidal civil war and drew on prayer, faith and forgiveness to find a path forward after the murders of most of the members of her family.
The rich exchange I expect this campus to have on faith, forgiveness and our promotion of justice in the world will be yet another worthy outgrowth of conversations that began among Jesuit educators in the late 1980s. With declining numbers of Jesuits available to serve in universities, we came to see collectively that there was nothing automatic about the continuance of a university’s religious identity; after all, even Harvard got its start training clergy for the Congregational Church. Special steps were clearly in order. As the provincial superior of the Jesuit’s Chicago Province at the time, I had put pressure on presidents of the Jesuit universities in my province to make mission and identity a front-burner issue, just as they had academic excellence. So when I became president of Marquette in 1996, I knew I better walk the walk. We established the Office of Mission and Identity (soon renamed the Office of Mission and Ministry) shortly after I arrived, knowing that a new embrace of mission could not be dictated from on high. We needed to inspire students, faculty and staff with our mission and help them see how it could make a difference in their lives.
Under the direction first of Rev. Daniel McDonald, S.J., and then, for the last 13 years, the direction of Dr. Stephanie Russell, that’s exactly what the Office of Mission and Ministry has done so well, with Mission Week serving as its flagship effort. Learn more about what’s in store this year by visiting marquette.edu/mission. And please consider joining us, if possible, when Immaculée and fellow Mission Week guests carry forward the tradition established by past participants such as emeritus Anglican Archbishop Rev. Desmond Tutu, Paul Rusesabagina of Hotel Rwanda fame and the recipients of the Opus Prize who gathered here last year for a first-ever reunion. With their own lives shaped by mission, they touch the hearts and minds of the members of the Marquette community, affirm our mission and show us the redemptive power of God’s grace in the world.